Systems for streaming your music throughout your home wirelessly (think of the Sonos-network or Bluetooth-speakers) have been around for some time, but since Apple made its AirPlay-technology available for iOS-devices at the end of 2010, the iPod speakers with AirPlay-support shoot up like mushrooms. The Berlin audio brand Teufel takes a leap into the deep with the iTeufel Air and claims to deliver 100 Watt of Wi-Fi -quality. If this is true we are now going to investigate thoroughly.
The company Teufel is just as many other audio brands founded by a music lover with entrepreneurial talent. In 1979 Peter Tschimmel opened the first store in Berlin with an assortment ‘do-it-yourself' stereo speaker components. Nowadays Teufel is the leader in online speaker sales in Europe and the largest company of THX speakers in the world. With their Home Cinema-sets they often win awards and with their iTeufel Air they hope to also have one of the better AirPlay-speakers in the market.
The iTeufel Air is with its size of 17.5 x 43.5 x 27 centimetres a pretty robust device. It is smaller than pictures make you believe. Also the weight of 5.7 kg is not too bad. The housing consists of sturdy white plastic and the speaker grill is both at the front and the side covered with black fabric with the Teufel-logo at the bottom. The whole feels very robust and also the plastic base, which has an aluminium look, seems to be sturdy. On top of the device you can find the power button and two volume buttons. At the back you will find the Setup-key, a line in (or 3.5mm connector) and the AC input. A simple but clean design which can stand rough handling with a 12 year guarantee on its housing: German thoroughness.
What exactly is AirPlay?
AirPlay is, as mentioned before, an Apple technology for wirelessly streaming music or other media files to different devices through a Wi-Fi-network. The advantages are that it is possible to play lossless audio (without loss of quality/compression) and the large range. Disadvantages are that a you need a WiFi-network (unless you don't need an internet connection while playing your music, but this is time-consuming) and there is a delay of a few seconds in the sound. The latter makes that watching a movie or playing a game is intricate and that rewinding or fast-forwarding of music is inaccurate.
Installing such an AirPlay-device is relatively simple. The iTeufel Air supports WPS and if your router has a WPS button, you can connect with just one push of the button. If not, you'll enter your Wi-Fi-network with accompanying password settings in five simple steps and a few seconds later you are ready for streaming music. iDevices can stream all audio through AirPlay, but also your Mac or PC can do more than just stream media via iTunes (provided that you have a program such as Airfoil).
Teufel indicates that rooms up to 25m² are best suitable for the Air. This is a realistic number for those who like to throw parties. If it can be a little more quiet, you can double or triple this number. The device relies on a 13 cm built-in subwoofer which puts out 45 Watt, supplemented by two mid-range 8 cm woofers and two 2.5cm tweeters which are good for a total output of 100 Watt. The sound these speakers produce however will not be to everybody's likings. The high tones are prominently present and also the mids are well represented, but in the low notes the iTeufel Air somewhat fails. You don't have to be a ‘basshead' for noticing that the low notes are very subtle. This is too bad, especially if you like to listen to music at a low volume, because even then you would want to enjoy those basses. Don't be mistaken, this AirPlay-speaker has a nice and clear sound, but you really cannot speak of a warm sound. Luckily iOS-devices and many music programs have an equalizer. To make this produce more low tones compensates a lot and when you play a little with the frequencies, the sound becomes almost just as detailed despite the extra basses. Keep in mind that then the Air plays considerably less loud (the device does this automatically to prevent distortion). If you don't touch the EQ you can turn up the speakers pretty high practically without any distortion.
Let's get cracking
The cooperation between the iTeufel Air with iTunes on the one hand and iOS-devices on the other hand goes without a hitch. Once connected to the same network you click on the icon in iTunes to select your output and six seconds later your music will blast through your speakers. This last can be taken literally because the volume control is completely taken over from iTunes (and who does not standard have this at maximum?). When you go to iDevice's another icon will appear for choosing your output and also a separate volume control is remembered for AirPlay-speakers (just as is the case with plugged-in head phones). Halfway the volume scale of your iOS-device, the iTeufel Air already peaks and every attempt to gain more volume results in minimal louder high tones and therefore a sound which is no longer balanced. If you keep the volume below this nothing's wrong. One slight demerit is the sensitivity of the volume controls. If you use those on the device itself, it is not too bad, but those on your iDevice react in such large steps that you continuously have to adjust the volume through the slider on the screen.
Teufel offers a great solution with the iTeufel Air for someone who wants to have an AirPlay-system which is compact but still can fill a room with a pleasant sound without too much bass. As said before, an EQ can generate more bass, but then the maximum volume is a lot lower. Yet the Air with its price tag of 499 Euros is one of the better players in the market. Can we speak of HiFi-sound? Yes, but for 499 Euros there are more superior (bigger) systems. Compactness, user friendliness and AirPlay do come with a price.
Pros and cons
+ robust design
+ clear and detailed sound, even at higher volumes
+ relatively compact
+ AirPlay works flawlessly
- few low notes without using EQ
- volume control inaccurate