AirPlay speakers you can actually buy
JBL On Air Wireless and OnBeat Air
With its circular shape, JBL's On Air Wireless (left, $300) is clearly descended from the company's On Time clock-radio dock. The company claims the On Air Wireless offers 360-degree sound thanks to three speaker drivers strategically positioned around the ring, and the system is the only one we've seen with a color LCD that displays album art and menus. The On Air Wireless also sports an AM/FM radio, a clock with dual alarms, and a USB port for playing music from flash drives.
The OnBeat Air (right, $250) is an AirPlay-enabled version of JBL's OnBeat speaker dock. Offering a unique, compact design, the OnBeat Air is one of only two products in this roundup with a dock cradle that accommodates an iPad. It also includes a radio-frequency (RF) remote that doesn't require line-of-sight access to use, and a video-out jack for sending video from a docked iPod or iOS device to your TV.
The first AirPlay speaker system announced, way back in the fall of 2010, iHome's iW1 ($300) is finally available. (We've got a review in the works.) The iW1 includes a built-in battery for portable use, and a handy iOS app makes it easy to get the iW1 connected to your wireless network: Just connect your iPhone or iPad to the iW1 using a USB cable, launch the app, and use the app to choose your Wi-Fi network. The iW1 also works with a slew of iHome iOS apps for configuration, Internet radio, and alarm functions, and buttons on the iW1 itself let you control playback, whether the music is coming from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
Although the iW1 doesn't have a traditional iPhone dock cradle, you can use a USB cable to connect your iPhone, iPad, or iPod to the system for direct music playback.
AQ Audio Smart Speaker with Apple AirPlay
The smallest AirPlay-enabled system we've seen, AQ Audio's Smart Speaker with Apple AirPlay (approximately $345) looks like a single speaker—just 9.6 inches tall, 5.3 inches wide, and 4.3 inches deep—but it includes both left- and right-channel drivers. The Smart Speaker's built-in battery offers up to 10 hours of AirPlay playback before needing to be recharged. (AQ says you can get up to 20 hours of playback via a wired audio connection—in other words, with AirPlay disabled.)
Though compact, the Smart Speaker hosts a 24-Watt amplifier, and you can configure a pair of Smart Speakers to each handle one channel (right or left) for true stereo sound.
Russound has taken a unique approach to AirPlay with the AirGo ($399). Rather than including its own AirPlay circuitry, this portable, weather-resistant speaker, designed specifically for outdoor use, includes a "Weather-Proof chamber" that accommodates an AirPort Express base station. That's right, it's BYOA: Bring Your Own AirPlay! You just configure your AirPort Express for AirPlay streaming and then stick it inside the AirGo. (The company points out unlike with other AirPlay systems, the AirGo's design also lets you extend your wireless network outside.) Don't be fooled by the photo here—the AirGo is chunky at 12.6 inches high, 12.9 inches wide, and just over 10 inches deep.
Sony SA-NS500 HomeShare Portable Speaker
Like the AQ Audio Smart Speaker, Sony's SA-NS500 HomeShare Portable Speaker ($400) looks much like a single, compact speaker—this one 10.8 inches tall, 9.5 inches wide, and 7.4 inches deep. But the shape and four-driver (plus woofer) design of the SA-NS500 projects audio in every direction, so you need only a single unit for room-filling sound. Sony's Network Speaker technology also lets you play audio from your Sony Blu-ray player, other compatible Sony gear, and DLNA-compatible devices. You can even connect multiple speakers around your house and control the entire system using Sony's iOS app. Each SA-NS500 includes a rechargeable battery for true wireless playback.
Philips AirPlay Speakers
No vendor has embraced AirPlay as enthusiastically as Philips, which offers four AirPlay-equipped audio systems. The Fidelio AD7000/37 (top right, $200) is the least expensive AirPlay system we've yet seen. It offers 10 Watts of power in a compact speaker system that also sports an iPad-compatible dock. The Fidelio DS3881W/37 (top left, $300) uses a ring-shaped design with four drivers and a "central bass sound pipe" to fill a room with sound. It can also run off battery power, letting you easily move it from room to room.
The Fidelio SoundCurve DS8800W/37 (lower left, $400) offers 30 Watts of power, as well as an iPad-supporting dock cradle in the front. The company says the SoundCurve's larger drivers and tuned-bass pipes offer impressive bass performance. Finally, the Fidelio SoundSphere DS9800W/37 (bottom right, $800) is the company's flagship AirPlay system, featuring separate left and right speakers with hand-crafted wood enclosures; more power; larger bass drivers; a separate dock cradle for your iPhone or iPod; and a remote control. The SoundSphere also uses Philips' FullSound technology to improve audio performance.
