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We've consistently been impressed by Logitech's speaker docks, and in the abstract, the audio from this one feels like a credible addition to this tradition.
There's detail across most of the spectrum (the oft-neglected midrange is especially nice, for example), some nice hefty bass, no more lack of stereo separation than we're used to with all-in-one docks, and a general feeling that you're in pretty good hands here.
Note, however, the weaselly language and caveats in that last sentence. There is little actually wrong with the audio from the Logitech UE Air Speaker, and heard in isolation it certainly delights. But there are two problems: put it next to the Altec Lansing inAir 5000, say - a speaker that costs around £100 more, we admit - or the non-AirPlay Philips Fidelio DS9010, and it feels less warm, less welcoming, and frankly less assured.
The second problem is that while we'd be raving about this performance from a speaker that cost £150/$200, with even online retailers asking for twice that as we write, we just feel unmoved. What's more, the low-end drops away at low volumes.
Again, it's competent, pleasant and, in isolation, even excellent, but it lacks the rich, unctuous tones of the inAir 5000 and the sheer unflappable gusto of the Fidelio DS9010.
It's the same thing with the build quality and design touches. The shiny black plastic and nylon-like mesh wouldn't feel out of place on that budget dock we're picturing in our heads, but it does feel a mite cheap here.
And while we love that it has a pop-out dock for charging your iOS device - something many AirPlay speakers lack - there's a disappointing amount of travel both in its own slide-out mechanism and in a docked iPhone or, especially, iPad.
(Note too that if you have a non-iOS iPod or an original iPhone/iPod touch, you have to play audio through the 3.5mm jack in the back rather than using the dock.)
This lack of care makes itself apparent in other ways, as well.
There's a click-wheel on top for changing volume, for example, but not only are the volume jumps irritatingly coarse, its position isn't absolute; you crank it round and round either way to turn it up or down, so there's no visual or tactile feedback about what volume the speaker is set at.
You might think us dreadful old martinets to care about such things, but we think £299/$399 should buy you the right to be pretty damned demanding.
Ultimately, we are disappointed in the Logitech UE Air Speaker. This is, after all, not only Logitech's first AirPlay Speaker, but the first time that the well-regarded Ultimate Ears brand - the 'UE' bit in the name - that it bought in 2008 has been applied to a speaker dock.
There is nothing wrong with it that knocking a hundred off the price wouldn't fix, and if you find a store selling it for under £200/$300 before the end of 2012, it's worth picking up. That, though, is damming with faint praise.
It suffers, in other words, because we were so excited about it, and it failed to live up to what we had hoped for, having enjoyed listening to Logitech docks for years.
This is a good speaker. It is not a great speaker.
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