mini-review: AudioEngine W1

I twittered about the AudioEngine W1, and having had a couple days to try it out, I thought I'd post some notes.

Basics first: uncompressed PCM audio from your PC to stereo, wireless. My goal was to connect an electronic keyboard to a stereo system across the room, which isn't really their intended application, but was worth a shot!

  • Setup is great: USB plug and play (with XP at least) required no drivers
  • They have a "pairing" procedure if you add more hardware to a system, but when you buy a sender/receiver they come pre-paired.
  • No pops or clicks when connecting/disconnecting
  • Makes your laptop feel like magic
  • Sound quality is quite good (I haven't done a detailed quality test yet, but my ears say so)
  • Clipping! From my Roland RD-700 to my stereo, I've had to leave the volume at 70% to avoid clipping. This might be a big problem if you have a device with line-outs and no volume control.
  • Latency: for musical instrument use, the latency of their system is noticeable. It's not awful, but likely 100-200ms. Enough to mess you up if you're trying to play.
  • Only one USB power jack in the box (I scavenged one from an old phone), so they expect you to be using a USB-capable device as either sender or receiver: e.g., sending from a PC or receiving with their powered speakers. They really should ship two, because these things are pretty hard to find.
  • Cords are unshielded, and they ship only one RCA adapter, and two stereo 1/8" adapters. I already had all the cabling I needed, but still, another RCA would have been nice.
Overall, I could recommend this strongly for their intended application: wiring music from your PC to a remote speaker/stereo. For use as a remote instrument, not so much.

Compared to the AppleTV with Airtunes, the AppleTV has "more" bass and louder output, but otherwise the DACs seem to be of similar quality. If your only app is iTunes, it's hard to beat Apple's solutions. If you do other things with your computer, you'll like this device.

Still, for now it's pretty unique: at $150 it does beat the rack-mount $1000 competitors. It's stereo and isn't powered by batteries like guitar amps. It's digital (not X10/awful) and the quality seems pretty decent. So it seems to me that the AudioEngine W1 is breaking new ground at this price point, and it's quite a nice start.

No comments:

Post a Comment