Positive Feedback ISSUE 75
september/october 2014

 

The Neoteric Listener and the Audioengine B1 Premium Bluetooth Music Receiver
by Dean Seislove

 

 

Another summer gone. Although nothing could beat the summer of Luxman for exquisite sound quality here at the shack (see HERE and HERE), recent experience with the Audioengine B1 proves once again that audio fun can be simple and inexpensive, if you know what to look for.

The Audioengine B1 Premium Bluetooth Music Receiver

"My world is perfect!"

So says the missus, and why shouldn't she? She finally calls the tune. Lots of them, in fact. The last gulf between us has been bridged by the Audioengine B1 Premium Bluetooth Music Receiver. I have always been baffled as to why she prefers to listen to her music at on her squawky android phone. Hadn't I patiently delineated the proper sequence to power up our main system, select the source, boot up the laptop, select the correct output and input (after selecting the appropriate DAC and music server software, naturally), reset the format to 96 Hz or 192 Hz, access the music folder containing all of her music files, and, finally, how to negotiate the inevitable computer music roadblocks that could make it all crash and go silent? Why, what could be more enjoyable? Who wouldn't be up for playing some tunes after all that?

Audioengine B1

Or... she could tap Spotify on her phone, push a button on the Peachtree iNova integrated, and enjoy whatever she wants to listen to right then and there. I have to admit, I definitely see the appeal. Sure, some of us revel in torturing the last degree of musicality from digital audio. The whole ritual of switching DACS, playing with Pure Music, Amarra, Audirvana, et al. trucking out various cables and cords, and trying out various speakers, amps, and room treatments. But, damn, if it isn't sweet just to stream and dream once in awhile, and this Audioengine B1 sounds mighty good.

The full name of the Audioengine B1 Premium Bluetooth Music Receiver is practically bigger than the actual device. It measures a tiny 3.5 x 4.0 x 1", and weighs in at slightly less than a pound. It's super simple to set up, just connect the B1 to your music system (or powered speakers) via the included RCA cables, plug in the B1's power adapter into an outlet, and then pair it with your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, iPad, or computer. My wife's Samsung phone paired with the B1 immediately, but my iPhone required me to unplug the B1 and have it search for the phone again. After that, the B1 almost always found iPhone (or vice-versa), and the few times they didn't pair, unplugging and reconnecting the power cable set things right. I have to confess, however, that when I first heard about the Audioengine B1, I almost passed on the review opportunity. I've always held Audioengine in high regard, but my experience with Bluetooth audio has been, well, an experience. Good enough for my car, I guess, although in that venue, I ignore sound quality and solely enjoy the music (while keeping road rage in abeyance!).

Audioengine B1

The sound of the Audioengine B1, however, is nothing like my car audio, nor is it what I expected it to be. The B1's sound is lively and detailed, befitting of its 24-Bit upsampling DAC, and the music quality is easily on par with the well-known USB DACs at this price point. Audioengine explains that that they've overcome Bluetooth audio's lackluster sound quality by utilizing the aptX codec, which they see as, "A high-quality audio converter designed specifically for audio." Moreover, the B1 is also purported to include, "Special circuitry and a precision-tuned antenna to extend the wireless range, providing much more versatility than other Bluetooth receivers." Having previously enjoyed the Audioengine D2 wireless premium DAC in my home, I can say that the B1 fares really well in comparison. Although I prefer the silky smooth and textured sound of the pricier Audioengine D2 (pricier by Audioengine's penny pinching standards, anyway), the B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver retains much of the former's lovely tone and polished delivery. I could even envision some listeners preferring the immediacy and bounce of the B1 to that of the more stately D2. In any event, the fact that one could mention the two in the same breath says everything about the success of Audioengine to make a Bluetooth product with a Blue blood pedigree.

As far as the effective range of the Audioengine B1, it's hard for me to judge the distance of any wireless product in my small shack. I can say, however, that after moving the Bluetooth Wireless receiver a foot away from all the other audio bric a brac, the B1 was able to successfully navigate the bathtub test. Nothing I enjoy better than listening to my favorite tunes, playing at festive volume in the front room while I enjoy a hot bath way in the back. Separated by the kitchen and shielded by several walls, the Audioengine B1 delivered the doubtful gift of being able to merrily serenade the neighborhood with a shuffle play set to "Weirdo", (accompanied by my off-key but voluminous caterwauling, of course). I enjoyed it all, without ever needing to leave the sanctuary of my rusting, century old clawfoot bath tub! Some may scoff that that's hardly the audiophile litmus test, but moments in life effortlessly enriched by the grace of music is nothing to sneer at. To be fair, I did notice some wavering with the Bluetooth connection when I really pushed it by going outside or closing doors, so don't expect your system to play Guns and Roses upstairs while safely ensconced in your bomb shelter.

Lastly, my wife is driving me crazy by listening to her favorite New Age Jazz and contemporary R&B tunes on the main system (inexplicably overlooking my superb blues and hillbilly collection), and nothing could make me happier. Unfortunately, I'm way too immersed in audio obsession to ever say "My world is perfect!" But it sure got better. Score another one for Audioengine.

Audioengine B1 Premium Bluetooth Music Receiver
Retail $189

http://audioengineusa.com

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