Accurate knowledge of x-ray mass attenuation coefficients is essential for studies as diverse as atomic physics, materials science, and radiation safety. However, a significant discrepancy exists between theoretical tabulated results for air at soft x-ray energies. We outline a precision measurement of the mass attenuation coefficients for air at various energies using two types of detectors and a simple test of detector response. We discuss whether sufficient accuracy can be obtained using this data to distinguish between competing theoretical estimates. In the process, we investigate the intensity response of two common synchrotron x-ray detectors: an x ray to optical charge-coupled device camera using a crystal scintillator and an x-ray sensitive photodiode.