System Audio SA air 1 Review – Much more than just a Bluetooth speaker
System Audio SA air 1, with this solution the Scandinavian speaker specialist System Audio A/S surprised us a few weeks ago when it presented it together with the System Audio SA air 9 as the new System Audio SA air Series. The System Audio SA air Series is conceived as a product series that includes Bluetooth speakers, so the company is introducing a completely new product group, but the company wants to be able to meet the same high quality requirements as with the classic products, i.e. the passive and active speaker systems from Denmark.
Focus on harmonious integration into the living environment
System Audio A/S has always seen itself as a loudspeaker specialist that is particularly committed to living-room-friendly solutions. You won’t find powerful systems that are impressive because of their huge dimensions. Instead, the company from Roskilde comes up trumps with deliberately very, very slim, sometimes even delicate-looking loudspeaker systems that can be effortlessly integrated into any living environment.
It is therefore fair to use the term lifestyle in the best sense of the word, especially since System Audio S/A is proud to be committed to classic Scandinavian design. Simple, timeless elegance is a very good description of the company’s wide range of products.
Active loudspeaker systems increasingly take centre stage
It is striking that System Audio A/S has been devoting more and more attention to active loudspeaker systems in recent years. The reason for this is simple: from the point of view of the company’s founder, Ole Witthhøft, who is still the head of development, the market has been undergoing a gradual transformation from hi-fi castles, which for many years were considered the epitome of the finest hi-fi solutions, to systems that are as compact as possible and concentrate on the essentials.
According to Ole Witthhøft, for many consumers a pair of active loudspeaker systems alone has long been a complete audio system, and many people simply do not want more.
The fact that one does not have to make any compromises in functionality is ensured by the possibilities that come with a networked world of consumer electronics, in which streaming is increasingly used as the primary source in combination with mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
And there is no need to compromise on quality, quite the contrary. The most modern concepts in active loudspeaker systems with DSP-based signal processing even allow possibilities that were not possible with conventional hi-fi chains, such as optimal tuning of the electronics and the loudspeaker systems directly by the developer, but also the best possible optimisation for the individual living space as well as flexible tuning to the personal taste of the user.
System Audio A/S has long been providing all this with the solutions of the System Audio SA Silverback Series, which are very flexible, active loudspeaker systems based on the industry standard WiSA Technology.
System Audio SA air Series as little siblings of the System Audio SA Silverback Series
System Audio A/S should be aware that, based on the strategy just outlined, it is possible to start much earlier than with a fully active stereo hi-fi system. After all, with the introduction of the System Audio SA air Series, they are doing just that: they are transferring the experience and expertise gained in the development of the System Audio SA Silverback Series to a product group that is enjoying ever greater popularity, namely that of Bluetooth speakers.
System Audio SA air Series – Made for music lovers
System Audio A/S explicitly states that the Bluetooth speakers of the new System Audio SA air Series were developed for music lovers, i.e. users who place particular value on an appealing sound experience. They even go so far as to claim that the systems of the System Audio SA air Series set new standards in this area.
This applies not only to the sound, but also to the numerous connections that these solutions offer, in order to provide a maximum of flexibility – apart from Bluetooth.
It should be mentioned that the System Audio SA air Series consists of two products, namely the System Audio SA air 9, which is designed as a stereo pair and resembles a conventional pair of bookshelf speaker systems, and our current test candidate, the System Audio SA air 1 in the form of a compact all-in-one system.
Classic design, compact dimensions
It is striking that System Audio A/S decided to design the System Audio SA air 1 as a classic loudspeaker system, specifically as a compact bookshelf loudspeaker system.
In contrast to many other solutions of this kind, the System Audio SA air 1 is a Bluetooth speaker that does not present itself with a specially conceived, fancy design, but rather “classically” in the truest sense of the word.
By the way, the system measures no more than 29.5 cm in width, 17 cm in height and 16.3 cm in depth. One of the most important requirements for such solutions, namely a compact appearance, is thus clearly fulfilled and the System Audio SA air 1 can easily find its place anywhere in the house.
The speaker’s cabinet is made of MDF, and two versions are available. Firstly, there is the version with a walnut cabinet and a white lacquered baffle, and secondly, a black lacquered version with a grey baffle.
In each case, two front covers are included in the scope of delivery, one with black and one with white textile covering, so that you can freely decide which of the two versions you prefer. These are held in place by magnets, so that even if you do without the grille, there are no holes to spoil the impeccable appearance of the baffle.
