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Audioengine B-Fi Review (Streamer)

sarumbear

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I don't believe these will provide any audible difference compared to regular bluetooth connections, but then again, why not?
Bluetooth audio connection is inferior. Bluetooth connections use compressed audio, whereas AirPlay use uncompressed. Depending on the encoder used, quality differs but the 16-bit 44.1kHz limit of AirPlay is nowhere as bad as any Bluetooth codec’s effect on sound quality.
 

sarumbear

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Like Chromecast Audio, but inferior performance. I guess that's all there's to it.
Other than the 16-bit 44kHz limit I can’t see why AirPlay is much inferior.

Are there any tests of a Chromecast device around?
 

Luke Lemke

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Bluetooth audio connection is inferior. Bluetooth connections use compressed audio, whereas AirPlay use uncompressed. Depending on the encoder used, quality differs but the 16-bit 44.1kHz limit of AirPlay is nowhere as bad as any Bluetooth codec’s effect on sound quality.
If you use a Bluetooth connection like aptX, we're talking about a bitrate of 352 kbps. Anything "above" that bitrate is nearly impossible to be heard by human hears. When it comes to headphones, It might be possible to detect the difference in audio quality, but I'm guessing this device is supposed to be used for speakers. In that case, 99.99% of people will not notice the difference between a compressed audio file and whatever this streaming device will provide. If you disagree with my statement, please do a blind test.
 
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amirm

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I confess to being confused (nothing new these days lol). I thought when the digital output was used the device was simply a bridge and the output reflected whatever was put in, e.g. spotify premium at 380, Tidal at CD, etc. Thus when using the digital output one streamer was as good as another with regards to signal quality, and we would choose based on the interface, build quality etc. I'm using the digital output of the Node 2i in my systems and assuming that the SQ I get is not related to the Node2i but to the DAC and other components downstream. What am I missing here?
Ideally it would work this way and indeed it does in many streamers. There are some barriers here though:

1. Measurements. I always perform measurements with 24 bits. To the extent the transport or device doesn't support 24 bit, we see artifacts generated. In general, the conversion is done poorly with truncation rather than proper dither. Where it is happening in the stack, I don't know. To the extent you don't play anything that is 24 bits, then this becomes a measurement artifact.

Unfortunately in this case even feeding the device 16 bit content, it didn't produce the theoretically correct digital output. It may have some processing pipeline for audio that is performing conversions. It can also have a noisy digital output clock

2. Transport. We can only get transparency if the wireless transport supports 24 bits. Airplay clearly does not and in my past testing, can limit performance to 94 dB or so. This is why I always like to see Roon supported as that provides same as wire transport fidelity. If you don't use Roon, then this won't work for you anyway.

Tons of streamers do this right so the solution is out there and general rule as you stated applies. But we need to measure to be sure especially in the case of budget, OEM designs like this.
 

Luke Lemke

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May I ask what you expect from ASR? This is a forum where almost all tests are objective.
I didn't mean to be rude, sorry about that. I guess what I'm saying is that most people will not hear the difference between a streamer device like this and regular Bluetooth connections. In other words, people should spend their money elsewhere. Additionally, blind tests are objective, IMO. What I expect from ASR is mostly headphone reviews and I can tell you I'm learning a lot.
 

dougi

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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.
Yep, definately Arylic/LinkPlay module I think. Here is a plot of my Arylic s50+ pro, digital in, analog out with 16 bit tone. Identical to Amir's last plot.

s50 d2a 1k thd 48k.jpg
 

sarumbear

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… most people will not hear the difference between a streamer device like this and regular Bluetooth connections. In other words, people should spend their money elsewhere.
I personally don’t care what “most people” think. I want to know what the SOTA is. From what I read most posters agree with me.

For what it is worth I can hear the difference between a BT AptX transmission and an AirPlay one. I am happy to spend more to have better audio quality. However, I’m not happy to hear from others where I “should” spend my money.
 

Luke Lemke

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I personally don’t care what “most people” think. I want to know what the SOTA is. From what I read most posters agree with me.

