Audioengine Announces a Bluetooth Receiver?

The new Audioengine B1 Bluetooth receiver comes with some excellent features that make it a stand-out.

Interesting.

That’s my basic first response to the new Audioengine B1.  Not “Yay,” just “Interesting.”  The B1 indicates the state of the market, I think, but it doesn’t excite me.  I mean, I have a D2 and a W3.  When would I use a B1?  And for what?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a died in the wool Audioengine fan since iHi-Fi is all about using computer audio to help people get the best music quality for the most affordable cost.  But I have written before about the inescapable music quality compromises that come in the bargain when you accept the convenience of Bluetooth.  Nothing has changed.   

See these previous posts on Bluetooth --

Does Bluetooth Really Work for Wireless Speakers?

WiFi or Bluetooth Speakers: Which do the Smart Money Get?

Bluetooth still underperforms with music because it was never intended to carry music of any quality.  Just ring tones, at best, and game sounds.  Yes, a high fidelity codec called AptX was developed as an afterthought.  But you don’t get AptX in the devices that have your music in them.  With AptX on only the receiving end, the whole shebang dumbs down to A2DP quality that sucks for music.  It’s that simple.  You get a potentially high-resolution channel carrying lossy music poorly, a short distance, across the room.

The coming shift to quality-over-convenience has not fulminated sufficiently to bloom yet.  The masses still don’t know what great sounding music sounds like so they don’t care and Bluetooth (without the AptX codec) ships in every portable device that is built.  Phone makers don’t care about music quality like they care about photo resolution.  AptX will never, ever make it to the transmitting side until high-res sound gets to be “a thing” like sharp photos got to be “a thing.”

I’m beginning to understand I’m an Auditory type in a world full of Visuals and undoubtedly in the minority.  I’m also just as visual as any Visual Type but also intensely auditory.  It’s the cross I bear.  Wrong planet, maybe.

At this point, the masses still listen to the collection of lossy downloads they paid the Mega Fruit a dollar a piece for.  Bluetooth is good enough for that.  But immediately my mind goes to “At a dollar a track they could buy an awful lot of fabulous digital music.”  Something bugs me about seeing people settle like that.  But it’s their apathy and I don’t have to buy into it.  I rebel over corporate greed and exploitation.  Next they will exploit people with 24 bits, I suppose.  So I say as I write this on my MacBook Pro.  Which means maybe music business, like war, makes strange bedfellows.

Audioengine is to be commended for adding a twist of flavor to the B1.  Now folks who want to accept the limitations of Bluetooth as a music channel can do that with an Audioengine device that compensates to some degree by up sampling to 24-bit playback depth.  Probably sounds somewhat better with that amount of error correction tacked on.  But upsampled music is not more like the original performance.  It just has some artificial sweetener added.  

Another worthwhile feature -- Bluetooth pairing has been made extremely simple and hassle-free.  Whew, that is definitely good news.  Pairing can otherwise be a nightmare with Bluetooth.

Since I don’t have my B1 review device yet I can’t comment yet on how it actually sounds.  Reputedly, it sounds better than other Bluetooth devices due to the distinguishing DAC enhancement.  As a business strategy, the B1 is as brilliant as can be, considering that using Bluetooth for music is a fundamental compromise accepting, once again, convenience over musical fidelity.  Bottom line, if it sounds good enough to you, that’s good enough for you.  Probably still good enough for the white earbud crowd in general.

Audioengine claims (and I willingly accept) that they have cleverly extended the range from to way too short to less too short, which is also a bonus and a selling point and a unique feature.  But their crowd pleaser B1 will never break out of the lossy neighborhood where it was born.

At the bottom line, this is kind of a moral dilemma for me.  Will I sleep well if I sell the B1?  At this point I just don’t know if I can make myself do all the work to post the catalog entry.  People who accept lesser music quality because it’s convenient are not my tribe so in that probably lies the answer.  I ruminate.

This is the first thing Audioengine has done that gives me the slightest pause.  Or maybe I should say the first thing they have built I would never listen to by choice.  How it washes over the longer term remains to be seen.  

