In the world of digital home audio, you need a way to get the music from where it’s stored to where it’s played. That usually happens through some wired interconnect and a DAC (digital-to-analog converter.) The W3 Adapter is quite the performer. It does that whole job with no loss in musical fidelity. The 16-bit W3 is not picky. With either analog or 16-bit digital sources, quality out equals quality in.
These two little black devices (a Sender and a Receiver) fit in the palm of your hand. They adapt any source of music with an output (digital or analog) to any device with an input that plays music.
The W3 Sender connects to either a USB port or to an analog audio jack. If analog, the onboard ADC chip (analog-to-digital converter) converts it to digital format. The Sender transports the music bits to the W3 Receiver over a private Wi-Fi link. The W3 Receiver converts that digital signal and feeds analog music to your amplification, powered speakers, or headphones directly. All without a wire from your source device to the amplification.
I’ve put the W3 through paces in my audio lab making connections from several sources to different amplifiers. From room to room, through walls, floors, and ceilings, the W3 just works within a 100-foot (30 meter) range. Since it’s 16-bit, it sounds fantastic with CD quality input. Audio lovers sometime pay much more than the cost of a W3 Adapter for interconnect wires that don’t sound as good.
Everything you need to set up comes with the W3, including adapters. There are two minor “ifs.” The source must have standard digital USB, or unbalanced analog audio output connections. Computers have both. The receiving device needs the analog type connection. These are standard in consumer audio, either RCA or 3.5 mm interconnects.
The W3’s design liberally allows for connecting a variety of devices you might want to listen to. The wireless connection between the W3 Sender and Receiver means the W3 Sender can be in one place, like plugged into your laptop computer on the couch, and the W3 Receiver can be anywhere else within range, like plugged into your stereo across the room. Now you can listen to your cool speakers while you relax with your computer.
The W3 is brand-agnostic. Use the W3 to hook up rear speakers in an A/V setup. Transport music from iDevices or a Squeezebox or Samsung smartphone or Android or Windows tablet. Use it to hook up a digital turntable, microphone, or a public address system. Play your iPod music from the kitchen to a kid’s bedroom on a personal stereo or powered speakers. Send volume-controlled music to your powered subwoofer.
The W3 also avoids the lossy compression, pairing, and connection issues of Bluetooth. The W3 pairs easily and automatically. It stays connected and is robustly resistant to musical gaps. It performs like a quality wired connection but without the wires. Music is transported via digital radio link similar to, but entirely separate from, your home Wi-Fi.
The W3 does not use or burden your home network. Your music gets its own little private radio network. One that really works. It’s very robust wireless that stays noise-free and connected and travels through some obstacles.
That’s insanely convenient. Wireless hookup also maintains galvanic isolation of player from source. Thus it adds noise immunity to your music playback. Meaning digital “hash” inside a computer or analog noise in a player can’t travel through ground loops to create hum, hiss, pops, or sizzles. You get a “deep black” background that makes the music sound more pure, vivid, and natural.
The Sender and Receiver are constructed with similar cases. They look identical except for the markings that tell you which is which. The W3 Sender and W3 Receiver both have a USB connector on one end and a 3.5 mm mini-jack on the other end. But the similarity ends with appearance. There is a pair button on each that I have never needed to use. But there it is if someone needs it.
Here’s an example of how the Sender and Receiver function together with an analog connection. Let’s say you want to connect your iPhone/ iPod/ iPad/ or Squeezebox, etc., to play music on your stereo that you often listen to with ear buds. Power the W3 Sender with an AC USB charger or USB port. Connect the source device’s earphone jack (or use Line Out, it sounds better) to the Sender’s 3.5 mm input with a male-to-male 3.5 mm mini-plug cable. The Sender will transport music to the Receiver.
Over at the stereo, you power the W3 Receiver with an AC USB charger and connect the 3.5 mm output jack via another 3.5 mm male-to-male cable to the AUX In or Line Input or Tape In of the player. Fire everything up and hit Play. You can put your stereo on the other side of the room, upstairs, out on the patio, or in the garage.
