The Gear4 AirZone Series 1 is on the more affordable end of the AirPlay Speaker market and includes some nice additional extras.
Firstly, this is one the best looking dock/ speaker systems I've seen for the iPod, iPhone and iPad. It's sleek curves and use of brushed metal and jet blacks make it a charming piece in the home setting.
The AirPlay setup process is a very straightforward implementation. You connect to a Wi-Fi network on the AirZone Speaker itself, it then connects and you can begin using it, simple. Other AirPlay speakers I've used required setting up via an internet browser, so this is a real breath of fresh air. The connection was solid and I have yet to experience any breakups in audio, I put this down to the speaker having an external rotatable antenna.
The range is also very impressive and equals my iPhone 4S's available distance. Skipping, pausing, playing and adjusting the volume of music is zippy. Connecting a device to the speaker over AirPlay takes literally one or two seconds to do. The whole execution of AirPlay is well done.
If you don't want to use AirPlay or have Apple devices that don't support it, the 30 pin dock connector is on hand. Supports iPhones, iPods, iPads and devices in cases too. The connection works just fine and doesn't suffer from any interference.
A surprise addition is the FM tuner built in. This is something that you don't see debuted very often nowadays but I have really liked having it. It delivers a crisp signal and is easy to tune.
Speaker quality far out performs it's £200 category. The audio produced is big and rich, it easily fills a large room. Bass is deep, the treble is good and the stereo seriously delivers. Individual instruments, vocals ect can be distinguished. Volume is able to be cranked up to nearly as high as it can possibly go without any distortion but when fully cranked, distortion kicks in on the more punchy music. A built in EQ allows for added adjustment to your liking too.
The biggest complaint I have with the AirZone Series 1, is the remote. The remote is straightforward to use but has terrible range, it drops out when you're about three meters away from the unit. Because AirPlay takes the need of a remote away, it's not as essential but is still a flaw.
Overall the Gear4 AirZone Series 1 speaker is a compete package that looks great and works well. It's size means it's easy to move around if needed and it will fit into tight spaces, the audio quality is brilliant, the FM tuner is a nice addition, the AirPlay implementation is fantastic and most importantly it's quite inexpensive.