For what it is worth I can hear the difference between a BT AptX transmission and an AirPlay one. I am happy to spend more to have better audio quality. However, I’m not happy to hear from others where I “should” spend my money.
OK. Have you been able to hear the difference between BT AptX and AirPlay one in a blind test?
 
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amirm

amirm

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I didn't mean to be rude, sorry about that. I guess what I'm saying is that most people will not hear the difference between a streamer device like this and regular Bluetooth connections.
Lossy Bluetooth codecs like Aptx severely degrade fidelity and will absolutely be audible to many people. SBC is better and LDAC is the best but still, they produce content specific distortions that just can't be characterized broadly.
 

Eetu

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Other than the 16-bit 44kHz limit I can’t see why AirPlay is much inferior.

Are there any tests of a Chromecast device around?
Amir has tested Chromecast Audio's digital output here with a separate thread for analog out. Archimago's measurements can be found here. Other than jitter being quite high it did good.

Yeah, haven't heard there's anything wrong with AirPlay (not an Apple user myself). I was only referring to this particular device (B-Fi).
 

Bombadil

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Ideally it would work this way and indeed it does in many streamers. There are some barriers here though:

1. Measurements. I always perform measurements with 24 bits. To the extent the transport or device doesn't support 24 bit, we see artifacts generated. In general, the conversion is done poorly with truncation rather than proper dither. Where it is happening in the stack, I don't know. To the extent you don't play anything that is 24 bits, then this becomes a measurement artifact.

Unfortunately in this case even feeding the device 16 bit content, it didn't produce the theoretically correct digital output. It may have some processing pipeline for audio that is performing conversions. It can also have a noisy digital output clock

2. Transport. We can only get transparency if the wireless transport supports 24 bits. Airplay clearly does not and in my past testing, can limit performance to 94 dB or so. This is why I always like to see Roon supported as that provides same as wire transport fidelity. If you don't use Roon, then this won't work for you anyway.

Tons of streamers do this right so the solution is out there and general rule as you stated applies. But we need to measure to be sure especially in the case of budget, OEM designs like this.
Thanks for the clarification. We all seem clear on what happens when the digital information "leaves" the streamer and heads for the DAC but exactly what is happening within the transport device is murky to many.
 

wwenze

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5m06bt.jpg
 

Paolo

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Belkin just released an AirPlay 2 only receiver for $100
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B094LGLJB9/
webdam.web.1000.1000.jpeg


Would love to this tested.

Many people just want to add AirPlay to their stereo amps.

Received mine this Friday, easy to configure if you're already an Apple user.
My chain is iPhone/iPad with airplay -> Belkin Soundform -> ADI2 DAC FS -> Audiophonics MPA-S250NC -> Elac DBR 62
I can't hear distortions, obviously it doesn't mean there are none, it only means that the quality will probably be enough for many of us.

I was looking for an easy way to use airplay with the ADI2, no interest over BT or specific streaming services, this Belkin device is functionally perfect.
 

Ralph_Cramden

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The Belkin device uses a newer version of the Linkplay module used in the Audioengine B-Fi. The newer module supports AirPlay 2, and hopefully measures better than the A31 module. Since these Linkplay modules are primarily targeted at low cost, mass market portable speakers, though, signal quality probably isn’t a priority.
 

infinitesymphony

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Belkin just released an AirPlay 2 only receiver for $100
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B094LGLJB9/
webdam.web.1000.1000.jpeg


Would love to this tested.

Many people just want to add AirPlay to their stereo amps.
Nice! With the discontinuation of Chromecast Audio ($35 MSRP), there are a number of audio people looking for an easy non-computer solution for lossless digital network streaming. Shame about the price of this device in comparison, and the reviews are not looking good, but this is a niche that should be filled.
 

jhaider

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I didn't mean to be rude, sorry about that. I guess what I'm saying is that most people will not hear the difference between a streamer device like this and regular Bluetooth connections.

Totally different use case, so the comparison doesn’t get at the differences.

Bluetooth is a local peer to peer system. You can stream to a local end point, IF nothing else is paired with it, you’re close enough to it, etc. AirPlay is a network system. Any device on the same local network can stream to an AirPlay end point. AirPlay2 adds, inter alia, multi room capability.
 
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