Bluetooth: The Right Choice for Wireless Audio
In this article we’ll explain why we focus on Bluetooth as our go-to technology for wireless audio. We’ll also discuss the steps taken to ensure the Bluetooth sound you hear through Audioengine products is the best it can possibly be, as well as being competitive with other wireless audio products on the market.
Works with everything
Over the years, we’ve evaluated and considered every wireless audio technology available, but Bluetooth really is the only one that’s instantly compatible with everything. It works with every smartphone, tablet, and computer. Bluetooth also works with every music streaming service and with every audio-capable app on your devices. It’s available in more products from more brands than anyone could possibly count.
Only Bluetooth audio can be considered a real industry standard. Other wireless audio technologies are proprietary and often aren’t compatible with certain computers or portable devices. And many work with only a few music streaming services or only in products made by a few brands. The only non-Bluetooth wireless audio technology with significant cross-platform compatibility is DLNA, but DLNA is not widely used for audio streaming and remains something of a do-it-yourself proposition for the end user.
It’s important to note that all Audioengine powered speakers include analog inputs that makes them compatible with any wireless technology. You can use them with any Sonos, AirPlay, or Play-Fi product that has an audio output as well as any wireless technology that comes along in the future. And with the Audioengine HD3, HD6, and B1 and B2, you still have built-in Bluetooth as a convenience.
Simple setup, simple operation
Setup for Bluetooth is quick and simple: Just pair your source (phone, tablet or computer) with the Bluetooth speaker or receiver, which takes less than 10 seconds. Once pairing is accomplished, the Bluetooth connection stays active and you always have instant control of music playback and streaming services.
Most WiFi-based wireless audio products require a setup procedure, which in almost all cases requires downloading an app for your phone or tablet, then configuring each device to work with your existing network or within their own network. In most cases, the device controlling the playback has to re-establish communication with the other audio devices on the network if you haven’t made any adjustments for a couple of minutes. There’s often a time lag as you wait several seconds for the connection to “wake up” before you can make adjustments.
To put it simply but accurately, Bluetooth just works, while WiFi-based audio systems frequently present hurdles to the end user.
Why is Audioengine’s Bluetooth better?
Bluetooth is sometimes criticized by audiophiles for low sound quality. We understand where they’re coming from. As most manufacturers implement Bluetooth, it sounds OK at best. But if care is taken, Bluetooth can achieve audiophile-grade sound.
Advanced software: Audioengine’s implementation of Bluetooth includes the aptX and AAC codecs, both of which we’ve found deliver sound superior to the default SBC codec used in most Bluetooth applications. Most of today’s major-brand Android phones and tablets default to aptX when they’re streaming to an aptX-equipped product. Apple iOS phones and tablets default to AAC, a highly advanced and transparent codec created in a joint effort between AT&T, Dolby, Fraunhofer and Sony. Because the iTunes Store sells mostly AAC downloads, this means Bluetooth often has zero effect on sound quality with Apple devices when the Bluetooth speaker or receiver is AAC-compatible.
Best-in-class hardware: Our Bluetooth products use an AKM AK4396 digital-to-analog converter (DAC) chip. The AK4396 was designed specifically for reproduction of high-resolution PCM and DSD audio, and it delivers bit-perfect reproduction of digital signals up to 24-bit/192-kilohertz resolution. It upsamples all incoming Bluetooth signals to 24 bit resolution, thus achieving a signal-to-noise ratio of -120 dB—within just a couple dB of the world’s most expensive high-end standalone DACs. Triple-redundant power supply filtering gives this DAC an extremely clean sound and a noise floor that’s completely inaudible and dynamics that truly match those of a wired connection.
True multi-room range: The typical wireless range of a Bluetooth product is about 15 feet. But that’s not inherent to the technology, it’s just what most manufacturers settle for. Our products do much better. Through careful signal management and antenna tuning our Bluetooth products have a typical range of up to 100 feet. Of course, this will vary depending on your phone or tablet and on how many walls the signal has to pass through. But in general, with Audioengine products you can carry your phone or tablet all around your house without losing the connection and without impacting sound quality in any way.
The surest future: Considering the proprietary nature of most WiFi-based audio technologies, we can’t say for sure what upgrades the future holds. But because Bluetooth is a solid industry standard, it just keeps on improving with better performance and new capabilities. We think it’s today’s most robust, reliable, convenient and future-proof solution for wireless audio.