Its refined, classy exterior gives little clue that it belts out thumping great gouts of warm, rich bass.
Altec Lansing inAir 5000 For iPad : After delays and bugs and delays because of bugs, AirPlay, Apple’s technology for streaming music over Wi-Fi from iOS devices and iTunes, is finally here, and we are at long last seeing a slew of speakers that include it.
Presumably because of an assumption that the sort of people who’d invest in something that can grow to a multi-room system are happy to spend a little, plus high licensing costs, and as a way of recouping not inconsiderable development costs, you still only find AirPlay in expensive speakers. These, for example, cost as much as an iPad.
While that’s a shame for anyone who wants to buy an AirPlay speaker, we, selfishly, love it because it means we get to listen to music played through glorious speakers for a job.
Altec Lansing’s inAir 5000 certainly qualifies as glorious. Setting it up is easy; download a free app for iOS, plug it into the speaker, and walk through the couple of steps it takes to name the speaker and then connect it to your Wi-Fi network. Alternatively, you can configure it by connecting to a network it creates temporarily, and then using a browser on your computer, or even by using WPS on supported routers.
That takes a mere matter of minutes, and then you can start sending music wirelessly straight from an iOS device running iOS 4.2 – which can only stream to one speaker at a time – or by streaming music to one or more speakers from iTunes on your PC or Mac.
What comes out of the inAir 5000 is gorgeous. Its sound is spectacularly warm. At times, we worried that the rich low-end would overwhelm everything else, but when we did, the speakers usually proved us wrong. At the start of Ben Folds’ Adelaide, for example, the thumping bassline that starts the track sounds properly awesome – a big, thick, kick-you-in-the-balls aural assault – but then the spiky percussion pings in at the top end with wonderful clarity, and the vocals float right on top of everything with tremendous presence. On clear, acoustic, lightly-produced tracks, you can close your eyes and imagine the singer is in the room with you.
But while the honeyed tones are deeply pleasing, they’re not perfect for everything. You might, for example, prefer a sharper, more neutral overall tone anyway, or you may listen to older music ripped from vinyl that already sounded soft and unctuous – in which case, the overall effect might veer uncomfortably towards muddied.
There’s no dock connector, but there’s a USB port on the back into which you can plug your iPhone, iPad or iPod, and a 3.5mm jack if you want to hook up any other music device such as an Android phone. The USB port can’t charge an iPad, but it can charge everything else, and there’s a button for ‘dim’ mode in which the speaker is off while devices continue to charge.
We like the inclusion of a headphone port too – you can plug in and even listen to music streamed to the inAir 5000 over the wonders of AirPlay.
There’s no getting around that price, though. It’s so new that as we write, few shops are selling it, so we can’t quote a decent online price as we usually do is Altec Lansing’s suggested retail price, but even if the market lobs fifty quid off that, you’re still looking at the thick end of. And if you think about buying one for the living room and one for the bedroom… eek!
It’s a beautiful and well-made object, though, and we love its vinyl, mellow sound. If you can afford it, buy it; if you can’t, pine wistfully for it.