Review: Audioengine’s B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver

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I’m about to try to make a case for why you should want the $189 Audioengine’s B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver . It won’t be easy, as for that price you could get TWO Airport expresses that could also wirelessly stream music, or for $10 more you could have an Airport Extreme, which boasts a bunch of useful features in addition to streaming music. So why would you want to pay for a one-trick pony that promises only the simplest way to get the best sounding streamed audio to your speaker system? Well, there’s two reasons right there.

I will first say that I have an Airport Extreme and two Airport Expresses, and I recently replaced them with a single Ausus router and have given up on Airplay because I have had just horrible WiFi drop outs when streaming music around my house. You would think I live in a mansion with 2 foot concrete walls the way my wifi went in and out for no discernible reason. In addition, the sound from the Airports was best described as “fine”. I usually chalked it up to I was streaming a compressed audio stream already so how good COULD it sound, really? Well, the answer is, quite a bit better, assuming you have a decent speaker system and a decent ear.

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Audioengine has always impressed us with their various audio offerings, and the B1 certainly feels at home in their lineup. The thing is solid, or as solid as something this small can be. Design-wise, Audioengine went with a sleek, black aluminum shell that is largely unassuming and shouldn’t stand out or distract too much from your existing setup. There is one fairly bright white LED on the front of the unit which might be my only design complaint. The light serves dual purpose as the power button, and I suppose it’s constantly illuminated to let you know it is on, (it also blinks during bluetooth pairing) but it could be a little smaller, or perhaps a softer green or something would have been nice. Not that EVERYTHING in my setup doesn’t already have something similar shining back at me, but still… In fact, there’s really almost no reason for the light, as the B1 never TRULY turns off. The light goes off after about 15 minutes of inactivity, but you could come back the next day, choose the B1 in your bluetooth settings, and begin streaming to it again without getting near the power button. Personally, I love this as other Bluetooth devices power off completely when they disconnect, and my lazy butt likes knowing I can always start music playing without getting off the couch or out of bed.

There is also an antenna which sticks up from the rear of the receiver, which could easily have made the whole thing look horrible, but somehow it doesn’t. It’s not overly large, and it is a necessary evil as anyone who has experienced the range-falloff of normal bluetooth receivers will tell you. You have the option of connecting the B1 to your speaker system via either the included RCA cable or an optical (TOSLINK) audio jack (cable not included).

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While the B1 certainly looks nice, what sets it apart from other wireless streaming receivers is its ease of setup, its extended range (up to 100 feet), and its advanced audio signal processing circuitry and inclusion of a 24-bit high-performance DAC. The B1 also has a very low latency of about 30ms (milliseconds) which means streaming the audio from videos you are playing on your phone syncs up nicely with no noticeable lip sync issues.

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Setting up the B1 is as simple as setting up most Bluetooth devices. Simply plug in its power cable, connect it to you speaker, and select it as a speaker in your Bluetooth settings on your iPhone (or computer). I really must say Bluetooth has gotten so much better over the years, and the range of the B1 is certainly enough to work from every room in my Bi-level house. The larger (theoretical) range of AirPlay never held promise for me, and I am loving the range on the B1. Finally NO DROP OUTS!

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Conclusion

Audioengine’s B1 is not for everyone, but even moderate audiophiles will be raving about its audio quality and ease of use. If you’re someone who doesn’t mind listening to AM, or even FM radio, then you probably can save your money. But if you have a nice home audio system and want to add great sounding, easy to setup wireless audio into the equation, take advantage of Audioengine’s free 30 day trial. We’re pretty sure you’ll love it.

