Published on April 6th, 2014 | by Greg0
Acoustic Research Wireless Airplay Speaker: Inexpensive, But Only OK
Wireless audio systems have become one of the most popular categories of items that we look at, regularly drawing a ton of interest from readers and with more and more companies hopping into the playing field. Many of them use the very popular, widely supported Bluetooth, which offers some advantages and some downsides over other types of wireless transmission. But for multi-room audio from iOS devices, Apple’s Airplay is a solid, easy to use format with better range though it does require a router/wifi network.
The Acoustic Research ARAP50 Wireless Audio System with AirPlay is a 20-watt stereo system built with Apple users in mind. It offers only basic features- no remote control, not even an auxiliary 3.5mm headphone input, though it does have a USB port to allow you to charge your devices while you play. And the box looks fairly nondescript- it’s certainly no Luna Eclipse Bluetooth that we recently looked at- but it’s black will blend in to most areas. Made to sit on a desk or side table and not take up much space, it won’t fill a living room with sound, but is fine for adding an extra speaker for your smaller bedroom or office or even kitchen.
That said, we were divided on it’s utility, and largely because of the price. At the official MSRP of $199, it’s a very poor performer, outclassed by most other speakers in that range, some of which offer docks, or portability, and almost all of which offer better (and louder) sound. But online right now, we were able to find the system at a much lower price, and it then becomes a better value- one of the least expensive Airplay sets we’ve seen. Now, we did have some technical issues- some drop-outs- but we’ve face them even on top-of-the-line Airplay sets like the Bowers and Wilkins A7. Router configuration does help, as did updating the firmware on the ARAP50.
We liked the built-in controls, though they aren’t fancy, they were more responsive than the often-finicky touch sensitive controls on other systems. As mentioned, audio quality is noting to boast about- there wasn’t a lot of low end, and we did hear some notable distortion on higher frequencies. Certainly, it’s perfectly adequate for pop and rock music, but didn’t impress. That said, if you’re in need of an basic Airplay speaker, it’s hard to find a cheaper option than this one, available now online for under $60!