Bluetooth 5.0 and much more…
Of course, the System Audio SA air 1 is first and foremost a Bluetooth speaker, but System Audio A/S did not want to rely on this alone and equipped this solution with a number of different connection options.
But let’s stay with Bluetooth first. Here, they use a module that corresponds to Bluetooth 5.0 and transmits signals with 16 bit and 48 kHz. According to the Danish manufacturer, they deliberately chose a solution that guarantees a very reliable signal connection, even over longer distances between the source device and the Bluetooth speaker.
As a further option for the integration of source devices, which is probably very interesting for many users, the System Audio SA air 1 has an HDMI connection, whereby not only ARC (Audio Return Channel) but also HDMI CEC is supported, in order to connect a TV set, for example, and to be able to control the System Audio SA air 1 directly with the remote control of the TV.
In addition, there is an AUX input in the form of a 3.5 mm stereo mini-jack, a line in for analogue signals in the form of a pair of cinch sockets, and, and this is also exciting, two optical S/PDIF interfaces for digital sources.
But that’s not all: the System Audio SA air 1 even offers a phono input for connecting a record player, whereby the integrated phono preamplifier is only designed for turntables equipped with MM cartridge systems.
A smartphone or tablet can be charged via a USB port and an external subwoofer can be connected via a corresponding output. And then, on the connection panel on the back, which is made of aluminium by the way, there is another connection available, which does not fulfil any task for the time being, but is already designed for future expansions. A second passive speaker can be connected here, but this is not yet available. This will probably be called System Audio SA air 1 Passive Speaker as soon as it is launched on the market, in order to turn the System Audio SA air 1 into a stereo pair.
It should also be mentioned that the power supply unit is integrated in the System Audio SA air 1, so the power is supplied via a power cable included in the scope of delivery. This is very practical, because you don’t have to use an external power supply, especially if you use the System Audio SA air 1 in the bathroom, in the kitchen, or anywhere else where a power supply is simply in the way.
Two-way system with Class D
The System Audio SA air 1 is designed as a two-way system, i.e. a silk dome tweeter is combined with a low-midrange driver, which, according to the manufacturer’s promise, have been specially optimised for this solution.
The drivers are driven by a Class D amplifier with a full two times 90 watts, a power class that is not often found in this category in such a compact form on the market.
The System Audio SA air 1 is said to be capable of reproducing a frequency range between 45 Hz and 25 kHz, which is mentioned here for the sake of completeness.
32 Bit Floating-point Processor – DSP-based Signal Processing
An outstanding feature of the System Audio SA air 1 is that it uses special DSP-based signal processing. DSPs are almost always used in Bluetooth speakers in some form or other, but the System Audio SA air 1 uses a particularly powerful DSP engine based on a 32-bit floating-point processor, which is really something quite extraordinary.
The background to this is the aforementioned expertise that System Audio A/S has gained in the development of the System Audio SA Silverback Series, which essentially uses the same DSP engine.
With the System Audio SA Silverback, System Audio A/S uses the DSP first and foremost for particularly accurate signal processing free of sound-damaging influences and including optimal adaptation to the room through corresponding measurements as well as for individual adaptation of the sound characteristics to the user’s taste. The System Audio SA air 1 Bluetooth speaker also offers the latter.
System Audio A/S likes to talk about a so-called System Audio RAM Tweak, and they also want to rely on this with the System Audio SA air 1, although this option will only be fully activated with future updates. At present, it is stated that the systems currently delivered have the System Audio RAM Tweak RT100 installed, but without going into further detail.
From the practice
The System Audio SA air 1 is delivered in an attractive cardboard box, the compact dimensions of which indicate that the product itself is also quite compact.
Once again, we would like to point out how little space the System Audio SA air 1 actually takes up for itself and how easily it can be integrated into any living environment thanks to its stylish appearance.
The set-up is, as it should be for such a system, absolutely simple and done within a few moments, regardless of whether you only use a smartphone or tablet as a source, or also connect a TV, an additional streaming client or even a record player as additional sources.
What we didn’t like so much, however, and this should also be mentioned at the beginning of our practical experience, is the control directly on the device. Although a single rotary encoder is sufficient for adjusting the volume by turning it and switching between the sources by pressing it, it is located on the back, namely on the connection panel.
