The controls are an interesting mix of physical and touch-sensitive. The power button, for instance, is actually a button, as are the ‘play/pause,’ ‘next,’ ‘previous,’ and ‘back’ buttons. The knob around which those four controls sit doubles as an okay button in menus and gives a nice little click when rotated, while also offering a reassuringly solid “clunk” when depressed – alluding, as does the AirStream10’s finish, to the quality of its construction.
I’m not so sure about the touch-sensitive controls. Fortunately they don’t need to be used that often. The sleep/snooze control is, of course, useful as it either offers you a little more time in bed, or sets the system to switch to standby in 15 minute intervals, up to an hour. The EQ settings are probably best left untouched, the info button is clearly useful if you want to know more about what you’re listening to, which I can’t say I often do.
The last three buttons, mode, menu and alarm, all replicate functionality available through the central control section. You might think pressing ‘mode’ to change from DAB to Internet radio or streamed music is quicker than doing so via the menu system, but as you’ll likely want to choose a station or track anyway, it turns out not to be.
Menu navigation is, thankfully, fairly intuitive. Pressing back will cycle you up to the top-level menu, although once there a further press will then go back to wherever you started which can get a little annoying. Entering Wi-Fi passwords is also a little difficult, but that’s to be expected on any device that has no keyboard.
There is one strange quirk in the AirStream10’s menu system. The radio section has a dedicated BBC menu option, consolidating those stations for quick access, which is great, but the Podcast section has no such shortcut. It’s not a deal breaker by any stretch, but it is slightly annoying. On the plus side, the LCD, on the right, is surrounded by four numbered, touch-sensitive preset buttons for saving radio stations to, which is always useful.