Don’t fire me, Audioengine, I’m still your biggest fan.  I don’t blame you for making a smart business decision in the midst of industry pressure to use Bluetooth.  Just because I’m a rebellious moralist, I don’t expect my suppliers to be that way.  

Can you feel my pain?

One last thing.  If you get a B1, for Pete's sake, don't use it sitting on top your speaker.  From the standpoint of vibration control, that's a major faux pas.  You'll get better results if you put it almost anywhere else.  Keep it away from speakers to avoid sound distortion.

Or maybe you don't care.

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iHi-Fi.com is your online high-end audio store.  Shop from anywhere in the USA without leaving home.  Receive expert advice and audition whatever you buy with return and refund privileges. All the computer audio gear at iHi-Fi.com delivers exceptional to stunning performance at value prices. Authorized Dealer for Audioengine, Acoustic System International, Bravo Audio, and HighEnd Novum.

The Myth of Magical Audio Components

Sometimes I have believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. -- The White Queen

Sometimes I have believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

-- The White Queen

A true audio lover seeks ever-increasing musical fidelity and audibly improving sonic performance in their listening room.  This quest tends to define us.  Our drive for audio perfection means more than simply greater musical enjoyment.  The respect we want and our standing in our peer group depend on how far we are willing to go to have great music.  

Sleek, classy marketing that audio companies feed us creates an aura of magic around shiny new gear.  The ads constantly train us to expect technology advances and product innovation to satisfy our lust for an ever-improving audio experience.   We mistake getting new components for what we are really after -- hearing musical improvement.  

That’s a lazy, ineffective, erroneous, and costly habit.

By no means am I immune.  I, too, seek the best possible performance from my system and love to hear about new developments and better gear.  But let’s face it, by depending on component upgrades too much, we can easily degenerate into abject stereo sluts, continually lurking for the next positive review touting some magical component with better performance.  Or we may fall prey to voodoo-like, black box tweaks and become tweak sluts.  As in -- so many interconnects, so little time.

Let’s fantasize a bit.  Say you fell down a rabbit hole and discovered you could not only have that next preamp, or DAC, or speakers you’ve been dreaming about -- you entered an enchanted realm where any piece of gear you want, regardless of scarcity or cost, instantly becomes yours.  Finally, you can pull together the super-system of the ages that marries all the best component technology around.  Can this total slut-out guarantee you’ll finally and forever hear the finest music possible in your listening room?  

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. -- Cheshire Cat

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.

-- Cheshire Cat

Sorry, Alice.  Disappointingly, the answer is no, unless you also attend to performance factors that component selection and audio systems can never affect.  Perfection-by-components is only a dream because everything happening in your listening room affects your music.  Resonances, echoes and vibration that you can easily eliminate take a constant toll when left untreated.

You also have to deal with your room and audio furnishings (Drat!) since what you have is a system.  As the first law of general systems theory instructs, everything affects everything else.  What reaches your ears is the summary acoustic behavior of your room’s entire contents.  This may sound like bad news but it’s actually good news in disguise -- a reality wake-up call.  Systems principles indicate audibly better performance from whatever gear you already have if you work on everything else that’s going on with your room and furnishings.  

You can’t row the audio boat with only one oar.  You have to set up right, add acoustic conditioning, and install anti-vibration to achieve the best performance any given set of audio components can achieve.  Without proper setup, good room acoustics, and vibration damping, you’ll be passing up a significant portion of the performance magic possible from any components you already have and any you get in the future.  

The measures suggested here produce astounding improvements for comparatively small costs.  A hundred dollars worth of anti-vibration treatment can chase away acoustic devils that usually plague an untreated system and improve everything we listen for across the board.  I’ll spare you the usual litany of arcane audiophile adjectives.  Put an end to acoustic disruption and you’ll hear better music from your old components and any new ones you get.

ASI -- Twenty thousand happy customers can't be wrong.

ASI -- Twenty thousand happy customers can't be wrong.

