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Are you looking for new ways to stream music directly from your phone or device to your stereo system? With HTPC systems quietly disappearing from the average living room, it is clear that streaming clients are making a comeback. This trend has also been boosted by the influx of music streaming services like Spotify, WIMP or Qobuz, which offer unlimited musical enjoyment for a flat monthly fee. But, while there are apps for these services, it is likely that most users will still want to listen to their tunes on their home stereo systems instead of their computers, phones or devices. Personally, I also occasionally like to play YouTube videos or just about anything I can find online through my stereo and I am often too lazy to physically plug my iPhone into a docking station.
For this example, we will be starting with a smartphone or tablet. What we are trying to achieve here is the ability to easily play the music streaming on your phone or device through your home stereo system. Apple was the first manufacturer to come up with an answer to this pressing question. AirPlay is now so widespread that even mid-fi home theater receivers under 500 Euros will support the successful Apple protocol.
Audioengine is now offering a new alternative to Airplay in the form of the B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver and, yes, you can simply pair your mobile device with the B1 system over Bluetooth and you are good to go. The B1 is totally plug-and-play and, according to Audioenginge, works with any app. Personally, I haven’t tried it out with every available app so I cannot vouch for it completely.
While the B1 already comes with an optical Toslink output for your external DAC, it even goes beyond that and features a pretty nice DAC chip; namely the famous AKM AK4396 by Asahi Kasei Semiconductors. This DAC chip can often be found in multi-thousand euro external DACs! It supports 24bit audio with a 192kHz sampling rate and low distortions at record levels. This is not bad going for a device that costs less than 200 Euros on Amazon. It might even be worth re-thinking spending extra money on an expensive DAC and stick with the B1 for now. As for myself, I couldn’t detect a major difference between the analog outputs of the B1 while it was driving a Benchmark DAC 1 that was connected to my STAX SR-507 headphones and their matching electrostatic amplifier.
You can probably do better in terms of sound quality, but I have the feeling that it’s going to cost you a lot more than the Audioengine B1’s asking price. In my opinion, the B1 is a super-versatile solution for transmitting audio via Bluetooth to your stereo system or powered speakers. And, with its aptX technology, Bluetooth is no longer a limiting factor for sound quality. I also have no complaints with Bluetooth’s usual transmission range.