The last post here on iHi-Fi detailed why audiophiles will not be satisfied with music streamed wirelessly to speakers from mobile devices like commodity phones and music players. Bottom line is, this earbud class of devices is simply not equipped for greater than mid-fi "CD quality" because Bluetooth has evolved in a way that can not support 24 bit file depth.
For devices that source music via USB, there is definitely a great wireless 24-bit alternative to connect powered speakers or amplification.. This includes iPad with the Camera Connection Kit adapter or a digital dock with USB out.
I’m thankful the Audioengine D2 Premium 24-bit Wireless DAC is so well conceived. My home Wi-Fi network did not suffer from bandwidth competition when I went wireless with the D2's non-interfering 2.4 MHz wireless protocol. It tests rock solid with no dropouts or noises added. I ran the wireless signal through 3 reinforced concrete walls and the music and connection were not phased. Except when the fridge was also directly in the line of sight.
My small reservation with the Audioengine D2 is -- the design goes too far to include my present Dragonfly USB DAC. It embeds the speakers' wireless radio link inside another device – a DAC of its own. It’s not as unbundled as I would prefer, though this aspect may not matter to other listeners. The architecture forces me to buy another 24 bit DAC when I already have one I like. I could plug in to a standalone wireless audio bridge if one existed that had USB out. Somebody please help us by inventing this wireless speaker bridge with DAC connectivity. In the meantime, the Audioengine W3 hauls the freight well from any device to any speakers or hi-fi system, at 16 bits, and sounds great to my ear.
Being "forced" to switch to a different DAC is not so hard to take considering the D2’s DAC chip is the extraordinary Burr Brown PCM1792A. I do want to compare that to the ESS Sabre sound of my present portable DAC. So after all I’m more seduced than forced.
I would also complain that the D2 Sender is not small enough to hang as a dongle from the edge of my laptop. I invariably work in a chair with my laptop on my lap. The saving grace here is my intent to conscript my iPad 3 into service as my home music server. This will leave nothing hanging out of the USB ports of my laptop anyway. Except when I use the W3 for wireless connections. Seduced again. Besides, the wireless connection achieves complete ground isolation which helps the background to be as quiet as possible so the music stands out in high relief.
I do like that I can try different DC power supplies with the D2. Also, the optical output on the D2 Receiver enables connection to a different DAC. But it’s optical only for the outboard DAC port. Where’s the outboard DAC USB port? Even without this level of flexibility the D2 design approach is a coup. Unlike Bluetooth dependent solutions, it enables the listener to stream 24 bit music to speakers wirelessly. Thanks yet again, Audioengine.
Which brings me to another point about audio lovers – we are inveterate fiddlers, always seeking that greater sense of truth and naturalness in music. Consequently, system partitioning is a key consideration with Hi-Fi audio.
In an upcoming post I’ll define some system architecture and argue for a standalone wireless audio bridge just in case someone wants to build what I would really prefer. I also believe the market will prefer it. Rather than a product that leaps the next tall corporate revenue goal in a single giant Super-product bound.