Teac deserves a lot of credit. The Japanese company may not set pulses racing, but it has exceptional distribution channels making it one of the most visible tech brands on the UK high street. Its products aren't without merit either, particularly in the dog-eat-dog sector of iPod docks where the Aurb and Mini Aurb have been notable highlights in recent years. Unfortunately 2012 isn't off to such a good start…
The NS-X1 looks great on paper. Teac markets it as "the coolest, slimmest AirPlay System" and from a superficial perspective it has a point. Measuring just 55mm deep at its thinnest point (95mm at its thickest), the NS-X1 is certainly the most svelte AirPlay equipped dock we've seen to date and weighs only 2.1Kg. It also has a clean, almost retro, design aesthetic. For those living under a rock, AirPlay is Apple's proprietary wireless streaming technology that allows Macs, iPads, iPods and iPhones to stream lossless quality audio to any AirPlay equipped speaker without the need for dongles or additional peripherals.
The trouble is high costs have limited adoption of AirPlay and products which do feature it often have high asking prices. Again the NS-X1 scores well here, coming in at under £200. Teac further raises the value of the NS-X1 with built in Internet Radio and PC streaming while the design is fully wall mountable. The NS-X1 stereo speakers aren't earth shattering at just 2x 10W with Bass reflex, though an FM tuner, auxiliary and Ethernet inputs, DLNA compatibility and a bright OLED display suggest value for money.
Sadly, much as you should never judge a book by its cover, you should never judge a product by its spec sheet. While the NS-X1 looks the part, a closer look reveals the dock to be poorly constructed. This is a device built from top to bottom with low grade plastics: display, speaker grill, buttons, everything. The NS-X1 doesn't feel as if it will fall apart in your hands, but hold it near its ports and the rear section creaks and clacks - the latter a sound that also describes the noise of using the control buttons along the top. The whole experience feels like an exercise in cost cutting.
Of course the appeal of AirPlay and Internet Radio could make these cuts feel worthwhile, but here we hit another crucial flaw: ease of use. For all its convenience when up and running, AirPlay's elephant in the room remains the difficulty in getting it setup in the first place. Teac's own user manual has no less than three pages of instructions during which you'll battle with DHCP, IP addresses, WPS, network keys and have to restart the NS-X1 a number of times. It must be stressed this isn't Teac's fault, it is an inherent flaw in AirPlay at this time though one we can see less tech savvy users struggling with.