If cost matters, and you spend typical amounts on components, no worries.  Just skip one component upgrade and apply that investment to “everything else.”  I predict you’ll be glad you did and you’ll enjoy a new plateau of musical delight.  Achievements with setup, room acoustics, and anti-vibration will continue to enhance performance of any and all components you acquire going forward.  In the end, the reality is far more satisfying than any magic-component fantasy, especially if you already have good-to-great components in your present system.

Presently, iHi-Fi offers the best available approach to acoustic correction and conditioning -- Acoustic System International’s whole product line -- along with the free consulting you need to get it all right.  Since inception over a decade ago, ASI has shipped over 20,000 units worldwide.  One European dealer has sold over 150 Basic Installations.  The Acoustic System success is well documented.

If you want to explore another, newer approach that has driven respected reviewers gaga lately, iHi-Fi also offers the music-enhancing resonators from HighEnd Novum, in two sizes.  Everything iHi-Fi offers comes with a money-back guarantee and a month to audition.  How could you go wrong? 

Tenderfeet from Herbie's Audio Lab block vibration from components and install in seconds.

Tenderfeet from Herbie's Audio Lab block vibration from components and install in seconds.

To cover anti-vibration, I’m rapidly developing a beautiful, affordable, optimized audio rack and matching custom speaker stands for studio monitors.  They come with anti-vibration built in.  If you like to fiddle and customize, these devices are designed to make that easy.  This is the beginning of the Masiv product line, which includes two dozen optimized furnishing concepts already.  I continue to give form to these ideas and make my own dream-performance audio furnishing designs available going forward.  

Why not think different?  Un-focus from habitual lazy attachment to component upgrades.  Apply some proven engineering and materials science to your listening environment.  I predict your ears will be delighted and your friends will be astounded.  They may be a little jealous about what you accomplish while they wait around for the next new component.  No worries, iHi-Fi has plenty audio perfection available for all.

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iHi-Fi.com is your online high-end audio store.  Shop from anywhere in the USA without leaving home.  Receive expert advice and audition whatever you buy with return and refund privileges. All the computer audio gear at iHi-Fi.com delivers exceptional to stunning performance at value prices. Authorized Dealer for Audioengine, Acoustic System International, Bravo Audio, and HighEnd Novum.

Audioengine D3 -- the Dragon(fly) Slayer

Audioengine has reduced the price of their outstanding D3 Portable 24 Bit USB DAC to $149 as of today (July 1, 2014.)   The Audioengine D3 DAC with internal headphone amplifier is the lowest-cost way to make computer audio music sound fabulous.  The D3 drives headphones without an additional headphone amplifier.  If you want to use a head amp, it works with it.

When using your desktop computer or laptop at home, the D3 will drive your powered desktop speakers and sound like a DAC costing many times more.  

The D3 is the best way to discover just how good computer audio can sound.  If you have been listening to typical low-fi downloads through earbuds, break out of the rut with a D3 and a good pair of cans or powered speakers.  I predict you'll never want to go back.

Check out some positive review comments below --

"If you're looking for the easiest, cheapest way to make computer audio sound great through headphones, this is it."

Sound and Vision Top Pick

"Audioengine's mighty midget . . . the D3 is refined, dynamic, and highly transparent and bass prowess is impressive."

CNET

"Virtually the same size as the Audioquest Dragonfly, it's just as convenient, sounds better, and plays files up to 24/192."

San Francisco Classical Voice

Superior performance Guaranteed.

Audition an Audioengine D3 Portable 24 bit USB DAC today from iHi-Fi.  If you are not satisfied with your new D3, return it within 30 days (in new condition with the packaging) for a full refund of the purchase price.  

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iHi-Fi.com is your online high-end audio store.  Shop from anywhere in the USA without leaving home.  Receive expert advice and audition whatever you buy with return and refund privileges. All the computer audio gear at iHi-Fi.com delivers exceptional to stunning performance at value prices. Authorized Dealer for Audioengine, Acoustic System International, Bravo Audio, and HighEnd Novum.