A dock from a hi-fi company always raises eyebrows but the Minx Air 100 boasts internet radio, AirPlay and Bluetooth tech and a dedicated app
The world of docks has splintered into three categories - mini Bluetooth enabled travel speakers like the forthcoming Pure Jongo, giant home hi-fi docks like the B&W Zeppelin Air and multi-room speakers like the Sonos ZonePlayer S5 which are ideal for music in every room of your home.
The Cambridge Audio Minx Air 100 Wireless Music System is an interesting proposition because it's a wire-free set-up with hi-fi maker credentials and a small footprint for the volume level. It looks the part too, which well help gadget fans requesting permission from their partner to install it in the lounge...
Minx Air 100: Build
The neat handle around the back is actually the bass port, which is a sign that the design of the Minx Air 100 has been well planned. At a time when some new docks still roll of the production line with a 30 pin old style iPhone 4 connector (yes, really) it's good to see an Airplay dock that isn't black and doesn't feel flimsy.
The all-in-one design is sleek and looks at place in the lounge or kitchen. It's pleasingly rugged and surprisingly weighty, which usually hints at powerful sound and the weight / power rule proves true here.
The buttons are discreet but comprehensive. The rubber buttons along the top of the Minx Air 100 respond quickly and feel comfy rather than brittle. Importantly, you won't be touching them much once paired with your smartphone or tablet so they're small and not obvious to casual observers.
Minx Air 100: Features
Alongside AirPlay and Bluetooth, the wi-fi skills mean that internet radio functions can be accessed from the dedicated iOS or Android app or the five 'favourite' buttons on the Minx Air 100.
Based on the idea that you may want to simply get radio without your smartphone, the pre-programmed radio selection can be customised to include your most used stations, whether that's BBC 6Music or America's impressive selection of country radio stations.
Spotify gets support and the dedicated app is simple and faster than many rivals. The set-up video (opens in new tab) is a clever addition too and saves any potential frustration. Airplay isn't always easy to set up (unlike Bluetooth) even if you rate your wi-fi geek credentials but the Minx Air 100 makes it easy from the start.
There's a remote in the box as well, which might seem odd for a smartphone product but the line-in socket means that the Minx Air 100 can be hooked up to your TV, meaning the small basic remote is a handy back-up for when you want to turn up the volume without reaching for your smartphone or tablet which is charging in another room.
Minx Air 100: Sound quality
The custom 'BMR' (er, Balanced Mode Radiator) tech that Cambridge Audio uses simply means there's a 'bigger' sound from smaller drivers in the Minx Air 100, which means a wide soundstage for your money and better clarity.
The bass level can be tuned via the Minx Air 100 or the app too, which is a surprising and effective addition. Depending on the size of your room, taste in bass and where you're actually placing the Minx Air 100, you'll need to tweak the setting.
It's worth the 10-second experiment, however, as you'll find a sound which is balanced according to your taste instead of being bland and bass heavy, a common issue with similar systems that assume you want more bass than Tim Westwood's bedroom on a Saturday night.
Testing via an iPhone 5 with Spotify Extreme '320kbps' quality mode enabled in the Spotify settings, Last Leaves of Autumn by Beth Orton shows the clarity that the Minx Air 100 offers, even at low volume.
Conversely, RU Mine by the Arctic Monkeys rocks along and keeps the guitar solos away from the bass and drums which are simply a blur when heard through basic Apple EarPods. The mix of ability is important if you're interested in rocking out or using the Minx Air 100 for house parties or as a system for your home office or kitchen, where volumes will be lower.
Minx Air 100: Verdict
At the £329 price level, this is an excellent system. There's better at significantly higher prices of course (a bigger model is forthcoming) but the real rivals at this price bracket sit beneath the Minx Air 100, including the baby of the Sonos range, the £259 Sonos Play 3.
Rivals that edge closer in terms of sound quality are bigger, blacker and boast iPod docks which are essentially redundant in 2013 and offer nothing if you dabble in Android over iOS.
There's a higher price tag against the Sonos Play 3 but in fariness, the Minx Air 100 is a different, expanded product, rather than a multi-room music solution. Streaming internet radio and packing AirPlay, Bluetooth and a line-in for your TV makes it a hugely versatile hybrid of dock, radio and Bluetooth speaker with a dedicated remote too.
If you're after punchy yet balanced sound in a sleek design that will put your old all-in-one budget brand hi-fi system to shame, the Minx Air 100 is a great choice and a bargain in terms of build, usability and features. Yes, it would be easier to swallow at £299 but it's a decent futureproof investment.
Minx Air 100 release date: Out now
Minx Air 100 price: £329