Cambridge Audio has just relaunched its wireless speaker line with the Bluetone 100, a 100 Watt Bluetooth stereo speaker that aims to be the primary listening device for anyone looking for a high quality sound from a device with a small footprint. Priced at $299, the Bluetone is an update and simplification of the Minx 100, which is still on the market at $399.
How you feel about that simplification depends a lot on how much you buy into Apple's AirPlay audio scheme. AirPlay, which connects your speaker to a wifi network does offer better audio quality and easier connections for multiple Apple devices, but that marginal sound improvement comes with a lot of hassle. That AirPlay connection is 100% dependent on the quality of your wifi signal. Anything less than a rock-solid home network is going to lead to dropouts. Connecting an AirPlay speaker to a home network can be a complicated and baffling procedure for anyone who doesn't have an enormous amount of patience.
So Cambridge Audio has dumped the AirPlay and the Bluetone sticks with a dependable Bluetooth connection that will connect easily with any device you want to throw at it.
It's got both RCA and 3.5mm connections in the back, so you can also plug in any audio device (CD, tape deck, MP3 player) that you've still got around the house.
The front has three buttons for switching between the two physical inputs and wireless connections.
The right side features a power button and volume buttons.
The Bluetone features aptX connectivity for the Android users and the bluetooth connection sounds a little better than it did on the Minx 100. It's easy to connect and the speaker stays connected. That's no small thing. It pumps out a lot of volume for its 14" x 7" x 4.5" size. I love the unobtrusive design: it's a speaker and it looks like a speaker and there's not a lot of extraneous chrome to distract from the job it's there to do. There is a really bright status light that shines blue or red at the top of the front grille. That's going to annoy anyone in your life who doesn't think you should have a speaker in the living room. Otherwise, it's a winner.
The Minx 100 is still available for $100 more and also comes in white. Should you consider one of these instead? Maybe, under certain conditions. The AirPlay connection process is pretty complicated. If you've got a steady wifi connection (something that doesn't really exist in my old house with thick walls) and plan to connect to a network in one location and leave it there, then you could make the case the AirPlay sounds slightly better than Bluetooth.
Or you can connect it to your home network via an Ethernet port on the back. There's also a WPS button for resetting the system after you've screwed up the wifi connection process.
The Minx 100 also comes preprogrammed with 10 Internet radio stations, five of which are directly accessible from buttons on top of the device. You can use a free Minx app to reprogram the stations to your choices and access stations 6-10. The upside is that you can use the Minx 100 to access the five Internet radio stations without a phone or tablet present. Of course, you can stream whatever station or music service you want from your phone to the Bluetone anyway. It's a feature that will appeal to some people but might not be missed if it's not actually. The Minx 100 also comes with a remote that's not so necessary if you're using a wireless device for your music.
Both the Bluetone and Minx 100 come with three power cords, one each for the USA, UK and Europe.
The Bluetone is a simpler device that will have a lot of appeal for most users. You can easily move it from place to place without worrying about how you'll get a connection. There's no remote to lose and most people won't miss the advanced features and will love the lower price. The Minx 100 is still there for hardcore Apple believers who want that AirPlay connection. For anyone who asks me (and I get asked about wireless speakers almost every day of my life), the new Bluetone 100 is the way to go.