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Cambridge Audio Minx Air 100 review:

A pretty wireless speaker better seen than heard

This flexibility can be useful even if you're an iOS-only household. AirPlay might work better in your home, but Bluetooth allows you to quickly start streaming in other locations where you might not have a Wi-Fi network to connect to.

Cambridge Audio Minx Air 100
Sarah Tew/CNET

Ports on the back are as limited as you'd expect from a wireless speaker: Ethernet, minijack, and analog input. That should be enough for pretty much every purpose, especially considering its wireless support. There's also a USB-like port, but it's labeled "Service" -- in other words, don't expect to connect your iPod or phone to this speaker, for charging or for music.

Cambridge Audio Minx Air 100
Sarah Tew/CNET

The back also features a convenient handle, which ironically highlights one of the Minx's shortcomings; it's not a portable speaker. The system is just small enough that you can imagine dragging it outside for patio duty, but there's no built-in battery, so it always needs to be plugged in.

Sound quality: Better seen than heard
I had the Minx Air 100 set up directly next to the Klipsch KMC 3 and Peachtree Audio Deepblue for listening tests, and it was quickly clear that the Minx Air 100 was the lightweight of the three.

I started with Neil Young's "Harvest." The closing track "Words" picks up a lot of steam toward the end, and the livelier the music got, the more the limitations of the Minx Air 100 were apparent. Young's voice and guitar sounded flat on the Minx, while the other two systems came alive. Switching to heavier fare made the difference starker. "Hand of Doom" from Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" was surprisingly rocking on both the KMC 3 and the Deepblue, but sounded comparatively thin on the Minx, especially in the bass department, even with the bass control on the back turned all the way up. At their best, the KMC 3 and the Deepblue can sound reasonable close to a full-range speaker, but the Minx Air 100 always had a tinny quality that reminds you of its limitations.

The differences were less apparent with softer tunes. The Beatles' "Here, There, and Everywhere" and John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" sounded sweet on the Minx, although I still preferred the richer sound of the other two speakers. The Minx Air 100's strength is creating a more laid-back sound that never gets too boomy, so if you're interested mostly in background tunes, the Minx may be a good fit for you.

The head-to-head matchup also clearly demonstrated that the sonic differences between Bluetooth and AirPlay are typically overstated. The Peachtree Deepblue and Klipsch KMC 3 are Bluetooth-only, but sounded fuller in every way, even compared with "lossless" AirPlay on the Minx 100. Speaker quality matters more than wireless-audio standard, lossy or not, on small systems like these.

Conclusion: Good-looking, but thin-sounding
The Minx Air 100 isn't going to win over anyone picky about sound quality, but its looks and convenient feature set make it worth considering for less critical listeners who want the flexibility of AirPlay and Bluetooth audio streaming.

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