The AudioEngine B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver is a great way to provide quality Bluetooth audio support to your older audio systems.
While Bluetooth speakers are all the rage in the last few years, Bluetooth support in stereo equipment is still relatively under represented. AudioEngine solves this problem by providing not just a Bluetooth receiver, but a complete solution for high quality wireless audio via their B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver.
The B1 is a Bluetooth audio receiver that includes both stereo RCA outputs for analog audio and Optical Toslink fiber support. Rather than using the common analog outputs of similar products, the B1 can directly supply digital audio to your receiver, allowing the receiver itself to do the digital audio conversion. Using the B1 is also a creative way to provide Bluetooth support to modern distributed whole home audio systems like the Sonos that lack native Bluetooth input.
To drive the 24 bit Optical Toslink, the B1 supports the aptX audio codec, a purpose-built audio-over-Bluetooth format designed for high quality audio which is available on many modern mobile devices and laptops with Bluetooth 4.0 support. For standard A2DP audio, the AKM AK4396 24-bit upsampler provides a high fidelity low noise playback even over a normal compressed Bluetooth signal.
Pairing the B1 to your device is as simple as holding down the single front button for a few seconds until it blinks to indicate it is in pairing mode. Next to the button is the purpose-built antenna to increase the Bluetooth range of the device up to 100 feet.
While it’s difficult to hear the difference between aptX and standard Bluetooth on a typical portable Bluetooth speaker, the difference in audio when piped though even a modest stereo amplifier is easy to hear. With a standard Bluetooth receiver, audio unsurprisingly is of muted contrast. It’s pleasant to hear, but not remarkable. With the B1 and an aptX source, such as a laptop playing back FLAC files, the difference is unmistakable. The sound is far fuller, clearer, and more detailed. Even with a standard Bluetooth device without aptX support, the audio improvement over a standard Bluetooth receiver is clear.
If your device supports aptX, and even if it doesn’t, the B1 provides great audio to your existing stereo receiver setup. At $189, the B1 is not an inexpensive add-on, but it’s well worth it for the discerning audiophile who wants the fidelity of 24-bit audio with the flexibility of wireless operation.