Cambridge Audio Minx Air 200 review

Pros

  • Smooth, transparent sound quality
  • Near-thunderous bass extension
  • Supports both Bluetooth and AirPlay

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Slightly sluggish bass response
  • Mild background hiss at idle

Cambridge Audio is moving into the ever-popular wireless speaker realm – and with a bang. The Minx Air 200 costs £430, and is the larger of the company's new wireless speakers (the other being the Air 100, which is £100 cheaper). It works over both Bluetooth and AirPlay, and also streams Internet radio over a home network. The Air 200 is designed to work in large living rooms, thanks to its 200 Watt amp, built-in subwoofer, and digital signal processing. It's not flawless, but it's a solid competitor that's well worth its admittedly high price.

Design

The Minx Air 200 measures 450 x 175 x 220mm (WxDxH) and weighs 5.1kg. The overall design errs on the side of understated – a bit too much so – but it'll look fine with just about any modern décor. If there's any real problem with the styling, it's that it doesn't look like it costs as much as it does, the way Bowers & Wilkins or Bang & Olufsen products tend to.

The acoustically-damped enclosure is finished in a white gloss plastic, with a silver plastic accent band around the front panel edge and a grey cloth grille. Behind the unit, there's a nifty handle built into the injection moulded plastic; carrying the Minx Air 200 is a cinch as a result, even despite its somewhat large size.

The top panel features two sets of five grey rubber buttons, on the left side and right. The left side contains five number presets, while the right side plays host to Bluetooth, Analog Input, Volume Up/Down, and Power buttons. The back panel includes a power input, a hardware bass level control, a WPS button, an Ethernet port, a micro-USB jack for servicing the unit, a 3.5mm auxiliary input, and a pair of stereo RCA inputs. The power supply is built into the unit, so you only need the included power cord, and that's a relief, since most speakers like this require a semi-proprietary cable and an in-line power brick.

The remote is a small, thin, black plastic slab with six rows of three buttons, including Volume Up/Down, Mute, Bluetooth, Bass Up/Down, and 10 Radio Preset buttons. The buttons are bubbled plastic membrane keys that are easy to press one-handed, but they're not backlit, and the speaker responds quickly to button presses.

When you power on the Minx Air, an LED on the back flashes orange and green. To set up AirPlay, you have to connect to the Minx Air's adhoc Wi-Fi hotspot. Once you do, you type 192.168.1.1 into your PC or Mac's browser, select your Wi-Fi network's SSID from the list, and type in your password and click Apply. The Minx Air will save the configuration, and your own PC will see the Minx Air hotspot disappear, meaning that it should automatically reconnect to your existing home network. If all is well, you'll be able to select the Minx Air from your iOS device. It's a functional setup process, but the Bowers & Wilkins A7 has a much more streamlined system.

Cambridge Audio also offers a free Minx Air iOS app, which I tested using an iPhone 5. The app lets you control the device as if it was a remote, as well as find and store Internet radio stations from a selection of over 20,000. It also includes something you can't get via the front panel or hardware remote: 10 DSP presets for modifying the speaker's frequency response curve. Unfortunately, you can't actually set up the Minx Air with the app, so you're stuck with using the desktop router-like interface on a PC or Mac.

Performance

Inside is a 200 Watt class-D amplifier driving two 2.25in balance mode radiator drivers and a 6.5in subwoofer. At idle, the Minx Air 200 consumes less than half a Watt of power from the wall. Unfortunately, I heard some low-level background hiss at idle when powered up, just as I heard with the smaller Minx Air 100 (which I also got a chance to listen to, for comparison’s sake). It's not a problem if you sit far away from the speaker, but if it's on your desk or on a nearby side table, you'll notice it.

Audiophiles may have sneered at the first round of iPod speaker docks that began to hit the market a decade ago, but that's ancient history. The Minx Air 200 delivers thunderous bass extension and punch, easily the most I've heard from any similar wireless speaker. On Flunk's "Indian Rope Trick," the Minx Air 200 shook the room rendering the track's extended synth bass notes, all while delivering just the right amount of mid-bass emphasis on each kick drum hit.

Queen of the Stone Age's "Little Sister" had plenty of energy, with smooth effected vocals, crisp guitars, and a wooden block on the quarter notes that sat nicely in the mix. Rage Against the Machine's "Fistful of Steel" delivered plenty of aggressive guitar crunch, although the subwoofer driver was a little sluggish in pounding out the kick drum notes; a little more tightness here would have been welcome.

On Bill Callahan's "Drover," his baritone voice came through with a nice sense of weight and clarity. Unlike with the Minx Air 100, I easily heard the eighth-note kick drum backbeat when it kicked in, and the acoustic guitar sparkled and sounded full bodied.

The speaker also doesn't distort, even when playing deep bass tracks at top volumes, such as our standard torture test track, The Knife's "Silent Shout." And unlike the smaller Minx Air 100, I didn't hear any compression artifacts even at higher volumes, most likely thanks to the Minx Air 200's separate subwoofer driver that can be worked hard without affecting the midrange and high-end response. I also tested the Minx Air 200 on a table far away from a wall, turning up the subwoofer level dial to compensate. I still thought the speaker could use a slightly faster, tighter bass punch. This is nit-picking, though – but I'll argue it's justified considering the asking price.

Verdict

At £430, the Minx Air 200 isn't inexpensive, but it's very well designed and delivers powerful, transparent sound. Its primary competition is from Bowers & Wilkins, which offers a couple of products in a similar price range. The Zeppelin Air is £70 dearer, but offers a lot more style – some might say too much – and it's an actual speaker dock that comes in both 30-pin and Lightning Connector versions. It also supports AirPlay, but not Bluetooth.

There’s also the Bowers & Wilkins A5 which is £30 cheaper than the Air 200, and it’s another high quality system, plus it looks classier – though again, it supports AirPlay but not Bluetooth, and it can suffer from slight distortion issues at high volumes.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

Cambridge Audio Minx Air 200

Connections

3.5mm, Stereo RCA

Wireless Remote Control

Yes

Separate subwoofer

No

Power Rating (Left and Right, Each)

100 + 100 watts RMS

AirPlay

Yes

Type

Wireless

Physical Dock

No

Bluetooth

Yes