Review: Cambridge Audio Minx Air 200 and Minx Go Wireless Speakers Page 2

Minx Air 200 ($599)

It's a reasonably hefty device, though a molded handle in the smooth, dense, stiff plastic enclosure makes it easy enough to move. An internal power supply is a nice touch, as is a rear panel trim control for the built-in sub, which widens your placement options considerably. RCA and 1/8-inch stereo inputs let you interface with older gear.

A remote is included, allowing access to the functions otherwise controlled via the unit's top panel - volume control, presets, and so forth, along with five extra internet radio preset slots for a total of 10. Since I was streaming to the 200 from across the room at a desktop machine, or via a smartphone or tablet using the Minx Air app (more on that in a bit), I found the remote more or less superfluous, but I can imagine it'd be useful to some listeners. Cambridge expects that listeners will be using a mobile device as a remote, and they may well be right.  Still, I couldn't help but think this device might have benefited from some sort of onboard interface, say something along the lines of the Logitech Smart Radio. As things stand, the Minx Air splits the difference between all-in-ones like the Smart Radio and the various AirPlay and Bluetooth wireless powered speakers out there.

Hypothetical devices aside, under the hood of the Minx Air 200, you'll find a whole lot of current thinking - the 200 employs (as you might have guessed) 200 watts of digital amplification, powering a pair of 2-and-1/4-inch BMR drivers and an onboard 6-and-1/2-inch subwoofer (there's a traditional driver in that role).

You'll likely be signing the 200 into your home Wi-Fi network; the thorough manual (included, shockingly enough, in hard copy in enough languages to suit a healthy percentage of the world's population) walks you through the process - you can set up a temporary network and configure the 200 for your network via the browser on whatever device you have handy, or you can take advantage of one-button setup if you've got a WPS-capable router. There's a little bit of watching for visual clues from a multicolored LED around back, which is not my favorite setup methodology, I must admit, though it works perfectly well. And if the printed manuals aren't enough for you, the Cambridge Audio site has plenty of support resources. Don't feel like going totally wireless? There's an ethernet port around back if you prefer to make a direct connection to your router.

Once configured, you're ready to stream to your heart's content via Apple's AirPlay protocol, or via Bluetooth, so whatever source you have handy should work just fine. With various Macs and iOS devices on hand, I streamed primarily from iTunes; I also made use of Bluetooth, streaming primarily from a Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

We've talked a fair amount over the past couple of years about CSR's high-quality apt-X Bluetooth codec; that's here, and since most current flagship mobile devices now take advantage of it, it's something we tend to take for granted.But just think back to what Bluetooth audio sounded like a half-decade ago, and be glad we've come a long way since. If you need to interface with the Minx over Bluetooth, you'll still get very impressive sound quality (though you'll miss out on the slick little Minx App for internet radio access).

Speaking of sound, the first thing you'll notice about the Minx Air 200? It's LOUD. Like annoy-the-neighbors-kick-out-the-jams loud, very competitive with the top-end offerings from B+W, and quite refined in the same fashion - it's not a bass monster by any stretch of the imagination, but you can crank up the 200 without obvious strain, and it maintains smooth reproduction across the frequency spectrum.

I cued up "Circle" from Miles Smiles, which sounded - and this is a good thing - about as good as I could expect on this system. I miss the stereo presentation a little, and the piano sounds a tad small (though this is all par for the course for a single-box "stereo" product like the 200, so it's less a complaint than a comment on the state of the art), but Ron Carter's bass sounds fantastic; there's plenty of air around Miles' horn, and Tony's cymbals come through loud and clear. Once things get dense on Gingerbread Boy, the 200 is a little more cluttered sounding, but par for the course for this sort of product, though Tony's kick has plenty of punch - that sub really moves plenty of air.

Wanting to get some vocals in the mix, I turned to Holly Cole's take on Tom Waits' "Train Song." It's clear here that the 200 doesn't quite have the bass extension to reproduce the subsonic depths of the fundamentals of those first couple of notes in the baseline, but I haven't heard many all-in-ones that could. And that aside, this thing really sounds great. Cole's voice sounds great, though - smooth and without strain, even with all of that bass energy underneath; the busy hand percussion is articulate. Room ambience isn't quite accurate, nor is there the sense of space that I know is there in the recording itself - but I have yet to hear a single-box system that can actually do justice to a stereo image, regardless of how expertly voiced the box (or how well-programmed the DSP behind it) may be.

Suffice it to say that the Minx 200 should acquit itself admirably no matter what source you throw at it. Sure, it's a little expensive and it may not deliver totally convincing sonic space, but for across-the-board quality reproduction of music in a one-box room-filling wireless unit, it does very, very well indeed.