I wanted to get one in IMMEDIATELY because I love AudioEngine and pretty much everything they do. So here we are. I have a B-FI and I really do love it.
The B-FI bears a striking resemblance to the AudioEngine B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver but it is a markedly different product. I mention this largely because I have been using a B1 for my outdoor audio system and it has been an excellent product but it is hamstrung by the native playback range of Bluetooth. The B1 sounds great and works flawlessly but it can’t play music streamed from my tablet unless I stay within the confines of our patio area. The hot tub is out of range. So, with the B1, we would have to leave the tablet in the patio area and then you would have to get up out of the pool to change anything (like track, album, volume, any of it).
Enter the B-FI. This bad boy works via WiFi. It also has very low-noise ESS DAC’s in there. You can even sprinkle B-FI’s throughout your home and stream the same or different music to each one which offers the advantage of being a whole-home prospect but without wires.
From a technical standpoint, while the B-FI will accept high-resolution music files through DLNA, UPnP, or high res streaming apps, it will downsample audio to 16/44.1 for playback.
The way this works is you pair the unit to your WiFi network via the AudioEngine app that you can download to your smart device. I had trouble getting it to connect at first and even figured the unit was faulty. So I requested a replacement which AudioEngine promptly mailed out.
The new unit was acting the same way and so I called the mothership to get to the bottom of this. Well, the issue was quite simply resolved – the B-FI connects at 2.4 GHz, not 5 GHz. The guys at AudioEngine had already told me this about fourteen times and I finally got it after the 15th because fourteen times was just one too few. I am “terco” as they say in Texas where AudioEngine hails.
Now that I had it hooked up I must say it has been very stable and reliable. I do not remember having to reset it a single time in many months. My tablet or phone connects to it every time without a hitch. The B-FI can exist in an Apple universe as an Airplay device. That is cool. It’s biggest trick (depending on a few outside factors) is that the device streams music directly from the router without passing through your device.
This is how it works with Qobuz which I use the most. With Google Play, I need to connect via Airplay. I am not sure I hear a big difference between the two. I am using this in an outdoor setting so naturally, the system isn’t the most revealing. But it is revealing enough that I could hear a very significant improvement over the prior Bluetooth interface of the B1 that the B-FI replaced.
Now we can hang out in the pool and have complete control without getting out and drying off, etc. I even went out and bought a waterproof case for my iPad. I have been loving it.
The AudioEngine B-FI is a very useful and reliable tool. It was simple to connect and remains stable over several months of use. The upgraded ESS DACs provide excellent audio quality and there is an optical out if you want to use your external DAC.
The AudioEngine app can play music off Tidal, Qobuz, iHeart Radio, Napster, Spotify, and TuneIn. It can handle high res streaming off Qobuz to boot. If your streaming service of choice is not included in this list you can always use Airplay as I have been via Google Play for example.
So that is all very cool but I think the best feature may be that you can install multiple B-FIs around your home then add powered monitors (or complex systems) in each room and you have an instant multi-zone solution with little sweat or capital outlay.
Each B-FI is only $189 and they can go toe-to-toe with many high-end streamers in terms of functionality and audio quality. I highly recommend the AudioEngine B-FI.