All four systems are compatible with Philips' Fidelio iOS app for tweaking audio, listening to Internet radio, checking weather forecasts, and using the system as a clock radio.
Audyssey Lower East Side AirPlay Speaker Dock
Audyssey's Lower East Side AirPlay Speaker Dock ($400) is a simple, compact speaker system designed from the ground up for high-quality AirPlay streaming. Packed inside its 8.9- by 8.3- by 4.8-inch enclosure are dual 1-inch tweeters, dual 3-inch midrange drivers, and dual 4-inch passive bass radiators. According to Audyssey, those radiators allow the Audio Dock Air to produce outstanding bass response for its size. The system also features the company's Smart Speaker audio technology software, which actively optimizes audio output for whatever music is currently playing.
Pioneer X-SMC4-K Elite and X-SMC3-S Music Tap
Pioneer offers two variations of its AirPlay-equipped Music Tap systems, the X-SMC4-K Elite Music Tap (shown here, $479) and the X-SMC3-S Music Tap (not shown, $399). Both versions feature a full-color LCD screen that displays menus, track info, and album art; an iPhone- and iPod-compatible dock; built-in Internet radio; a special quick-start mode that lets you press a button to turn on the system and immediately start AirPlay streaming; and support for streaming audio from DLNA-compatible devices. You can also use Pioneer's Air Jam iOS app to create a group playlist using tracks from up to four different iOS devices.
The Elite version of the system includes Bluetooth (for streaming Bluetooth audio), as well as upgraded cosmetics and a 2-year warranty. (Bluetooth is a $99 option for the SMC3-S, so if you think you'll ever use Bluetooth, the Elite model is the way to go.)
Klipsch Gallery G-17 Air AirPlay Speakers
Klipsch's Gallery G-17 Air AirPlay Speakers ($550) looks huge in photos, but it's actually surprisingly compact at just 16.9 inches wide, 7 inches tall, and 4 inches deep. It includes dual aluminum-diaphragm tweeters (integrated into Klipsch's Tractrix Horns) and dual 2.5-inch long-throw "woofers," along with 60 Watts of amplification in an enclosure designed to maximize bass response. In addition to AirPlay, you can play music directly from an iPod, iPhone, or iPad using the G-17's USB port. The included remote lets you control volume as well as AirPlay playback.
The G-17 is finished in Klipsch's signature glossy black and includes a tempered-glass stand; keyholes on the back allow for wall mounting.
Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Air
The first AirPlay-enabled audio system to actually hit store shelves, back in April 2011, Bowers and Wilkins' Zeppelin Air ( ; $600) takes the company's excellent Zeppelin and adds AirPlay circuitry, an improved digital-to-analog converter (DAC), upgraded speaker drivers, better amplification, an improved bass-port design, and upgraded software. The result is everything that was good about the Zeppelin made better—plus AirPlay.
Libratone Live and Lounge
At the opposite end of the budgetary spectrum from Philips' Fidelio AD7000/37 are the lifestyle offerings from Libratone. This European company's two AirPlay speaker systems feature modern design and include hand-picked materials such as Italian cashmere, chrome, and wood. The compact Live (top, $699 to $799) is designed to fit—and fit in—anywhere, while the oversized Lounge (bottom, $1299 to 1399) offers bigger sound for larger rooms while still fitting underneath a flat-panel TV. The chrome-handled, portable Lounge is offered in Slate Gray, Blueberry Black, or Vanilla Beige for $699, or you can opt for red or green cashmere for $799. The Lounge is available in the same colors and materials for $1299 or $1399, respectively.
The company's Libratone iOS app lets you customize each speaker system by choosing an equalization profile and by entering its location relative to walls and floors; the app works with software in the speaker to tweak output for your particular room and speaker position.
House of Marley One Foundation
Did we say all of these systems are available? We fudged a bit. But that's because House of Marley's One Foundation Speaker Dock ($600), which is "coming soon," looks so interesting that we had to include it. For starters, the One Foundation is made from sustainably forested (FSC-certified) wood, along with recyclable aluminum and plastic; it ships in recycled and recyclable packaging; and a portion of its sales proceeds are used to support charities around the world.
What about the audio? The company says the One Foundation includes dual 1-inch aluminum-dome tweeters, dual 5-inch woofers, digital signal processing, and 100 Watts of total power. It also includes an iPhone/iPod dock and a remote control. We're looking forward to jammin' with it.