• Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Receiver review



    My office consists of an iMac 5K retina, Macbook Pro, iPad, Google Nexus 7, and my iPhone 6+. All of these devices either contain or stream audio that I listen to while working. Whether itís Internet radio, audio books, TIDAL HIFI, or podcasts I prefer to listen to the audio through my main audio system, which fortunately is also in my office. The question for me is always, how do I get the audio from any of my devices to my stereo system as easy as possible with the best quality possible? One answer to this question is the Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Receiver. The B1 is all about balance between convenience and quality. The convenience offered by a Bluetooth connection is currently second to none. There are no WiFi networks or passwords to worry about. Simply tap connect on a device on thatís it. On the other hand, thereís no getting around the fact that Bluetooth is currently a lossy way to stream audio. But, using the aptX codec companies like Audioengine have increased the quality of these lossy streams greatly. aptX has moved Bluetooth audio from barely acceptable into the realm of highly desirable under the right circumstances.

    The Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Receiver is a simple yet very robust device. The B1 accepts incoming Bluetooth audio, whether itís aptX or not, and outputs this audio on either an optical digital TosLink connection or full size analog RCA jacks. According to Audioengine the custom precision-tuned Bluetooth antenna is capable of supporting distances of up to 100 feet between the B1 and the transmitting device. During my tests I was able to walk from one end of my house to the other end, with walls in between, and successfully keep the audio stream intact without a single dropout while using an iPhone 6+.

    Setup of the B1 is absolutely simple. At power on the B1 goes into pairing mode automatically. After powering git on find the B1 on the transmitting device such as an iPhone or iMac and select connect / pair. There are no passwords to remember, no WiFi networks to connect to, and no software to install. Plus, in an office setting Bluetooth may be the only acceptable means of connecting to stream audio. Devices such as the Apple AirPort Express that supports AirPlay may not be allowed in a corporate setting.

    In my office I connected the Audioengine B1 to the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC RS in my main system via a TosLink optical cable. Right away I noticed the B1 outputs all digital audio at 48 kHz even if itís rebook CD quality of 44.1 kHz. At first I thought this was a negative thing given that almost everything I stream to the device is 44.1 kHz material. However, after further consideration I donít consider this an issue at all. The Bluetooth aptX codec is lossy to begin with, so itís not like the B1 is accepting bit perfect lossless audio and outputting something entirely different. The B1 and the transmitting Bluetooth device should be considered an ecosystem that works to output a final product (audio). Whether this output is acceptable or good or great is up to the taste of each individual user. Based on my listening to the B1, Iíve already made a much bigger deal over the 48 kHz resampling than I should have. The B1 sounds better and works better than any other Bluetooth receiver Iíve used in recent memory.

    I also tested the analog output of the B1 by connecting it via RCA cables to a Pass Labs INT-30A integrated / preamplifier. The INT-30A is connected to the same Pass Labs XA160.5 amplifiers as the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC RS that I used to test the digital outputs of the B1. In this configuration I streamed many albums directly from my iPhone 6+ running TIDAL HIFI to the Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Receiver. The sound quality was not as good as using the digital outputs, but thereís no way it should be even close. When using the digital outputs I used a DAC that costs over $16,000! However, the sound quality using the analog outputs of the B1 was really nice. Immediately before starting to write this review I listened to the new Mary J. Blige album called The London Session streamed from TIDAL HIFI on my iPhone 6+. Listening through the analog outputs of the B1 I got into the music much more than I thought I would. I didnít want to stop listening and start writing. To me this is the mark of both good music and good audio equipment.

    Most of my everyday use of Bluetooth audio isnít critical listening from my dedicated listening chair. Rather itís listening to the audio of every day life. For me thatís podcasts, YouTube videos, and something from the streaming service of the hour. This audio comes from any of my devices at any time. Iíll frequently be writing on my iMac and receive a text with a link to a YouTube video on my iPhone. During this review period it was really neat to click on the text, watch the video, and have the sound come through a $100,000+ audio system rather than the iPhone 6+ speaker. Through the Audioengine B1 this worked and sounded great. At other times I connected my iMac to the B1 and the rest of my audio system. This worked great for watching videos on Grammy.com, including the cool but awkward performance of Big Girls Cry by Sia standing with her back to the camera. The video was so-so, but the audio was great. On my iMac I also frequently listen to The Adam Carolla podcast through iTunes or even directly streamed from the showís website. Adamís nasally drone of a voice isnít something of HiFi dreams, but I much prefer to hear the podcast through my main audio system than the speakers on my iMac. With Bluetooth audio, and the Audioengine B1 specifically, it isnít about perfection, itís about preference and getting better sound than one normally gets through traditional means.

