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AUDIOENGINE WIRELESS AUDIO ADAPTER W1
A pair of small, high quality speakers with a built-in amplifier has many uses,
since it isn't hampered by the need for an external amplifier with a cable running
to each speaker. With the USB power port and the stereo mini-jack input built
into the back of the A5+, you don't even need a dock for your portable MP3 player
to share the music with everyone else in the room.
You still need some kind of cable to run the signal from the source and the
A5+ speakers, and if the source is less portable than a personal MP3 player,
then that cable can be a nuisance. A common challenge with home theater sound
systems, for example, is running the cables from the central receiver to five,
six or seven speakers in the room. If you're building the room from scratch
or seriously remodeling, then those unsightly cables can be run right into
the walls, with discreetly placed jacks on the walls as needed. But in the typical
setup, the AV system is not built in, it's an add-on, and those unsightly cables
have very low WAF. Even with the A5+, a pair of long RCA cables or a single
long mini-plug cable (not recommended for sound quality) is needed to get the
signal to it.
Enter Audioengine's Wireless Audio Adapter. The samples I have are of the first
model, W1 (or AW1). They come as a sender/receiver pair with some accessories,
as shown in the photo below. What this innocuous pair of gadgets do is to eliminate
the need for any cables between the Audioengine A5+ speakers and any audio electronic
signal source up to 100 feet away.
Audioengine W1 (AW1) Premium Wireless Audio Adapter set is composed of
USB powered radio sender and receiver, two stereo mini-plug cords, a mini-plug
to RCA female Y-adapter, and a USB power supply.
Extensive technical details are provided on the W1
product information pages, but here's a summary of the most salient points:
1. AW1 provides CD-quality HD stereo sound with no reduction in audio quality.
2. It's plug-n-play, connects in seconds, with no software to download or
install. It works with any audio gear, with or without a computer, and plays
all music formats from any media player, without batteries.
3. Interference-free audio quality is preserved while sharing the RF spectrum
with other common wireless transmission technologies such as WLAN, Bluetooth,
microwave ovens, cordless telephones, and others. Latency is <20ms and
signal-to-noise ratio is 91 dB.
4. The AW1 consists of 2 parts: 1) The "Sender" transmits
audio from your computer through USB audio or from any product with 3.5mm
mini-jack or RCA audio outputs. 2) the "Receiver" connects
audio to any product with mini-jack or RCA analog audio inputs. Hop feature
works with up to 8 receivers or daisy-chain up to 8 Sender/Receiver pairs
5. Power for the Sender and Receiver is provided from either a USB computer
port, the included AC power adapter, or from any other USB AC charger (such
as an iPod charger, for example). Another USB power source is the Audioengine
A5 (or A5+) powered speakers, equipped with a ComboPort(r) USB charger on
top of the left speaker.
6. Uncompressed PCM audio is transmitted in the very-crowded 2.4GHz range,
but with a closed protocol specifically designed for audio. The key features
that make AW1 better than most wireless systems currently on the market are
the ease of setup, fixed low latency, audio quality, lack of dropouts, and
high interference tolerance.
For many folks stumbling though the myriad of confusing audio products in this
new digital age, the Audioengine Wireless Audio Adapter could be a godsend.
FIRST TEST: PC to A5+ Speakers
The W1 transmitter was plugged into a USB port in the HTPC computer. As promised,
there was no setup, the device simply got recognized by Windows 7 as a USB Composite
Device in about 10 seconds.
The W1 receiver was plugged into the USB power port on the back of the A5+
speaker. A mini-plug cable was run from the jack on the W1 to the input in the
A5+. All other inputs to the speaker was disconnected. The distance between
the sender and receiver was only a meter, but this was just a first test.
Audioengine W1 sender plugged into USB port on computer.
powered by USB port on A5+ speaker, with mini-plug lead from it into the
mini-input on A5+. The RCA phono jacks were unplugged before testing.
A song was selected on the computer... and without any drama, it began playing
via the A5+ speakers. The sound quality was very good; I could not detect any
obvious change from the sound via the RCA phono leads that I'd been using for
Several varied tunes later, I switched back to the wired connection and listened
to the same music. Differences were subtle, a slight softening and coarsening
of the sound, but I would not consider it serious, not in this hour-long first
take. I can confidently say the fidelity is good enough for most people who
choose to use the W1 (for convenience or because hard wire is not an option).
Other factors, such as speaker positioning or the quality of the original recording,
are likely to impact the sound far more than the W1 adapters.
The A5+ speakers were then moved into the living room, and set up atop the
big NHT 2.9 speakers. Now, there was a wall and about 15' between sender and
receiver. Again, there was excellent sound. I tried using my mobile phone and
a cordless phone, walking all around the two parts of the W1 while the music
was playing... and heard no interruptions or degradation. Obviously, the WI
would work fine for sending signals to a subwoofer, or self powered rear or
side speakers in my media room. A <20ms delay would hardly be noticed in
this application. This began to feel like a revelation.
SECOND TEST: Squeezebox Touch to A5+ Speakers
The Squeezebox Touch in the main audio system is hard-wired to the gigabit
network. A USB port on the Touch is meant to be used as an input source for
external USB storage devices. There is a DIY
method to modify this port to make it a digital output for a USB DAC, but
I haven't made such a modification. This means the Audioengine W1 sender can
be powered by the Touch USB port, but it then needs to be wired via its mini-plug
input to the analog output of the Touch. I tried the headphone output first,
and did not get any signal; there may have been an impedance or level mismatch.
I then tried a mini-plug to phono Y-adapter into the Touch phono output jacks,
and this worked.
The A5+ speakers were in the TV room still, and the Touch was on the opposite
side of the house, about 35' away, with an interior wall between them. There
was no degradation or interference in the signal.
I then tried switching the Squeezebox Touch to its 802.11g adapter, to access
the wifi network via the router (and repeater) working downstairs. This did
not work well. With the W1 sender plugged right into the Touch, there was too
much RF interference. The music stuttered too often to be usable. There's some
question about whether it was the Squeezebox losing connection with the router
or the W1 sender losing connection with the receiver; the former seemed to be
the bigger issue.
Later, with the Squeezebox back on the wired gigabit network, the A5+ speakers
were moved to the sun deck at the back of the house, plugged into an outdoor
wall AC outlet and placed on a picnic table. The W1 receiver was still plugged
in the A5+ speaker.
The distance was now around 60' it's a Vancouver Special, a relatively
narrow, long house and there was also a wall and a set of french doors
between the sender and the receiver. I was surprised that the signal played
without any degradation. I spent part of the sunny afternoon experimenting with
positioning the A5+ on the deck for best sound. Projecting the music outdoors,
they need a solid wall fairly close behind them for bass reinforcement. At one
point, I placed the left A5+ speaker about 10' from the french doors, which
put another exterior wall between sender and receiver. This exceeded the range
of the W1 adapters, and the sound did get a bit intermittent again. So the limit
here was about 70' + interior wall + exterior wall. Not bad at all! My impression
was that as long as the range was not exceeded, the sound quality remained the
same, regardless of distance.
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