Review: Pure Contour 200i Air AirPlay Speaker
When I say we have a lot of AirPlay speakers in the office here at AskDaveTaylor, I'm not kidding. It looks more like a test facility for AirPlay than anything else when we point music from an AirPlay friendly device to one of the audio systems. But this means we've also gained a lot of experience with AirPlay and have learned to tolerate the stutters and hiccups of wireless music, along with learning just how hard it can be to do something as basic as changing the unit's wireless name or even connect it to a secure wifi network.
That's why I'm so darn impressed with the Contour 200i Air from Pure, a speaker that has the striking design I expect from an Apple product coupled with both the best sound available in a unit this size and a configuration system that makes the usual administrative hassles ridiculously easy.
One of the most important tasks facing AirPlay speaker owners is initial configuration. Connecting to your wifi network is essential but if you have a secure network with a password, entering that password via a ten-button remote or, worse, the three buttons on a device can be maddening, and while some companies have iPhone apps that make the process easier, you're still left tapping and going through what feels like a lot of hassle. Pure has sidestepped the process by letting you share your wifi settings from your iPhone or iPad with a simple tap of a button. Don't like that approach? They've also added software that makes the Contour 200i Air a tiny Web server, just enough to run its configuration software which you then access via your favorite browser, probably on your computer.
More on that in a bit, but both solutions are terrific and oh, so easy to work with. One of my favorite aspects to the Contour is how easy it is to configure. If you've tried other devices in this category, you'll understand why I'm so enthusiastic about their solution.
The real proof of a speaker system is the sound and for a unit that's about the size of a toaster (so no, it's not bigger than a breadbox!) it has a deep, rich sound with full bass and a bright treble tone that makes any music, from rap to classical, sound terrific. As with all speakers, placement is important, but even sitting on a side-table the Contour 200i Air fills the room with music and can certainly get loud enough that the neighbors are banging on the wall, swearing at us!
Pure Contour 200i Air
According to the company, the unit only puts out 18-watts, but it sure sounds a lot louder than that. At full volume, it's more than enough for even a half-deaf teenager :-) It's also certified by Apple to work with all iPhone and iPad systems, though there's no update from the company on the iPhone 5 or very latest generation of iPads with the Lightening connector. It is important to note that the unit has a pre-Lightening dock so if you did plan on using this with a brand new device, you might need the adapter.
My expectation is that we'll see a 300i as soon as the company can reengineer the dock for a Lightening connector, but that presents a dilemma too: which one will people want? My ideal would be a transitional dock that supports both by having one flip out of the way so that the other can be used instead, but that might be an extraordinary engineering challenge. Meanwhile the next year is going to be a difficult transition period, for sure.
Also worth mentioning: The design of the 200i dock means that you can also use it as an iPad dock, something that's not true of most high-end speaker dock systems, something that's a constant annoyance for people who prefer to have their iPad permanently docked. Now get it to work with the iPad mini and it'll be extra cool...
Back to the configuration system. On the back of the 200i there's a small button labeled "Wi-Fi Setup". Put your iPhone on the dock, push the button and here's what you see:
Could it be any easier to configure the network?
If you want more control, pop off the iPhone so the dock's empty, then push the "wifi setup" button and a new network appears in your home or office, "Contour 200i Air". Choose it, then go to http://192.168.1.12/ and you're in the configuration system and it's incredibly easy to work with, as you can see:
Want to hook the device up to a different wifi network? You can see above just how easy it is - and how easily the password can be entered. Same with changing the name of the unit on your AirPlay network: I've named this "Dave's Office Tunes" but it's a matter of less than 60 seconds work to change it to something else, like "Jazz Only, Thanks".
There's also an easy way to check for firmware updates and even a status monitor:
Pure also has a slick iPhone app called Pure Connect that gives you easy access to streaming radio, Internet stations, your own tunes, and even Pure-programmed streaming channels. You don't need a 200i Air to use the app, but together they make it a pleasure to listen to thousands of free audio programs in superb fidelity.
Looks good, sounds good, and a little birdie tells me that the Contour 200i Air is going to be on sale for $199 through the month of December (instead of its regular price of $250), so it's a good deal and, of course, a lovely present for someone who can appreciate fine audio and smart design.
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