Fill your room with fresh Air

FOR Hefty sound; lots of bass weight; use­ful app AGAINST Dy­nam­ics could be more ex­pres­sive

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - First Test -

Cam­bridge Au­dio Air 200

Wire­less speaker

£400

We see noth­ing wrong with be­ing a minx. None­the­less, Cam­bridge Au­dio has shaved it from the moniker for the se­cond gen­er­a­tion of the pre­vi­ously named Minx Air wire­less speak­ers.

The nu­meral in the new Air 200’s name rep­re­sents a claimed 200W de­liv­ered by its Class D dig­i­tal am­pli­fier. That clout is emit­ted via a pair of Cam­bridge Au­dio’s 57mm BMR driv­ers, the same as found in their £1000 Aero­max 6 floor­stand­ing speak­ers, and a 16.5cm woofer (with a bass port dis­guised cun­ningly as a han­dle).

Wire­less and wired in­puts

It is fairly weighty – 5.1kg to be pre­cise – which makes it feel like you’re han­dling some­thing wor­thy of the price. We like the de­sign too: un­der­stated and un­com­pli­cated, in keep­ing with Cam­bridge Au­dio’s hall­mark aes­thetic.

All you see from its fas­cia is a mod­est com­pany logo and an LED in­di­ca­tor shin­ing from be­hind the grille. On its rump are left and right aux­il­iary in­puts, 3.5mm jack, eth­er­net port and a dial for bass ad­just­ment. On its head, ten but­tons: five for in­ter­net ra­dio pre­sets, two for source chang­ing, an­other pair for vol­ume tweak­ing and the on/off but­ton.

There is a re­mote con­trol in­cluded, which per­forms the same func­tions as on the unit it­self, plus ac­cesses five ex­tra pre­sets. We find the Air 200 is most eas­ily con­trolled us­ing the free app. It is also through this colour­ful, fresh-look­ing app you are able to ac­cess in­ter­net ra­dio and change EQ set­tings more freely.

Heavy-handed ap­proach

Con­nect­ing via Air­play, Blue­tooth or Spo­tify Con­nect is straight­for­ward. Net­work con­nec­tion with­out an Ap­ple de­vice is a more cum­ber­some web-based op­er­a­tion, but none­the­less needs do­ing only once.

Once set up, we play Ven­nart’s The De­mon Joke. The open­ing track Two Five Five per­fectly shows off the Air 200’s power: the sound­scape cre­ated by those first ex­pan­sive chords is painted with bold strokes and a wealth of bass weight.

De­spite that low end, there is still a de­cent bal­ance with­out need­ing to tam­per with the EQ. Be­sides, the bass ad­just­ment tool tends to be rather heavy-handed.

In the mix

There is a good sense of tim­ing as well: the harsh stomp of Doubt is played as a reg­i­men­tal march that isn’t slowed by the an­chor­ing low end but chan­nels en­ergy from the punch the Air 200 packs. Changes in rhythm are well tracked, giv­ing proper ef­fect to Mike Ven­nart’s of­ten pur­pose­fully awk­ward time sig­na­tures.

When the al­bum ar­rives at the more del­i­cate Don’t For­get The Joker, the Air 200 is ably tact­ful. There is still great body to in­stru­ments and vo­cals, but the speaker is aware enough dy­nam­i­cally to carry the song rather than drive it. It is a ver­sa­tile and pow­er­ful per­for­mance, but we'd like a lit­tle more from the dy­nam­ics and ex­pres­sion.

It would also help if the Air 200 were bet­ter or­gan­ised in terms of lay­er­ing the parts. There is a good amount of de­tail, but it isn't al­ways clearly sep­a­rated.

When we com­pare it with the B&W Zep­pelin, the dif­fer­ences are no­tice­able: the Zep­pelin is more spa­cious, with bet­ter de­tail, dy­nam­ics and or­gan­i­sa­tion. But it is also £100 dearer and isn’t ca­pa­ble of the same room-fill­ing power as the Air 200. Like­wise, pit­ting it against the five-star Sonos Play:5, this time only £30 more ex­pen­sive, high­lights both strengths and weak­nesses: the Sonos is con­sid­er­ably more closed-in, but is ca­pa­ble of more ex­pres­sion and sub­tler dy­nam­ics.

The Air 200 is bold, pow­er­ful and driven. We would like a lit­tle more from its dy­namic range, but if you’re af­ter heavy­weight punch at a rea­son­able price, you could go much fur­ther wrong.

“The Air 200 is bold, pow­er­ful and driven. We'd like more dy­namic range, but if you’re af­ter heavy­weight punch at a rea­son­able price, you could go much fur­ther wrong”

The Air 200 fea­tures

an un­der­stated and

un­com­pli­cated de­sign, in

keep­ing with Cam­bridge

Au­dio’s hall­mark aes­thetic

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