Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver Review

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Home » Reviews » Audio Gear » Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver Review
Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver Review
October 8, 2014
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Today we are going to review a Bluetooth music receiver and it’s from Audioengine. The
company released the Audioengine B1 Premium Bluetooth Music Receiver early
August and this product has been getting all the positive response so far. The B1 is
basically a small HiFi audio component that lets you easily connect any device to your
speaker via Bluetooth. But this is not your typical ordinary Bluetooth music receiver.
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Most similar devices out there don’t have a high quality audio output. Some are also
(very) imbalanced or produces unwanted noise from the background. The B1 not only
eliminates the need for long cables but it also eliminates the frustrating audio output
quality you might experience from other Bluetooth devices. Will this be your next audio
gear? Find out in my Audioengine B1 review below.
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Audioengine B1 Music Receiver Review
If before setting up your home audio entertainment system was a pain because you
have to route long cables from your audio player to your speakers, well not any more.
The Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver basically supports all type of Bluetoothenabled devices. Unlike other devices, the B1 features HiFi Bluetooth with A2DP, AVRCP
and aptX coding, an advanced Bluetooth audio codec that provides a much higher quality
sound. According to its specs sheet, it has an operational range of up to 100ft, and it is
fully backwards compatible with Bluetooth v1.0.
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The B1 is built with a low noise and high fidelity AKM4396 DAC, making it possible to
stream a 24-bit audio from the receiver to your music system. According to the
company, the B1 is essentially an upsampling 24-bit Bluetooth DAC and will pad all bit
depths internally to 24-bits, thus achieving a higher signal-to-noise ratio. Due to the
AK4396A’s high signal-to-noise specs, the fact that digital signal is converted
(upsampled) to 24-bits and the added benefit of triple redundancy power source
conversion and filtering, the B1 presents impressive low noise and low distortion
characteristics with a noticeable improvement over other Bluetooth devices.
Of course, for you to fully enjoy the superior audio quality that it can produce your
audio source shouldn’t be some poorly encoded MP3 file and your speakers should be
good as well, like the company’s A5+ or A2+ speakers. It’s not a magical device that
can convert your poorly encoded MP3 to a high quality 24-bit lossless audio.
The Audioengine B1 is very easy to use and doesn’t need additional driver, software or
app for you to stream high quality music. It doesn’t include an AMP feature, so you will
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need to preamp your audio first, or preferably connect the B1 to another DAC/AMP via
its RCA analog outputs or via the Digital Optical (SPDIF) port. I’ll discuss more of its
features as we take a closer look on the B1 below.
Audioengine B1 Music Receiver
Specifications
Bluetooth receiver type
Bluetooth 4.0 audio with aptX codec
Supported Bluetooth profiles
aptX, A2DP, and AVRCP
Inputs
Bluetooth
Outputs
Stereo analog RCA, Digital optical (SPDIF)
Required power
5V, 200mA
Operation range
up to 100ft (30m) typical
Full-scale output
2.0V RMS
Output impedance
57 Ohms
D/A converter
AKM AK4396
Power filtering
3-stage redundant regulation
SNR
SNR (DC to 20 kHz), >100dB
THD+N
(1 kHz FS 96 kS/s) <0.02%
Frequency response
10Hz - 20kHz (+/-0.5dB)
Crosstalk
>-86dB
Input bit depth
24-bit (upsampled)
Input data rate
Determined by Bluetooth
Latency
~30 milliseconds (ms)
Product dimensions
3.5 x 4.0 x 1-inches
Shipping weight
1.0lbs (0.5kg)
Shipping box dimensions
11 x 7 x 3-inches
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Environmental Requirements
Operating temperature: 32° to 105°F (0°C to 40°C)
Storage temperature: -4° to 115°F (-20°C to 46°C)
Relative humidity: 5% to 95% non-condensing
A Closer Look on the Audioengine B1
The Audioengine B1 comes in a nice simple box. Some of its features are listed behind
the box. Despite having a simple packaging, the product itself and its accessories are
secured, thanks to the padding inside.
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Aside from the B1 itself, the box also includes a quick start guide, an Audioengine
product line pamphlet, a 1m RCA audio cable, a power adapter with a detachable USB to
micro USB cable, and a microfiber bag.
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The B1 features a nice, simple and clean design. Its housing is made of aluminum giving
it that premium look and feel. It’s very sturdy and solid, and it doesn’t easily break in
case you accidentally dropped it. In front of the B1 are its antenna and a tiny power/pair
LED indicator.
You cannot retract the antenna and it is also not removable. But the antenna can be
tilted horizontally to the left or to the right.
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The product itself is small and very light, it measures 3.5″ x 4.0″ x 1” inches only. I
wasn’t able to take a look inside the B1 so I don’t have photos of the components used.
But most definitely Audioengine is using high quality components otherwise, it won’t
produce fantastic sound quality.
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On the back of the Audioengine B1 you will see a 5V DC in micro USB port, an Optical
Audio Output port, and an RCA analog output port. I just wish Audioengine also threw in
a Toslink cable together with the package, aside from the RCA cable.