    The Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Receiver is a great performer both sonically and connectivity-wise. The B1 makes a lot of sense in many environments where better sound is desired and the convenience of Bluetooth is demanded. Yes Bluetooth is lossy, but thereís a time and place for everything. The B1 maybe isnít for the extremists who have to play 32 bit / 384 kHz or else their ears will bleed, rather itís for everyone else including me. I love Bluetooth audio and I love my lossless high resolution that Bluetooth will likely never support. Itís not a case of either or, but a case of using the right horse for the right course. Through the use of aptX to improve sound quality well beyond previous versions of Bluetooth and a well engineered antenna, Audioengine has produced another winner in its lineup of solid components.





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    Product Information:
    • Product - Audioengine B1 Bluetooth receiver
    • Price - $189
    • Product Page - Link






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    Comments 16 Comments
    1. wwaldmanfan's Avatar
      wwaldmanfan -
      Thanks for posting that informative review. AudioEngine makes great, affordable stuff.
      I have a pair of their A2+ active desktop speakers that outperform my B&W MM-1's, at half the price.
    1. Superdad's Avatar
      Superdad -
      Chris: you wrote "Plus, in an office setting Bluetooth may be the only acceptable means of connecting to stream audio. Devices such as the Apple AirPort Express that supports AirPlay may not be allowed in a corporate setting."

      Actually, in a corporate office with a bunch of people using Bluetooth headsets and mice, the B1 receiver may be problematic. I have been in offices with a lot of Bluetooth "confusion"/interference.
    1. JasonSct's Avatar
      JasonSct -
      Apple gear is not Bluetooth aptX compatible. Regardless, the previous generation of the Bluetooth codec is good quality. Testing with Apple gear is good to reflect the baseline consumer experience for the Audioengine B1.

      Still, my curiosity leaves me wondering if the review would produce stronger impressions if done with aptX compatible gear... I'd suggest borrowing a colleague's aptX compatible phone for future tests of aptX Bluetooth gear.
    1. JasonSct's Avatar
      JasonSct -
      I'd assume that the Bluetooth audio quality when using Apple gear + AudioEngine B1 equals a max quality AAC VBR at ~ 265kbps, i.e., identical to the audio quality of music purchased from the iTunes Store (if i remember correctly). Likely aptX performs a bit better with a bit less lag.

      Each manufacturer's documentation says they support the non-standard bluetooth format MPEG2-4 ACC, for the reason that it performs with better audio quality than Bluetooth's previous generation SBC codec.


      Apple says:

      AudioEngine's B1 FAQs says:

      "What if my source doesn't support aptXģ? Can I still use B1 and if so, how will it sound?
      You can absolutely still use the B1, and it will sound great. aptXģ is a high quality Bluetooth audio codec that works really well. With that said, in addition to mandatory support for SBC, Bluetooth also includes optional support for many other codecs, like MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and AAC, all of which have their own advantages, and some of which sound very close to aptXģ."
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Jason - Good catch, and yes you're probably 100% correct that the review would produce stronger impressions if done with aptX compatible gear. To be honest, I'd say I blew this one by assuming Apple had finally incorporated aptX into its products. When I reviewed a different Bluetooth product I purchased an aptX adapter for my iPhone 4 back in the day. I wish the adapter has the lightning connector because I still have it in my desk drawer.
    1. Markhh2's Avatar
      Markhh2 -
      I love mine. Kids use it to stream from thier phones to a pair of A2 speakers. Sounds great for the $.
    1. firedog's Avatar
      firedog -
      I have aptX wireless headphones, and I think they sound very good. Don't feel like I'm missing out.
    1. jrobbins50's Avatar
      jrobbins50 -
      Chris, as you know, I use the B1 with a power inverter in my car to breathe new life into my car audio system. I plug the analog outputs of the B1 into the aux input of my car audio receiver and voila, I have Tidal or TuneIn Radio streaming on the road out of my iPhone 6+. A perfect application because the lossy nature doesn't affect enjoyment with the natural background noise. JCR
    1. IQ_AV's Avatar
      IQ_AV -
      I am saving this for next project. I have a 7.1 system based on Onkyo TX-NR609. For movie, its fine, but for music, even I direct source it from a bluray player or an USB drive, I see the lower frequencies emphasized and the high and middle, almost muffled. I have the bluray connected via HDMI. I wanted to use something else to connect via tos link and see if I get a different result, as I heard(not confirmed) that the in built DAC in Onkyo supposed to be good. In my media closet, I have two receivers (onkyo and denon). The denon powers the dining area and a bedroom. With the audio engine, I should be able to power both the receivers( I am hoping). I do not need to have concurrent connection, as I never use them together, infact, I barely use these other systems, since I got hold of CA and just working on my music listening system. What do you think? Would using this and pair it up with a Samsung Note 2 and play Tidal work?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by IQ_AV View Post
      I am saving this for next project. I have a 7.1 system based on Onkyo TX-NR609. For movie, its fine, but for music, even I direct source it from a bluray player or an USB drive, I see the lower frequencies emphasized and the high and middle, almost muffled. I have the bluray connected via HDMI. I wanted to use something else to connect via tos link and see if I get a different result, as I heard(not confirmed) that the in built DAC in Onkyo supposed to be good. In my media closet, I have two receivers (onkyo and denon). The denon powers the dining area and a bedroom. With the audio engine, I should be able to power both the receivers( I am hoping). I do not need to have concurrent connection, as I never use them together, infact, I barely use these other systems, since I got hold of CA and just working on my music listening system. What do you think? Would using this and pair it up with a Samsung Note 2 and play Tidal work?
      That should work just fine.
    1. chrisstu's Avatar
      chrisstu -
      Very timely for my needs.

