The NOCS NS2 Air Monitors give as good as they get [Review]
It's rare that I get to review an expensive pair of home or office wifi speakers. Usually it's the single, occasionally el cheapo, mono, Bluetooth kinds of speakers that cross my path, and I've gotten used to them and their occasionally less-than-stellar quality sound reproduction.
But every once in a while I get some wonderful, audiophile-quality speakers that would be perfect for showcasing a small, fancy sound system in your apartment, or dressing up your new office.
Welcome the NOCS NS2 Air Monitors from Stockholm, Sweden.
These are a pair of small, classy speakers meant to get their audio input from your iOS device-which doesn't bode well for the "audiophile" designation, but in a pinch will do nicely enough, particularly if you took the time to encode your source material at a high enough resolution.
They're a pretty heavy pair, owing obviously to the acoustic materials that constitute good, solid speaker housings. They're a good two or three thick paperback novels in dimension each, and look great on a shelf or a tabletop. Mine was in all black, but I understand they come in other colors, notably red and orange.
The speakers work wirelessly off a wifi connection, which means they have to connect to your home system's network. Nope, none of that Monster Cable wired nonsense. The only wire this thing uses is the one that connects one speaker to the other (a couple are provided), and the wire for the power adaptor.
Being wifi, they're better suited to stream audio than the slightly unreliable and still-being-improved Bluetooth spec, and give a more assured and steady signal. And nope, no batteries for this pair either; they work off a power brick connected to your house electricity.
There is a small wifi antenna connected to the back of the right speaker, along with most of the spartan controls and connection thingies: the power and the setup button, an AUX port for those times when you want to connect a non-wifi audio device, the power adaptor port and the port for the wired connection to the other speaker.
There is a small LED on the front of the right speaker which blinks amber and yellow when you are setting the speakers up, and glows a steady yellow when done. You connect it via turning it on as a wifi source on your laptop or desktop computer, upon which you can open a local website where you can configure the speakers. After that, it's a simple matter of turning on Airplay and streaming your music through iTunes on your Mac, iPhone, iPod, iPod touch, iPad or iPad mini.
(Remember, this only works on the more recent OS X apps, and only on iOS-supported products. No such luck yet for Android or Windows devices, although I think it's a safe assumption that NOCS is hard at work on making those work eventually. I think.)
In use, the NS2 Air Monitors are a wonder. You can hardly tell that you're streaming the music off of a computer or iOS device. They're loud, bright and clear, and it also gave a good amount of bass without overstressing the cabinets. You can stream the audio as loud as you can and the speakers won't buzz or distort, owing to the 70W output rating and the Digital Signal Processor inside.
I threw everything but the kitchen sink at it. Classical, hip-hop, pop, electronica, instrumental, jazz, MOR, spoken word-it gave back as good as it got. But what got me was that everything was in wonderful, glorious stereo. I was used to mono Bluetooth speakers that cut out on me every so often, and the only stereo I was used to hearing was on my 27" iMac's speakers. Here you can hear every nuance, every harmony, every drop of a pin from every direction on the soundstage.
In fact, the Air Monitors seemed to be asking for more: the volume ceilings on iOS seemed far below what the speakers can put up with, and it seemed able to put up with a lot. And you don't have to worry about the batteries running out-it runs off the wall socket.
If you're looking for a great pair of speakers for the home or office that you don't have to lug around, the NOS NS2 Air Monitors are a great example, although they come for a pretty penny-P19,990, available at higher-end computer shops.