Cambridge Audio is a name that's associated with great sound quality, and recently the company has taken its expertise in sound reproduction and applied it to creating some of the best wireless speakers for use with our iOS devices. The Minx Go (US$149.00) is a portable Bluetooth speaker that takes great sound wherever you're going, while the Minx Air 100 ($449.00) is a bit larger and handles either AirPlay or Bluetooth input.
The smallest member of the Cambridge Audio family is no slouch when it comes to making big sound. Minx Go is sized to fit into a backpack or computer bag for trips to the office or beach, and even comes with a little carrying bag. That being said, this is not your usual cheap (or not so cheap) plastic unit with tinny little speakers. It has some heft to it, weighing in at 2 lbs, 6 oz.
There's an AC adapter for charging the internal battery, which will last up to 18 hours. A USB port on the back of the Minx Go allows charging of your other favorite devices, although it will reduce the playback time of the speaker. You can also power the Go off of the AC adapter when the battery isn't charged up -- a real advantage if you just can't wait to get a full charge.
The design of the unit is nice -- a perforated front grill and black (or white) polycarbonate body sit upon a base with a vibration isolation pad, perfect for reducing "buzz" when you have the speaker cranked up. There's a tiny foot that rotates backwards to help prop up the Minx Go, and three simple buttons on top to turn on power and control volume.
Pairing is very simple -- literally just turning on the Minx Go and then making one tap on the iPhone or iPad Bluetooth settings and you're ready for music.
The Minx Go's sound reproduction seemed to me to be fairly accurate, although it had a bit too much emphasis on the low end for my liking. Your mileage may vary, of course, depending on your choice of music and where the speaker is physically located.
Volume-wise, the Minx Go cranks out an amazing amount of sound! For those parties at the beach or on the back patio, this little speaker can definitely overcome ocean noise or conversation for a ton of musical fun.
Minx Air 100
For listening to music in the home or office, the Minx Air 100 is a perfect companion. At 9 lbs 11 oz, it's definitely not made for portability, but works well on a bookshelf or coffee table. There is a small handle recess built into the case so it can be picked up and moved. There's no battery inside; the 100 watts of audio power that blasts from the Minx Air 100 would drain a battery quickly.
SInce a Wi-Fi connection must be set up on the Minx Air 100 for AirPlay, setup instructions are included for both a wired (Ethernet) and wireless setup. I chose wireless and followed the simple directions, which involve logging onto the Minx's Wi-Fi network, pulling up a particular IP address in a web browser (I used Safari on an iPad mini), selecting my home Wi-Fi network, and then entering the password. Once the small LED on the back of the device stopped blinking, I knew it was on the home network and ready for AirPlay.
And that's where the fun began! The Minx Air 100 produces incredibly good sound regardless of what you're playing. I usually run a range of music from Daft Punk to Debussy on my devices so I can hear what different genres sound like. Remember that "handle" I talked about earlier? It's also a bass port, so the bass really thumps when you want it to. But the beauty of Cambridge Audio's design is that the top end is crisp and clear, not drowned out by the bass.
Of course, you can also use Bluetooth to stream music to your Minx Air 100. The device also has 5 preset buttons on the front of the unit for Internet radio stations; you can use the free and optional Minx Air App to set up your Internet radio channels if you don't like the ones that are preset. That same app also controls the volume, bass, and EQ settings of the Minx Air, and can also adjust the auto-shutdown time. The Minx Air is set to shut off after four hours of use, but if you plan on listening to tunes all day at work you might want to adjust that to eight hours or more.
You don't need to use your favorite iOS device to control the Minx Air 100, as it also comes with a small remote control. But if you're using your iPhone or iPad to send a playlist to the speaker, why not use it as a remote as well?
The looks of the Minx Air 100 are pretty impressive as well. It's like a big brother to the Minx Go, and also comes in either black or white to match your decor. My only minor complaint? The polycarbonate case tends to pick up fingerprints, which are quite noticeable on the black model. That same silicone anti-vibration pad covers the bottom of the speaker, and that's a good thing. When this thing is blasting out tunes at full volume, there's not a speck of distortion or buzzing to be heard.
As one of the other TUAW bloggers said, "we all have that one review product we hate to ship back." For me, that's the case with the Minx Air 100. Cambridge Audio has created a solid example of speaker design and manufacturing that really has no competition in the AirPlay speaker market.