Lovely sound; beautiful design
Setup problems during testing;
frequent AirPlay dropouts; expensive
We haven’t played with a Loewe product for years – in fact, since they stopped making their class-leading 100Hz CRT televisions. So we were very happy to take delivery of one of the German firm’s AirSpeakers.
As the name indicates, it’s a speaker system that’s compatible with Apple’s AirPlay technology, which allows any Mac or iOS device to play music or video on a compatible AV device over a network.
The AirSpeaker costs a cool $1199, which means it’s aimed at those who appreciate good sound and have deep pockets. It also means it’s up against other high-end AirPlay systems like the B&W Zeppelin Air and the B&O PLAY BeoLit 12 – though it’s dearer than either of those speakers.
It’s a compact box, 24cm square and 13cm high, with sides of black or silver and a wide choice of colours for the metal top. You can choose from Metallised Chrome, Chrome Ribbed, Chrome Micro, Aluminium Silver, High Gloss Black and a wood finish in Ebony or Light Oak. Or, if you’re really picky, you can specify any colour under the sun for a fee.
Within a small cavity at the back are power, Ethernet, USB and Aux ports. Arranged along the top back ridge are unobtrusive buttons for power/standby, volume and source. Tiny indicator lights give you an idea of the state of play.
It’s all very appealing. However, while a minimalist design is great, it also means that setup can get a bit complicated.
You have two options when using AirPlay – wired (Ethernet) or wireless (Wi-Fi). The former is recommended by Loewe because of its better stability and quality, but we imagine that most users wouldn’t position the AirSpeaker within a cable’s length of a router, so wireless is likely to be the preferred user option.
However, while a wired connection can be a simple plug-and-play operation if your router uses DHCP, setting it up on Wi-Fi can get more convoluted – the AirSpeaker, after all, needs to know which network to join and be able to break through its security.
This is done by connecting the AirSpeaker to your Mac via Ethernet and then calling up a browser-based configuration page. It’s fairly straightforward, if a little Windows-like.
We went through all the steps, hit the Apply button and … nothing happened. We went back and forth for hours, trying to work out why the Loewe refused to join our network (which has about a dozen gadgets attached at any given time), and eventually walked away to regain our strength and enthusiasm.
About five days later it started to blare out music, having been discovered as an AirPlay device by our daughter. Quite when it decided to play ball we don’t know, but we’re glad it did.
It delivers a punchy yet refined sound. Its four Class D digital amps pump out a total of 80W via two tweeters, two midrange drivers and two subwoofers, giving an amazingly clear, clean and detailed sound for its size.
It’s expansive, so it sounds like a bigger unit, but the soundfield is still quite narrow – all the instruments sound like they’re coming from a relatively small area.
However, our enjoyment was marred by frequent dropouts, where the AirSpeaker would simply stop playing and disappear from our list of available AirPlay devices.
Macworld Australia’s buying advice.
The AirSpeaker is the most expensive AirPlay speaker system we’ve tested, so it has a lot to prove. While it delivered the goods when it came to design and sound quality, its setup and dropout issues while on test were a disappointment.