The Air's remote control is nice device but its abilities are a little restricted. While you can use it to switch the system on and off, adjust the volume, bass and treble, and select pre-set FM stations all well enough, actual iPod navigation is limited to pause/play and next/previous track. So if you want to change albums, artists or playlists you have to do it manually on your iPod.
Lose the remote and you can still control the speaker unit
Of course, this is largely due to the fundamental design of the Air: the remote works through the speaker unit rather than the dock - reasonably, perhaps, since you're more likely to find yourself near a speaker than the dock - and the LED display on the speakers only displays the volume level, radio frequency and so on, not track information.
To navigate about your iPod, the speaker display would have to show pretty much the same information as the iPod screen. Frankly, we think it should – all it would take is an LED display similar to that on the Roku Soundbridge. Altec has dropped a bit of clanger by not allowing users to navigate through their music libraries from any room in the house with a speaker unit in it.
Incidentally, if the remote goes down the side of the sofa, there are duplicate controls for volume, input, track and power on the side of the speaker unit.
With an RRP of £299 – though we found it for £279 easily enough - the Air can't really be described as cheap, though at £100 more than the Edifier Luna 5 and the same amount less than B&W's Zeppelin, it,s pretty much par for the course for devices of its ilk.
Sit on a shelf or stick it on the wall
If you want to add additional speaker units to your system you'll have a wait a wee while – or buy two complete Air rigs - as they're not available separately in the UK yet. Here's a suggestion for Altec: bundle two speakers together with a dock and call it £400 for cash.
While it may be an answer to a question we hadn't previously asked, we rather like the Air, the slightly ill-thought out remote control issues notwithstanding. Cough up for an extra speaker unit and you have a pretty flexible system that can give you two-unit stereo in one room, or music in any two rooms. Buy seven units and you can quite literally have music wherever you go, within your house, at any rate. ®
More Speaker Set Reviews...
Edifier Luna 5
Altec Lansing M812 Octiv Air
"If it has a switch to select one of three channels, it most probably uses an analog transmitter like cordless headphones"
What on earth are you talking about?
My 802.11b has 11 channels selectable by a switch (software). Does that mean its ......
Oh I can't be bothered.
My telly plugs in to the same socket as the buzz saw so it must be using a whacking great motor to work.
iPod cock more like.
44KHz CD quality?
If it has a switch to select one of three channels, it most probably uses an analog transmitter like cordless headphones. That leaves the question why you would be limited to 8 speakers, given that this analog signal could have as many receivers tuned to it as you want.