Lower East Side Audio Dock Air is, put simply, a black, upright, rectangular slab of an AirPlay speaker. Featuring some interesting physical design decisions, it generates impressive sound.
The five-pound Audio Dock measures 8.3 inches tall, 8.9 inches deep, and 4.7 inches thick. The two nearly square sides are covered in black mesh, with the four thinner sides sporting matte-black plastic—if you were to unpack the speaker before seeing a photo of it, you’d need to check the manual to figure out which way is up and which side is the front.
On top of the unit are two tiny LEDs that indicate the Audio Dock’s power and AirPlay-connectivity status, along with a black, inset volume dial that doubles as a mute button if you push down on it. On the front of of the unit—one of the narrower sides—sit a headphone jack along something that looks like it should be a button or an infrared receiver, but is in fact merely decorative. That’s a shame, because a power button would be a fine addition to the Audio Dock. Instead, it’s always on when plugged in, and it offers no standby or off mode. As is typical of AirPlay speakers, there are no playback controls—you control playback on your iOS device or computer.
The Audio Dock’s rear panel includes a port for plugging in the system’s power brick, a 1/8-inch (3.5mm) auxiliary-input jack for connecting an audio source directly, and a pairing button.
You won’t need that pairing button much, as you use it only when you want to connect the Audio Dock to a new wireless network. When you press and hold the button, it triggers the speaker to set up its own, ad-hoc Wi-Fi hotspot. You connect to that network from your Mac or iOS device, visit a specific URL, and provide your actual wireless network’s details. After about a minute or so, the Audio Dock is connected to your Wi-Fi network and is ready to stream your music. In my testing, setup was easy and AirPlay playback worked great. I successfully streamed music from my MacBook Pro and a trio of iOS devices with nary a stutter over many hours of listening.
Listening to music with the Audio Dock proved enjoyable, too. Hidden behind the black-fabric sides are a pair of 0.75-inch tweeters, a pair of 3-inch woofers, and a pair of 4-inch passive bass radiators. The passive radiators offer an impressive degree of oomph—you can feel the bass presence even at moderate volumes. Unsurprisingly, you’re not going to hear a wide stereo field with a speaker this shape, but I was satisfied with the Audio Dock’s ability to fill even big rooms with sound. Even at full volume, which falls just shy of ear-splitting levels, music playback was crisp and distortion-free.
Macworld’s buying advice
The Lower East Side Audio Dock sounds great and doesn’t take up much space. The omission of a power button is rather odd. And the Audio Dock is compact enough that I’d love if it offered a built-in battery for added portability. As is, it’s a powerful AirPlay speaker whose audio performance is a genuine pleasure.