The AirGo is a sturdy outdoor speaker designed by Russound, a company with years of experience making quality speakers. While there are a lot of great things about the AirGo, being shown off this week at CES 2012, the most interesting thing to me was that instead of using Bluetooth or cables or even embedded AirPlay for transmitting audio from a music machine, the AirGo instead has a space on the back for inserting your own Airport Express. You buy the speaker, and then put in your own little Wi-Fi unit from Apple, which is where all the audio comes from. There are some distinct advantages to this, one of which is that you can use the Express as a Wi-Fi extender (not to mention that you might already have one lying around your house). But the AirGo has more to it than the novelty of an actual Airport Express inside.
The enclosure of the AirGo can best be described as rugged. This unit is designed to live outside. Russound did extensive testing in a variety of harsh conditions to ensure that heat, rain, and all the elements an outdoor speaker might encounter will not affect the unit. And yes, we were assured the Airport Express can withstand some pretty harsh conditions (temperature-wise). The Express is sealed inside a watertight enclosure on the back of the speaker system, and they were smart enough to provide a way to see the status light on the Express without having to open this cover. And if your Express needs an update, that is easily done wirelessly as you would normally do. If the Express dies, you won't need to buy another speaker, either, and Russound specifically designed the form factor with plenty of space, so even if Apple changes the external look of the Airport Express, the new version will probably still fit just fine.
Business up front, party in the back
The speaker base is largely metal, giving it heft and rigidity. There's a large handle up top for moving the unit around. The speaker itself is incredibly high quality, and I was very impressed with the sound even when relatively quiet, so if you like a little background jazz while sitting on your patio, you'll still hear a very crisp and clear sound at low volumes. Then there's loudness, which was more than adequate. We were in a small room for the demo filled with executives and media types chatting, but we could hear the music quite well. The speaker quickly filled the room when cranked up, drowning all the noise out. From the heavy duty power cord to metal base to metal speaker grille, this thing is designed to last. There's also a power light on the front so you know it is on. The overall design reminded me of an old TV set, mounted on a pivoting armature.
Of course, quality doesn't come cheap. The speaker sells for $399 (not including the Airport Express), which some users might balk at, but this is not some cheapo plastic Bluetooth speaker you toss in your backpack. This is a product for people who care about quality and durability, and probably spend a lot of time lounging by the pool or perhaps entertaining outside. Really, I could see some business like a caterer using these to quickly set up ambient music at an event. So if you're looking for a solid product that can withstand any number of tough uses, that price tag makes a lot of sense in the long run. You'll likely be enjoying this speaker for years.