The Audioengine W3 is a wireless audio sender/receiver system which lets you stream sound from one source to three destinations without cables.
Send and receive audio
I've had my eye on the Sonos wireless speaker systems for a while now, but due to the high price and slow release cycle I started shopping around for alternatives.
There's a few wireless speaker setups on the market these days, but not many that let you BYO speakers. While it's possible to set this kind of thing up in software using PulseAudio for instance, a hardware solution simplifies things and is much more reliable.
The AudioEngine A3 is almost configuration free out of the box. You get two USB powered dongles, one a sender and one a receiver which connect to each other automatically. Both have a 3.5 mm jack for input and output respectively, and the sender additionally registers as a USB sound card should you wish to output straight digital audio.
You can purchase an additional two receivers and connect them to the sender for a total of three receivers playing the same sound at once.
Sound qualityWhen I bought the device I was concerned about how the advertised <20 ms latency would affect audio. In practise the latency is completely unnoticeable. The digital input is played immediately with no noticeable lag. I'm pleased to report that the W3s handle film and TV shows perfectly with no incongruities. In terms of sound quality this is a 16 bit uncompressed digital signal. I haven't noticed any problems with audio reproduction, but at the same time the audio equipment I've got it hooked up to isn't especially stellar. I've only had this a couple of days and I've yet to do any kind of serious testing of this device, but from everyday use it's perfectly fine. The specs are as follows:
|Frequency response||20Hz to 20KHz, +/- .2db|
|Input bit depth||up to 16 bits|
|Input sample rate||up to 48KHz|
Flaky signal & preventing dropouts
My initial experience was fairly bad. The audio was working fine, but the sound would intermittently drop out between a fraction and several seconds.
I correlated sound dropouts with wi-fi traffic on my local network, which was interfering with the W3 signal. Shockingly, loading the Twitter homepage on my phone was enough to interrupt the signal and stop the music for the duration.
To get around this I did a few things including changing my wi-fi channel and re-pairing the devices while the network was under load. I wasn't especially scientific about this so I'm not sure what exactly fixed it but the end result is perfect sound with no interruptions at all.
The signal is supposedly good to about 30 metres, but this doesn't account for indoors. In practise the device can transmit through two walls in my house before losing signal which is pretty good. Unfortunately it doesn't white reach my downstairs back yard which may preclude music synchronicity at my next yard party.
Obviously depending on construction materials you may have less or more luck.
Audioengine W3As with the rest of the Audioengine range this is aimed more as a computer peripheral than Sonos for instance which is positioning itself as a full-on home theatre solution.
That said, this has been working great on my home theatre PC for the last couple of days, and I've also swapped it out for playing music on my laptop. It's a pretty cool device and while not as flexible as some other systems, it's cheaper and just as good in reality.