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Audioengine B-Fi Review (Streamer)

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Audioengine B-Fi wifi wireless music streamer with included DAC. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $189.

I must say, the packaging for the B-Fi is well above average for a budget streamer:

Audioengine B-Fi Review Streaming Airplay.jpg


You can't quite see it but the shell itself is a nice white color. The back also shows attention to detail with gold plated RCA jacks and such:

Audioengine B-Fi Review back panel Power Supply Streaming Airplay.jpg


As you see, power is provided by a 5-volt USB feed. The supplied adapter is above average with company branding which is nice. Like the inclusion of Toslink Optical out for connection to an external DAC or AVR.

At first I thought the unit had Bluetooth and spent 15 minutes trying to find it on my phone to no avail. Then I realize that is a different model and this one is only WiFi and requires their App for initialization. You have to do the classic connection to its ad-hoc Wifi network and then switch it over to your home network. What an abomination networking people bestowed upon us. Newer NFC cable devices solve this but even then they do a poor of job of having indications on the device and such. Anyway, I better not rant....

I tried to connect to my first Wifi network but it would not work. A note in the manual says it only works with 802.11g. A shame. This was standard practice 10 years ago when faster speeds were more expensive. We don't need the higher speed here but like to see connectivity with 802.11a for compatibility sake. I used my secondary Wifi connection and it worked. I was prompted to upgrade the firmware and an informative screen showed the progress and updated the device.

You can use their app to stream your content which I tested. But I also used Airplay streaming from Roon player on my Windows computer using Roon player. Shame it doesn't support Roon natively as Airplay is limited to 16 bits.

Audioengine B-Fi Measurements
My first test was streaming using Roon player on Windows using Airplay. Here is our dashboard:

Audioengine B-Fi Measurements Streaming Airplay.png


My test tone is 24-bits but with conversion to 16 bits using Airplay, we are limited to about 94 to 96 dB. Here we are way short of that with SINAD of 80 dB. The spectrum looks very messy which is likely a combination of many factors from Airplay conversion to DAC artifacts. To remove the latter, I measured the Toslink digital out:

Audioengine B-Fi Toslink Optical Digital Measurements Streaming Airplay.png


We get 9 dB performance improvement showing the DAC was definitely low quality. So you can use an external DAC and get better performance.

I thought maybe using their App would get around Airplay limitations but this was not the case. Here is analog out performance again:

Audioengine B-Fi App Analog Measurements Streaming Airplay.png


And digital out:

Audioengine B-Fi App Measurements Streaming Airplay.png


There is definitely conversion error there from 24 bits to 16 so I created a native 16 bit test file. Here is that outcome:

Audioengine B-Fi 16 bit 44100 Measurements Streaming Airplay.png


This got rid of a lot of the spurious tones which were created due to bit rate conversion but overall performance is still shy of 16 bit performance.

I ran a quick dynamic range test before calling it quits:
Audioengine B-Fi DNR Measurements Streaming Airplay.png


So this is disappointing as well.

Conclusions
It is a shame that the beauty of the B-Fi streamer is only skin deep. After 40 years since the introduction of the CD 16 bit format, this device still can't provide transparency to the format in either noise or distortion. A DIY Raspberry Pi streamer will produce state of the art performance compared to it so software and architecture is not a problem. Execution and lack of quality checking and standards, is.

Now the thing works and produces music. So if you want to use it, I am not going to complain but clearly no attempt was put in to produce a high-performance device despite this statement on the website:

1630816749747.png


There is nothing high resolution or high definition here. I suspect this device was designed by some other company for Audioengine. If so, I hope they put pressure on them to produce a version 2 that really performs. They can even move up the price to $199 and still be good if it produced the performance of a $9 Apple headphone dongle.

As is, I can't recommend the Audioengine B-Fi based on objective performance.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

respice finem

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I wonder if Toslink without its "dustproof" hatch is the new normal?
 
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amirm

amirm

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I wonder if Toslink without its "dustproof" hatch is the new normal?
I took that off for testing. It came with a cover. I prefer the flip down ones though as it is easy to lose these.
 
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amirm

amirm

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To be fair, this product has been on the market for a very long time.
Has it? In my quick look all the references are to June of last year announcement so just a hair over a year.
 

Billy Budapest

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I had this unit confused with the B1, which has been on the market since 2014. However, the B-Fi just came out in 2020 and to have this level of performance in a new $200 product is inexcusable.
 

Billy Budapest

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Has it? In my quick look all the references are to June of last year announcement so just a hair over a year.
Yeah, I deleted my original post when I realized this was not the B1. It looks exactly like it, though.
 

GimeDsp

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oof.

Finding a company that cares is a big deal.
Current budget audio(even high-end) reminds me of the Atari Pitfall game, alligator eat your money.
 

jhaider

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I had this unit confused with the B1, which has been on the market since 2014. However, the B-Fi just came out in 2020 and to have this level of performance in a new $200 product is inexcusable.

A $200 streamer released in 2020 that doesn't support AirPlay 2? Guess those AirPort Expresses will be sticking around for a while.
 

