Despite our grumbles, once setup AirPlay's convenience is undeniable. It may be restricted to Apple devices and iTunes software, but it is a doddle to use and allows users to change the output from their player to the NS-X1 in just a few touches/clicks. Being able to walk in the house, take out your earphones, tap a few buttons on your iPod/iPhone and have your track continue streaming wirelessly on your home stereo is a joy which never gets old.
Similarly the vast array of Internet Radio stations means with enough searching there is something for everyone and Teac's system of 'bookmarks' for your favourite stations is clever, stopping you mix them up with the presets on the FM tuner. That said while the NS-X1 does have WiFi, Teac has limited it to 802.11b/g, and their reduced range means you can't take the dock as far from your router as you could if it were equipped with the newer 802.11n. With wireless n cheap to implement this is another unnecessary corner cut.
All of which means the NS-X1 needs to pull things out the fire with exceptional sound quality and sadly, it doesn't. We mentioned its 2x 10W speakers could be a potential weak spot on paper and this is true in reality. While the Bass reflex technology produces reasonable bass for a device of this size the overall impression is music sounds muffled and it is hard to pick out individual instruments. Limited stereo separation hinders this further and at times the NS-X1 sounds more like a mono speaker as everything blasts out in a garbled mess. Then again 'blasts' is an inaccurate term, at maximum volume sound distorts horribly and keeping it together results in a realistic maximum well below what would be expected even for such a slim and light dock.
This is not the end of the problems. The NS-X1 takes an inordinate amount of time to detect an input source. For example, switch to a device connected to the auxiliary port or iPod dock and you'll endure an inexplicable wait of up to five seconds - enough to make you think something is wrong. The dock also doesn't intelligently switch inputs. Plug in an iPhone or iPod and it will sit on another function until you manually change it. Unplug the iPhone or iPod and it returns to the root menu meaning you'll have to select the input once more when you dock your device next time. These are small irritants, but they add up to a great deal of frustration.
Which leads us to price. At £199 the NS-X1 is indeed an affordable AirPlay system, but it is heavily overpriced for the build quality and sound performance on offer. In fact in a straight shoot out the NS-X1 cannot match the build quality, volume or clarity of our current favourite portable speaker, the £85, 400g Pasce Minirig and that says it all.
Teac has had some notable successes with docks in the past, but the NS-X1 falls short. The appeal of the NS-X1 lies in being a slim line dock with AirPlay and Internet Radio for under £200, yet look closely and the sums don't add up. Build quality and materials are a disappointment and sound reproduction is muffled and distorts badly at mid to high volumes. Similarly while Internet Radio is a nice inclusion it may as well be attained through an Internet radio app on your iPod or iPhone or by streaming from iTunes. Being brutally honest the NS-X1 isn't so much a bargain AirPlay dock, but a budget dock which adds AirPlay for a non-budget price. Teac can do better, so can you.