Audioengine’s B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver ($189)

Price: $189 on Audioengine’s site
Pros: Just wonderful sound, design, ease of use and much better than average Bluetooth range
Cons: A little pricey for a one trick pony. Probably have to care a lot about sound quality and have a decent audio setup to reap the benefits of this device

Comments
3 Responses to “Review: Audioengine’s B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver”
  1. Terry says:

    There are a lot of issues with this review starting with the fact that it sounds more like an ad.
    You could say you like these speakers without trying to force the point with inaccurate statements about Airplay.
    I use Airplay extensively with my Yamaha receiver, Airport Extremes and Airport Expresses.
    Airplay sounds much better than bluetooth because it is not compressed and bluetooth is. You seem to think Airplay is also compressed but its lossless.
    Airplay has much greater range and the difference is obvious. Bluetooth is 10 to 15m at best where Airplay is only limited by the range of the wifi network.
    Airplay can play to multiple sources simultaneously so you can easily and cheaply setup a Sonos like network of music through out your house with much better sound than Sono provides.
    Airplay can also stream video and bluetooth can’t.
    Airplay is found on a lot of stereo receivers while bluetooth is usually an ad-on. This is because Airplay sounds much better while bluetooth, originally designed for connecting components, sounds thin and lacks mid-range and warmth. The difference quality is very obvious to anyone.
    Bluetooth connects point to point between devices and Airplay uses your wifi stream. I don’t know what was wrong with your network setup but I never have drops or any other issues with Airplay and I have an Airplay mesh of high quality speakers through out my house that sound great. Using software like Airfoil you can stream to multiple sources at the same time. Works and sounds much better than Sonos with far more capability and dramatically cheaper. This isn’t even possible with bluetooth.
    There is software to use Airplay with Android or many other devices and Apple is not the only company that makes Airplay receivers. Look on Amazon.
    I guarantee you Audiophiles would laugh at any bluetooth device including this one.
    That antenna simply cannot increase bluetooth range by the way. Thats not how bluetooth works.
    My house is 5200 square feet with two floors and six bedrooms and bathrooms. All covered by one Airport extreme with a 50 Mbit internet connection. Try that with bluetooth.

  2. Andrew says:

    Did Terry just Bitch Slap the Doc???

    • Kyle says:

      1. Antenna is on front, not back.
      2. I have a small cut-out of automobile static-cling window tint over my aftermarket car head unit display bc it’s just too bright and distracting – that could solve the “bright” LED complaint.

      I would like to hear Terry acknowledge any problems with AirPlay based systems. The B1 seems to be developed for someone just like me – big mix of iOS, Windows, and Android in my household w teens that have no idea what a good hi-fi system can sound like. I admit I’m too lazy to delve deeply into Apple’s wireless streaming solutions – including the needed hardware that they’d be happy to sell me. The recurrent audio-only ‘video streaming’ fail via my AppleTV makes me wish my stuff word load instantly and works flawlessly just like in commercials and in movies. Real world experience is probably quite different than that for most people. I’m glad your system works well. The B1 looks like a good way to get Bluetooth connectivity independent of other component hardware and w/o relying on wifi network. This is a plus when I think about my 2 Rokus and 2 Panasonic Bluray players that all eventually lost their onboard wifi capabilities. They still work w a wired connection so at least they have more useful life in them instead of tossing them out.

      I also am somewhat lost trying to figure out the merits of different DACs and where they should reside in a data stream. I’m used to criminally bad audio from my Pioneer XMP3. So whatever (proprietary I think) codec XMSirius uses, Apple’s AAC, MP3, “lossless” codecs, etc.. – well, it is indeed confusing. The audio coming out an iPhone earbud/headphone jack uses the iOS onboard DAC – not many are impressed w this when using anything but earbuds. The B1’s onboard DAC is reported to be good to very good, even given the limitation of what Bluetooth does to a streaming audio file.

      So to me it seems an easy (you might say lazy) way to get reportedly good quality streaming audio from your portable (phone usually) to your actual speakers in a manner that can be portable by easily moving B1 to any other system thus upgrading w/o replacing an expensive component that has an onboard wireless connectivity. This seems to me to be a very specific compromise niche that the B1 is filling. So if you suppose that proposition to be true – sounds like the B1 is a great product for what it’s meant to do.

      I mention my overall ignorance so no one will wear me out in reply. Just trying to stimulate thoughtful commentary. But I’m still smart enough to wait for a Black Friday / Cyber Monday sale. The B1 is kinda pricey.

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