This is not a problem if you only use Bluetooth and the connection panel is freely accessible except for the power cable. But if you connect a few more sources, you have to fumble around between them, to put it bluntly.
Of course, the control via the infrared remote control included in the scope of delivery is much more practical, although it can be said in principle that Bluetooth will probably serve as the main source anyway, and thus the control is carried out directly on the smartphone or tablet. And if you connect the TV, for example, then everything is also controlled solely via the remote control of the TV set.
By the way, an LED on the front provides information about the operating status, although unfortunately it is not possible to tell from this which input is active. Only in the case of Bluetooth does it light up blue instead of white and an acoustic signal informs you that the connection to the source device has been established.
For our test, we placed the System Audio SA air 1 in the study, where it easily found its place next to the TV on the sideboard. The first source we connected was the TV, because the flat, expressionless sound has been annoying us for ages, but the TV is rarely used in the room and there is not enough space available for a full-fledged soundbar or similar. The System Audio SA air 1 could be just the right solution, even if it is not stereo with a wide sound stage.
The most flexible source for us was, of course, a smartphone, whereby in addition to all conceivable streaming services – Spotify, Deezer, Qobuz, TIDAL, Apple Music, Amazon Music – our own content from the network is also available.
And how does it sound?
It clearly pays off that System Audio A/S designed the System Audio SA air 1 as if it were a conventional loudspeaker system, albeit in a very compact form, because that is exactly how this solution performs.
What is most impressive is the powerful sound, which can inspire the user, even at comparatively low levels, although it can also play “loud”. The bass performance is very dynamic, voices in the mid-frequency range are presented with astonishing volume and detail, and the treble range is just as clear, with silky-smooth high frequencies.
All in all, the System Audio SA air 1 conveys a rather warm, round sound character, so the performance cannot be described as truly neutral and certainly not as discreetly restrained. The System Audio SA air 1 clearly wants to please, to ingratiate itself with euphony.
However, we don’t see this as a real disadvantage, especially in this product class. On the contrary, the performance is very pleasant, harmonious and ultimately fuller than one would expect from the “little one” at first glance. All in all, the result is a rounded, ultimately coherent sound that you will quickly come to like. And that’s what you’d expect from a solution like this. After all, it’s a Bluetooth speaker, and clearly one of the finest in its class, that’s for sure.
Prices and availability
The System Audio SA air 1 is already available from specialist dealers, as described, either in a walnut finish in combination with white, or in a black lacquered cabinet and grey baffle. The front covers in white and black are included in both versions. The manufacturer’s recommended retail price is € 630 and, based on our tests, seems to us to be a very fair offer.
Getting to the point
“The future is wireless” predicts System Audio A/S, whereby the Danish loudspeaker specialist sees a good part of the market in the Bluetooth speaker sector and has an extremely exciting offer ready for this with the System Audio SA air 1 as a representative of the new System Audio SA air Series. However, one cannot speak of a pure Bluetooth speaker here anyway; rather, due to the connection options – analogue including phono preamplifier, digital including HDMI – it is ultimately a particularly compact all-in-one system that can be used very flexibly. Once again, the design corresponds to the finest Scandinavian tradition, the workmanship is impeccable, the functionality is fully convincing in daily use, and the sound will probably inspire many users due to its warm, silky character, delivered with the corresponding sovereignty through sufficient power.
|PRODUCT||SYSTEM AUDIO SA AIR 1|
|Manufacturer||System Audio A/S|
|Distribution||Robert Ross Audiophile Produkte GmbH|
|More about this manufacturer at HIFI BLOG|
The System Audio SA air 1 is basically a Bluetooth speaker, but one that is ultimately capable of much more thanks to its flexible features, and thus functions as a complete all-in-one system. An all-in-one system that, in view of its very compact dimensions, can produce an astonishingly voluminous sound with a warm, detailed sound that is sure to please. The System Audio SA air 1 has earned a recommendation from the editors.
- Very compact
- attractive design
- two front covers included
- Impeccable workmanship
- Numerous interfaces for analogue and digital sources
- Simple operating concept
- rich, warm sound
- Open for future upgrades
- Only control element on the back
- Status LED only shows on/off and Bluetooth, but not the other inputs
- Apple iMac
- Apple iPhone 12
- Sony 42 Zoll OLED TV
- TIDAL HiFi
System Audio A/S presents the System Audio SA air 1 from the System Audio SA air Series, a fabulous Bluetooth speaker.