Cambridge Audio’s Minx Air 200 Earns The Crown For Best Home AirPlay Speaker

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If you’re a high-end audio fan, you’ve probably heard of Cambridge Audio, the London-based firm that makes some of the best equipment in the business. The brand is currently undergoing some changes that involve targeting the growing number of users who are looking for wireless in-home and portable speaker solutions. Hence the new Minx line of devices, which borrows its name from Cambridge’s affordable home-theater speaker range, but adds goodies like AirPlay and Bluetooth.

The Minx Air 200 is part of this new effort. It’s a large home speaker that packs in AirPlay, Bluetooth, two 2.25-inch drivers and one 6.5-inch subwoofer, as well as direct access to up to five preset Internet radio stations without requiring a connection to an iPhone, smartphone or computer. The Minx Air 200 is a beast of a networked speaker system, and at $599 it compares price-wise to other higher-end options like the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air or the Libratone Live Speaker.

basics-subhead

  • AirPlay
  • Bluetooth
  • 3.5mm and RCA wired input
  • 802.11 b/g
  • Ethernet
  • 200W amplifier output
  • MSRP: $599
  • Product info page

design-subhead

The Minx Air 200 is somewhat sober in its design choices if I had to pick one word to describe it. It’s white plastic, with a light gray front grill and metallic rim bordering the front grill. Unlike some of the competition like the Zeppelin, the Minx isn’t trying to draw too much attention to itself. The arc of it adds a little bit of design flare, but mostly this is a speaker that strikes you as subdued, and that’s just fine. The Air 200 isn’t bad looking, it just is. Which sets the stage for it to live or die based on its performance.

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features-subhead

You’ll be able to connect to the Minx Air no matter what type of device you’re trying to use as your music source, and the AirPlay connectivity is solid (the protocol seems to have come a long way in terms of stability, which is a bonus for Cambridge, who are relative latecomers to the market). And Ethernet support is a hugely welcome addition if you’re the type that can’t even fathom the idea of an occasional drop-out. It’s probably not going to be much use to most looking for a wireless speaker, but the fact that it’s there at all is excellent.

Preset Internet radio stations is another huge advantage for the Minx Air 200. With the Minx Air app, you can change settings on your device and cycle through 10 preset stations. Minx sets these up automatically, but you can change them within the app. Best of all, you can switch between five presets on the Air 200 itself with hardware buttons, giving you access to Internet radio without any kind of connected device required. That’s a huge advantage versus the competition when it comes to features.

True to its audiophile roots, Cambridge has also included advanced audio signal-boosting technologies, including built-in digital to analog converters (DACs) and AAC decoding, as well as tech designed to maximize the quality of Bluetooth stereo streaming to CD-quality standards.

performance-subhead

All those claims of better sound bring us to the money question: Is the sound actually better? Yes, yes it is. Put simply, this is the best-sounding AirPlay speaker I’ve reviewed, and the best-sounding Bluetooth one, too. AT $599, it isn’t cheap, but in this case you definitely get what you pay for. Bass performance is impressive, as is max volume, though even Cambridge admits this won’t go as loud as some of the competitors in the interest of preventing any kind of distortion even at the top end, something competitors aren’t necessarily as concerned about.

Cambridge may be trying to move into more mass-market products, but the Minx Air 200 still demonstrates the company’s audiophile roots. Audio clarity is great, even from streamed online sources like Rdio being streamed once again over the local network. The connection doesn’t seem to suffer from excess network traffic, either, and Bluetooth connections are likewise solid (with the usual limits on proximity), and sound quality also shines there. If you’ve been making do with even something as good as an Audyssey Audio Dock Air, you’ve been missing out. And that’s what Cambridge wants to do with the Minx line: Show a generation that hasn’t been particularly focused on audio quality what a difference it can make when someone pays attention to that above all. Mission accomplished.

Bottom Line

This is an excellent choice for an AirPlay/wireless home speaker. A battery would be nice, as there’s a handle for easy enough portability, but in its category, it’s still by far the best choice at the current price, and probably a better option than some of the more expensive ones out there. Cambridge Audio may have waited and let its competitors get a head start in this category, but the wait paid off: The Minx Air 200 is a polished, well-designed piece of audio hardware that confidently tops the competition.