Koeitje

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B-Fi? What does that mean? Bad Fidelity?
 

kukocz

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Looking at the app interface we can easily assume that they're using either easy to implement Arylic Up2stream Mini modules or (at least) Link Play a31 module with their own pcb motherboard.
One way or another this is very popular solution for cheap streamers (for example Audiocast streamers).
In the past I wanted to build simple streamer based on Arylic module but I found that spdif output is fixed sample rate (although modules are advertised as hi-res audio because they can accept up to 192kHz).
Now I have clear confirmation that implementation is poor and meant to be used in mobile implementations.
Here is the list of LinkPlay powered products.
 

vkvedam

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Headless panther written all over it right from word go ;)
 

AudioSceptic

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Audioengine B-Fi wifi wireless music streamer with included DAC. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $189.

I must say, the packaging for the B-Fi is well above average for a budget streamer:

View attachment 151501

You can't quite see it but the shell itself is a nice white color. The back also shows attention to detail with gold plated RCA jacks and such:

View attachment 151502

As you see, power is provided by a 5-volt USB feed. The supplied adapter is above average with company branding which is nice. Like the inclusion of Toslink Optical out for connection to an external DAC or AVR.

At first I thought the unit had Bluetooth and spent 15 minutes trying to find it on my phone to no avail. Then I realize that is a different model and this one is only WiFi and requires their App for initialization. You have to do the classic connection to its ad-hoc Wifi network and then switch it over to your home network. What an abomination networking people bestowed upon us. Newer NFC cable devices solve this but even then they do a poor of job of having indications on the device and such. Anyway, I better not rant....

I tried to connect to my first Wifi network but it would not work. A note in the manual says it only works with 802.11g. A shame. This was standard practice 10 years ago when faster speeds were more expensive. We don't need the higher speed here but like to see connectivity with 802.11a for compatibility sake. I used my secondary Wifi connection and it worked. I was prompted to upgrade the firmware and an informative screen showed the progress and updated the device.

You can use their app to stream your content which I tested. But I also used Airplay streaming from Roon player on my Windows computer using Roon player. Shame it doesn't support Roon natively as Airplay is limited to 16 bits.

Audioengine B-Fi Measurements
My first test was streaming using Roon player on Windows using Airplay. Here is our dashboard:

View attachment 151505

My test tone is 24-bits but with conversion to 16 bits using Airplay, we are limited to about 94 to 96 dB. Here we are way short of that with SINAD of 80 dB. The spectrum looks very messy which is likely a combination of many factors from Airplay conversion to DAC artifacts. To remove the latter, I measured the Toslink digital out:

View attachment 151506

We get 9 dB performance improvement showing the DAC was definitely low quality. So you can use an external DAC and get better performance.

I thought maybe using their App would get around Airplay limitations but this was not the case. Here is analog out performance again:

View attachment 151508

And digital out:

View attachment 151509

There is definitely conversion error there from 24 bits to 16 so I created a native 16 bit test file. Here is that outcome:

View attachment 151510

This got rid of a lot of the spurious tones which were created due to bit rate conversion but overall performance is still shy of 16 bit performance.

I ran a quick dynamic range test before calling it quits:
View attachment 151511

So this is disappointing as well.

Conclusions
It is a shame that the beauty of the B-Fi streamer is only skin deep. After 40 years since the introduction of the CD 16 bit format, this device still can't provide transparency to the format in either noise or distortion. A DIY Raspberry Pi streamer will produce state of the art performance compared to it so software and architecture is not a problem. Execution and lack of quality checking and standards, is.

Now the thing works and produces music. So if you want to use it, I am not going to complain but clearly no attempt was put in to produce a high-performance device despite this statement on the website:

View attachment 151512

There is nothing high resolution or high definition here. I suspect this device was designed by some other company for Audioengine. If so, I hope they put pressure on them to produce a version 2 that really performs. They can even move up the price to $199 and still be good if it produced the performance of a $9 Apple headphone dongle.

As is, I can't recommend the Audioengine B-Fi based on objective performance.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
Amir, I'm puzzled by your Wi-Fi issues with this device. Surely each gen of Wi-Fi is compatible with all previous gens? And did you mean 802.11ac or 802.11ax when you said 802.11a? 11a was an early standard going back 20+ years!
 

MZKM

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Amir, I'm puzzled by your Wi-Fi issues with this device. Surely each gen of Wi-Fi is compatible with all previous gens? And did you mean 802.11ac or 802.11ax when you said 802.11a? 11a was an early standard going back 20+ years!
Maybe he meant if it’s using g instead of n (ac is too niche), to save money, why not just go all the way back to a.
 

AudioSceptic

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Maybe he meant if it’s using g instead of n (ac is too niche), to save money, why not just go all the way back to a.
This is what I don't get "I tried to connect to my first Wifi network but it would not work. A note in the manual says it only works with 802.11g."
 

F1308

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Routers can be adjusted to AUTO (allow connection for any device) or to a specific type, be it A,B,G,N,AC...
The speed of the network usually is restricted to the top speed the slowest device is capable of.
Therefore, spending money on an AC router to connect a guest with B capabilities will render the network very slow. Once you set AC as the required connection, the speed will be great for AC devices, but others will have no acces.
 
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