Testing and Sound Quality
In testing the Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver, my audio sources were my
desktop PC, a laptop and an iPhone 5. Most of the music that I listened to during the test
is in FLAC (lossless) format, while some are MP3 files encoded in 320kbps bit rate.
Although it’s basically intended to be connected to a home entertainment
speaker/system, I used the German Maestro GMP 8.35 D Monitor and B&W P7
headphones while listening to the tracks. These headphones are very balanced, detailed
and doesn’t need additional AMPs. Since these two headphones are very transparent I
would be able to hear if there are unwanted noise, sound distortion or any
abnormalities.
I used the German Maestro GMP 8.35 D to listen to most of the tracks, including Chesky
Records’ The Ultimate Demonstration Disk. Meanwhile, I used the B&W P7 for tracks
where bass was deep and strong.
For comparison purposes, I also used JDS Labs O2+DAC Combo. The O2+DAC is
connected to the same source (PC and Laptop), and the two headphones is connected
directly to the device one at a time. This way, I will have an idea whether sound quality
was reduced or not since the audio is transmitted via Bluetooth.
Pairing the Audioengine B1 was very
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easy. I simply turned on the Bluetooth
and it immediately detected the device.
However you can only pair 1 device at a
time. You can’t pair the B1 with another
device if it’s already paired with the first
device. When the pairing is disconnected,
it immediately becomes available to be
paired with another source. There’s no
on/off switch, so once you connect the
power, it’s immediately available for
pairing.
I didn’t test the Audioengine B1 for 1 day only. I tested it for several weeks, and until
know I am still using it. During my test, the sound that it produced was very clean and I
could not hear any unwanted noise or hissing. And despite the source being streamed
via Bluetooth, the original sound quality from the source was still the same. In fact, I
was able to notice that the sound was even better and this is most probably thanks to
its built-in DAC feature.
The music coming from the iPhone 5 was better when I streamed it via the B1 to my
headphones, compared to connecting the headphones directly to the iPhone 5. The mids
and highs are very present and the bass it produced was exactly how it was meant to
be. Both the GMP 8.35 D Monitor and P7 were able to produce the highly accurate and
detailed sound that I was expecting.
Next, I compared how the sound quality that the Audioengine B1 produced would fare if
compared to a wired DAC/AMP. For this test I used my laptop, the O2+DAC Combo, and
the same two headphones. Again, I was surprised to find out that I could barely notice
any difference in terms of sound quality. Well there are some differences between the
O2+DAC and B1 but its case to case basis or it depends on the type of music you are
listening too. Of course the O2+DAC has the advantage over the B1 since it has a built
in Amplifier, still the result of listening from the B1 is impressive.
I also did test if ever there was a delay in the signal from the source to the speakers
via the B1. For this test, I played some movies from my iPhone 5 but I streamed its
audio via the B1 to my desktop speakers. I was happy to find out that I didn’t notice any
delay at all. The audio sounds like it’s perfectly sync with the video, as if my desktop
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speakers were part of the iPhone 5.
Currently, I don’t connect my Altec Lansing speakers directly to the back of my CPU
anymore. My motherboard, the Gigabyte GA-Z97X Gaming G1 WiFi BK, features a WiFi
and Bluetooth connectivity; and I just simply stream the audio from my PC to the
speakers via the B1.
Price and Availability
The Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver is very much
available. Currently it has a retail price of $189.00 with free
shipping here. The company is offering a 3-year warranty for the
B1. Not only that, if you purchased the B1 from their online store, you can return the
product within 30 days of purchased in case you are not completely satisfied with the
product. But seriously, if you need a HiFi Bluetooth music receiver, I doubt that you will
be unsatisfied with this product.
Audioengine B1 Review: Conclusion
After using the Audioengine B1 for
several weeks, I didn’t find anything
wrong about the product. I didn’t
encounter any hiccups or degradation of
sound quality even when the receiver is
farther from the source. This small
aluminum box is simply a “magical
instrument” that would easily replace
those long audio cables, connecting your
source and speakers, without any loss in
audio quality. This is simply a great
wireless Bluetooth DAC, and you really
can’t complain about its price. I’ve seen wired DACs from other companies that are
priced higher than the B1, and they probably offer the same audio quality.
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Are there any cons in the B1, you might ask? I couldn’t think of any cons right now. I
don’t think price is a con either, like I said there are other DACs out there that are
priced higher than this one. Perhaps it would be great to see some improvements in
future versions. Improvements like built-in rechargeable battery or better yet an
amplifier as well.
The Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver is truly a fantastic Bluetooth DAC. If you
are looking for a “bridge” that would wirelessly connect your audio source to your
speakers, HIFI entertainment system or headphones without any loss in quality, no
hissing sound or any problems that would ruin your audio session, then look no further
because the B1 is your solution. It’s one of the best, if not the best, Bluetooth DAC
music receiver currently in the market that will not disappoint. A fine product like this
surely deserves The PC Enthusiast’s Editor’s Choice award.
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