      I'm planning streaming for my office system too. But if everything I stream from supports AirPlay why would I choose this direction over a less costly (and higher audio quality??) AppleTV connected via optical to a DAC ? (Chris, enjoyed your visit to Raleigh, NC last year...I sat through a couple of your Q&As...really a pleasure)
    1. Audio_ELF's Avatar
      Audio_ELF -
      Chris ... any thoughts on how this might compare to Peachtree Audio's BT1 Bluetooth Receiver at $100 or even Monoprice's Home Theater Music Receiver w/ NFC and aptXģ Codec Support at just over $50? And as chrisstu asks above how does it compare to using an AppleTV or AirPort Express?

      Eloise

      PS. OS X reportedly does support aptX but you may need the Bluetooth Explorer to enable it. This needs you to have an Apple Developer login (free); then download Hardware IO for xCode from https://idmsa.apple.com/IDMSWebAuth/...2Findex.action (you'll have to use the search function).
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by Audio_ELF View Post
      Chris ... any thoughts on how this might compare to Peachtree Audio's BT1 Bluetooth Receiver at $100 or even Monoprice's Home Theater Music Receiver w/ NFC and aptXģ Codec Support at just over $50? And as chrisstu asks above how does it compare to using an AppleTV or AirPort Express?

      Eloise

      PS. OS X reportedly does support aptX but you may need the Bluetooth Explorer to enable it. This needs you to have an Apple Developer login (free); then download Hardware IO for xCode from https://idmsa.apple.com/IDMSWebAuth/...2Findex.action (you'll have to use the search function).
      Thanks for the tip Eloise. I've now enabled aptX on my iMac.

      Attachment 17112
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by chrisstu View Post
      Very timely for my needs.

      I'm planning streaming for my office system too. But if everything I stream from supports AirPlay why would I choose this direction over a less costly (and higher audio quality??) AppleTV connected via optical to a DAC ? (Chris, enjoyed your visit to Raleigh, NC last year...I sat through a couple of your Q&As...really a pleasure)
      Hi Christu - Thanks for the kind words about the seminar in Raleigh :~)

      Using the right horse for the right course is what these devices are all about. Using an AppleTV isn't the most ideal device for an office audio setup because it will require a monitor for setup and for weird issues once in a while. I think the better option is the AirPort Express. If you're at a corporate office you may not be allowed to setup your own WiFi network that the AirPort requires, thus Bluetooth and the B1 will be the best route. If you need the analog output of a network audio device you will want to compare the performance of the two devices before deciding on the best sound quality.

      The big draw for AirPlay is its ability to stream lossless of course.
    1. chrisstu's Avatar
      chrisstu -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Computer Audiophile View Post
      Hi Christu - Thanks for the kind words about the seminar in Raleigh :~)

      Using the right horse for the right course is what these devices are all about. Using an AppleTV isn't the most ideal device for an office audio setup because it will require a monitor for setup and for weird issues once in a while. I think the better option is the AirPort Express. If you're at a corporate office you may not be allowed to setup your own WiFi network that the AirPort requires, thus Bluetooth and the B1 will be the best route. If you need the analog output of a network audio device you will want to compare the performance of the two devices before deciding on the best sound quality.

      The big draw for AirPlay is its ability to stream lossless of course.


      Oops. It's a home office and I'll steal a configured but seldom used AppleTV from my daughter ; - ).....thanks for the reply.
    1. IQ_AV's Avatar
      IQ_AV -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Computer Audiophile View Post
      Thanks for the tip Eloise. I've now enabled aptX on my iMac.

      Attachment 17112
      The reviews on the Monoprice site points out poor range for the unit. I am thinking AudionEngine is the only one is claiming a higher range then the other two. BTW, monoprice looks like an OEM version of the Peachtree.