This analog hookup works the same, whatever the source and playing devices, as long as the source has an audio output connection and the player has an audio input connection. If the source and/or player have RCA terminals rather than mini-jack sockets, just use the handy adapter cables that come with the W3 to adapt 3.5 mm to RCA.
There's more -- let’s say your source device is a computer with a USB port. You want to play digital music on your home stereo system. You like to play CDs and streaming music off the web as well as stored digital music files from a hard drive somewhere on your network.
Easy peasy. Just plug the W3 Sender into your computer’s USB port. Set the output device to be the W3 in the computer’s sound controls by following the instructions provided. Over at the stereo, set up the W3 Receiver just like the above with AC USB charger power and connect the analog 3.5 mm output to an AUX In or Tape In or Line Input ot Input socket on your stereo’s preamp or amplifier or on powered speakers.
Now you can sit on one side of the room, and without running wires, play 16-bit CD quality music on the other side of the room where your stereo or powered speakers are. I use this type connection to watch videos on my computer sitting in my easy chair. I hear the sound track on powered hi-fi speakers that are 15 feet away. Also, I play 320 Kbps Mp3 streaming music from the MOG.com web site all day while work on my laptop computer. When I can pay more attention to music, I stream 16-bit tunes from a site in France, Qobuz.com.
You can configure a very worthy audiophile digital-source stereo for under $600 using Audioengine’s best A5+ speakers. One computer + one pair of high quality powered speakers + a W3 Adapter Set = a hi-fi stereo with true CD quality sound. It’s a victory for minimalist audiophile quality stereophonics. Any computer with USB 2.0 or better works.
There’s even more -- this music connection technology will work at home, in a car, in an RV or boat, or even in a tent on a mountainside if you have USB battery packs or some other way to power the W3 Adapter via USB, like a 12 volt USB adapter.
You don’t even need to have an amplifier to listen with headphones. Just plug those cans right into the W3 Receiver’s analog 3.5 mm jack and rock on. The W3 Receiver will power most headphones directly. So you can play music on a computer in your den and listen while you barbecue, or lie in a hammock in the back yard and listen, as long as you provide USB power for the W3 Receiver. USB chargers are cheap and rechargeable USB battery packs are affordable.
So the W3 Adapter enables hi-fi anywhere, from anything, to anything, without wires to the player, in up to digital 16-bit true CD quality.
There is still even more to this story. Imagine these possibilities – one W3 Sender can transport music to up to three W3 Receivers. You can use two W3 Senders at the same time on a Macintosh computer if you set up "Multiple Output Devices." See the note below (marked *) for instructions.
Then, at the computer, plug two W3 Senders into two USB ports. Keep them separated by a few feet with a pigtail lead. Connect up to six W3 Receivers to players anywhere within a 100-foot circle. Play digital music on the computer. Hear it play at all six W3 Receivers. Now you have whole house hi-fi.
On a Windows computer, it is not possible to configure dual USB sending on W3. If three audio zones are enough, you don’t need anything else in the mix. Just plug the W3 Sender into the PC’s USB bus and do the Windows setup to play digital music through USB to the W3 Receiver.
If you need more than three audio zones, plug the brand new Audioengine D3 Portable DAC to the computer’s USB port and plug a dual-pigtail adapter (the type used to share music over two sets of headphones) into the D3’s output. Then use analog setup (explained above) on the two W3s and you’re in business at six audio zones.
The W3 16-Bit Universal Audio Adapter is available from iHi-Fi for only $149 per Sender/Receiver pair. Extra Receivers are only $89 each. That means you could set up whole house music with 6 audio zones for the manageable cost of $654. All six audio zones would be controlled from one central point. Total cost depends on the number of stations.
The W3 Audio Adapter demonstrates great build quality. The DAC and ADC chips are top-notch. The sound the W3 transports is pure and clear, without loss, dropouts, noise or distortion, as long as it comes from the source that way. The W3 enables great-sounding music anywhere. The quality that comes around goes around.
Where would you like to set one up?
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* Note -- You can set up Multiple Output Devices easily on MAC OSX following the instructions available HERE. (http://www.sethwebster.com/2012/07/18/mac-osx-lion-output-sound-to-multiple-devices/)