They are my go-to recommendation for friends and family who ask me things like, “What ever happened to a good shelf system? Why can’t I go to Sears and buy a boom box that’ll let me listen to music from my computer?”
Audioengine makes products that are easy to use, easy to explain, and that look and sound immensely better than most of the consumer audio out there. And now, with the debut of their B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver ($189), they’ve made it incredibly easy to stream music from any Bluetooth enabled device.
The B1 uses Bluetooth 4.0 audio with aptX codec, and supports aptX, A2DP, and AVRCP Bluetooth profiles. It contains an AKM AK4396A DAC, and will upsample to 24 bits. Reportedly, the implementation presents a lower noise floor and lower distortion than other Bluetooth devices. I wasn’t able to do a direct comparison in the room, of course, but I will say that it sounded remarkably listenable and distortion-free; I didn’t notice a significant difference between the sound through the B1 in comparison to non-Bluetooth sound I’ve heard from Audioengine at other shows. The B1’s antenna also reportedly has a greater range than most Bluetooth devices, and can reach more than one room without audio degradation, although again I was not able to test this at the show.
At the time I visited, the B1 was hooked up to a pair of A5+ powered speakers in white ($399). I thought the sound was really quite excellent, and I think it’s fantastic that such great desktop or small room sound can be had for relatively little money. Audioengine might not be what comes to mind when you think of hifi, but their products’ accessibility, plug-and-play simplicity and price tags that makes sense to non-audiophile consumers make them real winners.