Review Price £499.00
Ceratec CeraAIR Two - Performance
So what is under the hood? Here we hit a potential stumbling point as the 2x 50W drivers and use of passive bass radiators seems a little underwhelming for a dock with the length to pack in far more. There is no integrated DAC either which places greater weight on the quality of your audio files given the sound chip in the AirPort Express is fairly basic. You can connect the AirPort Express to a DAC and subsequently connect that to the dock, but at this point cabling will become messy.
It is therefore good news that in practice the CeraAir Two is an admirable performer. As has become fashionable in the last few years Ceratec has opted for a warm, bassy signature with bags of midrange. Our unit arrived with the bass turned up to max, which will be overpowering to all but the biggest of bass fanatics, but adjusting it reveals a dock which manages to marry depth and power to great effect.
Where the weakness lies is the high range and it means when presented with more complex or delicate genres like classical music and jazz the CeraAir Two lacks detail. We suspect Ceratec recognises this as removing the dock's speaker grill reveals the drivers are embedded in a special sound absorbing foam. These are designed to reduce vibration and consequently avoid further suppression of the high range. In fairness only audiophiles will complain, but side by side with the Monitor Audio i-deck 200 and Arcam rCube in particular this is noticeable.
A further issue is the volume of the CeraAir Two. The dock's volume is locked to that of the source and there is no remote which means quieter tracks cannot be independently cranked up. As such the CeraAir Two is quieter than most of its rivals, though as a consequence at maximum volume it holds together well and there is minimal distortion. Furthermore while the CeraAir Two isn't shaking out your windows it will easily reach levels loud enough to annoy the neighbours and well beyond a typical listening volume so it is hardly a deal breaker.
A further point to stress is how well AirPort Express works. Every dock we have tested with integrated AirPlay to date has suffered from the occasional drop out and a typical 3-5 second delay in starting/stopping the audio stream when commanded. This was a notable black mark with the otherwise excellent Audyssey Dock Air and the final nail in the coffin of the Klipsch G-17 Air.
By contrast a dedicated AirPort Express unit is a far more agreeable beast and during six hours of continuous playback not once did we experience a drop-out while audio response was typically within 2-3 seconds. An AirPort Express unit is also far easier to setup than integrated AirPlay since all configuration is native to iOS devices and the AirPort Express app is both intuitive yet full of advanced settings.