Audioengine AW1 Premium Wireless Audio Sender/Receiver Review
Let me first acknowledge Brady from Audioengine for sending this unit to Modsynergy for review.
The AW1 Wireless Audio Sender/Receiver is more than a wireless replacement for a stereo audio cable. You can transmit audio from your computer’s USB port to a receiver, amplifier, subwoofer, or speakers. If you purchase additional AW1s, you can send the same audio signal to additional rooms, though only to one at a time. These capabilities are a convenience, but of what value are these additional features without the ability to transmit audio signal reliably and undistorted.
Audioengine claims that the AW1 allows you to “play all your music wirelessly from any audio device or computer to your Audioengine powered speakers, stereo receiver, or powered subwoofer. AW1 provides CD-quality HD stereo sound with no reduction in audio quality.” They also claim that the AW1 has a range of 30 meters. In this review, we first explore the some of AW1’s unique functionality not possible with a simple wired cable. We will then examine Audioengine’s claims on the AW1’s sound quality and wireless range.
The AW1 includes a few extra accessories in addition to the wireless sender and receiver that should be sufficient for most setups. The package includes:
At its most basic functionality, the AW1 acts as an invisible cable with a range of 30 meters that can connect any two devices with a 3.5 mm or RCA jack. Each wireless dongle needs power from a USB port. The AW1 includes one powered USB AC adapter. You will need an additional USB AC adapter if both of the transmitting ends do not have a powered USB port, though these adapters aren’t too difficult to find. The AW1 default components and accessories should cover your needs, but I recommend reading the manual and feature sheet on Audioengine’s website to ensure that you have all necessary components for your desired audio setup. There are additional configurations not listed in the manual that may require you to purchase extra cables, connectors, or a power supply.
One common configuration is to connect the sender directly to your computer’s (Mac or PC) USB port, which bypasses your sound card. The receiver can output to any device containing a 3.5 mm or the stereo RCA jack using the provided cables. Setting up the AW1 on my Mac was as simple as selecting the AW1 in Sound section of System Preferences. No drivers needed when installing in a Mac or PC. In less than a minute, I had audio sent from my MacBook Pro to the Audioengine A5 speakers. The external power supply was unnecessary since my laptop and the A5 powered the sender and receiver.
Another possibility with the AW1 is to send audio to one of multiple receivers by pairing the sender with multiple receivers. Unfortunately, you can only send the audio to one receiver at a time, not to all the receivers simultaneously. At the time of this writing, you’ll have to unfortunately purchase the whole AW1 package, even if you only need the receiver.
The AW1 excels at its basic function of sending a wireless signal reliably and without distortion. To me, the sound quality of the AW1 is indistinguishable from a wired connection, even at high volume. Turning up the volume on the Audioengine A5 allowed me to hear any sonic distortions introduced by using the wireless setup. The manual states a non-zero harmonic distortion, but I could not hear any. I did, however, notice a faint buzzing sound when I connected the sender to my computer that would be distracting if you were within a foot or two of the speaker. (However, I can only say this of my MacBook Pro 2007 Santa Rosa.) There was no such sound when I connected it to any other devices, such as my digital piano or my iPod.
Many are familiar with effect of walls and other obstructions on the range of the wireless routers. As a wireless device, the AW1 is no exception. After all, it uses the similar 2.4 GHz frequencies as 802.11b and 802.11g routers. However, the AW1 sets itself apart from other wireless product manufacturers by making reliable claims on its range. In the included manual, Audioengine states that the AW1 has a “100 feet range (30 meters) with no signal delay, dropouts, or interference”. I have found this claim to be fully justified through my informal testing. I sent the signal 30 meters through three non-concrete walls without any problems. The sound quality was exactly the same as if the sender were a few feet away. In addition to the walls, I had no problems with wireless interference from the numerous routers located in surrounding apartments. I applaud Audioengine for making a claim that holds true in a real-world setting and not in some contrived environment.
You could have saved much of your time by not reading the above review, but instead knowing this one fact: you can trust Audioengine’s marketing claims on the AW1. You can read the purported specifications or features on their website and believe them. You can expect a range 30 meters under most real-world settings, not just where there is a clear line-of-sight transmission. I sent my iPod audio 30 meters through three walls with no signal problems. You can also believe that you will have “no reduction in audio quality”, though it should be qualified that there was no perceptible reduction in audio quality. The AW1 deserves an Editors Choice Award for its superior implementation of basic functionality – wirelessly transmitting an audio signal with performance equal to a physical cable.
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