TEAC NS-X1 £229
1st Mar 2012 | 09:30
This "coolest, slimmest AirPlay system" has a lot to live up to. So does it do its launch hype justice?
Priced impressively at £229 and packed with features that would make more expensive iPod docks blush, the TEAC NS-X1 looks like a fantastic deal on paper.
Touted by its parent company as "the coolest, slimmest AirPlay system" it comes in the shape of an impossibly slim grey and black speaker dock box, with glowing blue LED-style display, and even a smart remote.
On the top sit basic playback controls and a 30-pin iPod dock, while around its rear, you'll find an Ethernet port, a 3.5mm auxiliary input and a coaxial input to feed its FM RDS tuner with 30 station presets.
Play around on the menus and you'll quickly discover its ability to offer DNLA-compliant wired and wireless connections, as well as AirPlay so you can stream songs from your iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
The TEAC NS-X1 gives you the ability to tune into your favourite radio stations, and boasts 2×10W power output with what TEAC claims are surprisingly impressive levels of bass given the unit's modest size.
Other niceties include support from a wide range of audio codecs (MP3, WAV, OGG, FLAC and LPCM) as well as the AAC format we're also familiar with from iTunes. So far, so good.
Setting up the TEAC NS-X1 to work wirelessly with AirPlay is relatively straightforward: you have to dig fairly deep into its menu system to get to the relevant settings and there's a bit of tedious entry of Wi-Fi router passwords and so on, but that just seems to be way things are with AirPlay, and TEAC's effort is no worse (or better) than a lot of other systems out there.
True, navigating your way through the menus can be slow, but the interface is logically laid out for the most part - and the chrome ring four-way cursor controls on the remote do a pretty good job of easing the pain. Before you know where you are, the TEAC NS-X1's sitting on your network and ready to accept audio streams from your iOS gear.
The TEAC's ability to stream AirPlay audio does get off to a bit of a stuttering start - again something that's fairly common on AirPlay devices - but it's the resulting sound from the speakers that really sets the benchmark here. Or rather, it doesn't.
It doesn't go up to eleven
With 2x 10W of power on tap, it's obvious that the TEAC is going to struggle to fill larger rooms, but even at reasonable volumes, the system starts to distort.
That's not necessarily a problem if you just want a bit of background music while you're eating your dinner, but the TEAC NS-X1 doesn't really sound good even then: its mushy delivery makes the songs you play through it hard to enjoy - even when they're well recorded.
The lack of detail, clarity and drive is partly down to the quality of the components, of course, but a lot of the NS-X1's problems can be laid at its mediocre build quality and use of cheap, rattling plastic.
By throwing in as many features as it can for the money, TEAC has compromised on the most important consideration of all: the kind of high quality sound that keeps you coming back again and again for more - and from a hi-fi maker of TEAC's standing, that's a disappointment for sure.
Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview