audioengine

Audioengine W2 Review

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Audioengine’s newest product, the W2, is perhaps the coolest iPhone gadget on the market. Have you ever wanted the ability to stream music wirelessly from iPod or iPhone to your home stereo without monkeying through a remote interface? Now you can. The W2 allows you to connect your iPod or iPhone directly to your stereo wirelessly.

With the W2 you get a wireless receiver about the size of a pack of gum that is USB powered. You can attach it with the included USB AC adapter and plug the stereo out jack to any audio device, including your home stereo. The transmitter is an even smaller device the same width as an iPhone with an iPod connector pointing out the top.

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There is no software to configure. You simply plug the receiver into your stereo and the transmitter into your iPod. I took it to a friend’s home and played Christmas music through his stereo off my iPhone. Lets just say, hypothetically, that you have a nice collection of Yo-Yo Ma on your iPhone but your wife would prefer Duran Duran off her iPod Touch. It is easy with the W2. Speaking hypothetically, you can simply pull the transmitter out of one device and attach it to another. Marital bliss restored. Streaming music from your iPod just became stupid easy. It will work on the iPod classic, 2g Nano or later, iPod touch, and the iPhone.

This device stems from the same technology in Audioengine’s W1. It creates a 2.4GHz network that works for about 30 feet. When you get out of range, the music starts cutting out intermittently or drops all together. When you get back into range, it picks right back up. Consider it a 30 foot invisible cord. Latency is reported at less than 20 milliseconds. My high-tech test for this involved watching movies on my iPhone while streaming the soundtrack through my stereo. I did not notice any delay.

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The audio quality is good. The manufacturer reports it can keep up with uncompressed CD-quality. In my tests, it did. I played high bit rate music ranging from classical to rock and did not notice any difference between the sound through the W2 and the sound transmitted over a conventional stereo cord plugged directly into my iPhone.

I found the W2 even more useful than the W1. While I still like my home entertainment system streaming through iTunes on my Mac, the ability to change playlists, tracks, and volume using the built-in iPod interface is much easier and my kind of geeky.

The W2 includes both the sender and receiver units, the USB power adapter, the 3.5mm to RCA adapter and an audio cable for $169. You can find it at AudioengineUSA.com.

Audioengine A5 Review


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For the past few weeks I've been upsetting the Neighbors with a pair of Audioengine A5 speakers. Audioengine is quickly becoming the manufacturer of choice for high end self-powered computer and shelf speakers.

When you open the A5 box, you have have a near-Apple experience. Each speaker is in its own cloth sack with a third sack holding a variety of connectors and wires insuring you will get it connected to something soon. The next thing you will notice after you open the box is that these speakers are heavy. The left speaker (with the built in amp) is 14 lbs and the right is 9. The materials in the speakers is 1" thick medium density fiberboard and they have a high gloss piano finish that is very attractive. For guts, the A5's have Kevlar woofers and the silk dome tweeters. Because they are magnetically shielded, you can use them next to your monitor but an iPhone will cause interference unless you put it into "Airplane Mode".

On the left A5 there are a variety of inputs including AC power, perfect for your airport express, two stereo inputs, and a USB port. The result of all of this is you can charge your iPod while putting audio into the A5's or you can use Audioengine's wireless transmitter, the AW1 to beam music into the A5's from any source. One of the inputs and the USB port is actually on top of the speaker making it very easy to access with your iPod.

In order put them to the test, I plugged in my iPod and listened to a track from Chick Corea's latest album, New Crystal Silence. It sounded fantastic but as I started to ramp up the volume, I began to hear some compression distortion. The speakers were so good that I could hear some of the compression mushiness. I bought that album from the Amazon service so I hooked up my computer and ran the 256 kb version and it sounded spectacular. Playing music that loud through a MacBook Air felt like delicious overkill. Of course this means I'm going to have to rethink my encoding presets but I can think of worse problems.

There are some very detailed specifications on the A5s at Audioengine's website. I didn't have the ability or knowledge to confirm those specifications but I can say that it did a remarkable job of reproducing the music at louder levels than I could ever get away with at the same time my wife is in the house. The highs were clear. the mids were full, and the bass was tight without a lot of that mushy thumping I've heard on virtually every other speaker in this price range. I played a variety of music styles through it and they all sounded very good. These speakers are good enough to get a visit from the police at any hour. I can think of no better compliment.

With onboard USB and AC power there are a lot of possibilities. In addition to using them from my computer and iPod, I also put them in the backyard one afternoon while we were barbecuing and streamed wirelessly with the AW1. I also took them with me when I gave a presentation that included some audio and music. They did an excellent job filling the room.

My favorite use for these speakers however is for my music studio. Well, I call it a music studio. Actually, it is a keyboard in my living room with a small table next to it for my Mac. But in my mind it is a music studio. Anyway, up until the A5s, the speaker system in the "studio" was a pair of $50 computer speakers with a small plastic subwoofer. All I can say is not .. any ... more. These A5s are such a huge upgrade. It makes playing the piano so much more enjoyable. Also, when I play back with 15 tracks, the A5's handle everything from the rolling kettle drum to the tinkling triangle.

I wouldn't call the A5s an impulse buy at $349 but at that price they still are an excellent value. If you are looking for top quality self powered speakers, I wouldn't think twice about it. They include a three year warranty. Audioengine knows how good their product is because they give a 30-day audition. That means if you don't like them, you can send them back for a full refund. Once you try them out, however, I can't really imagine sending them back. You can order them directly and get more information at audioengineusa.com.

Audioengine AW1 Winners

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The winners are TerryC and Dale Lymn. I've sent their names to audioengineusa.com and they should get their gear soon. Thank you everyone for participating. I really enjoyed reading all of the interesting ideas for using this unique product.

Also, thank you Audioengineusa.com. They were very generous with this contest and I hope you all consider them in the future for your audio needs.

macsparky Free Stuff - The Audioengine AW1 Giveaway and Discount

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First the Swag...


I've received several emails from readers asking me about the Audioengine AW1 Wireless Adapter I recently reviewed. Well guess what? The folks at Audioengine have agreed to give away two of them to Macsparky readers. This isn't one of *those* contests. I promise. All you have to do is head over to Audioengine and look at the AW1 Wireless Adapter. Then post a comment to this thread explaining what you would do with a free AW1 Wireless Adapter. I can't wait to see what ideas everyone has for this great product. Please just one entry per person. This contest is only available to people with a United States shipping address (sorry).

On Friday February 29 (yes.. leap year day), I'll randomly select two names and announce the winners. Audioengine will then ship the winners their free AW-1. See? Easy! No DNA sample required and no "discussion" about the benefits of timeshares.

"But wait ... there's more..."



Audioengine also agreed to give a 10% discount off all of their products to readers using the "Macsparky" discount code. So if you've been looking for some outstanding desktop speakers, a floor shaking subwoofer, or (like me) lusting after the shelftop A5's, now is your moment. Carpe diem.

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A further note regarding the contest...

A few people have written me confused on how to enter. All you have to do is put a comment below and leave an email that finds you if you win. I'm going to make a list of all the comments (removing duplicate entries), then number the list, then randomly generate two numbers and those two are the winners. Rather than do the usual "email me" contest, I thought it would be more fun for everyone to post. This is a unique product and I've already got several new ideas on how to use it from your posts.

The winners are picked Friday (contest closes 9pm pacific on Friday) and the winners are announced on Saturday. Good luck!