Audioengine B2 Bluetooth speaker system: another listener’s experience
My colleague Oliver has provided a very thorough account of this little speaker’s’ technical make-up and prowess. Having now spent a few months with this box myself, I want to add a few more listening and use observations from the perspective of someone dipping their toes into digital convenience.
The sample I received was nicely finished in walnut, and does not look out of place in a typical domestic environment. It is surprisingly heavy, which does convey the idea that this is no toy but a true audio component. Set-up is simple, I opened the box, set it on a nearby kitchen counter, plugged it in and within minutes had partnered the B2 successfully with my iPhone, my iPad and my MacAir. The process is simple, open up your bluetooth settings, push the pairing button on the back of the speaker then wait for it to appear in your device menu. Select it to activate it as the audio output, and then play music. It really was simple for each device. Months later, the pairings still appear first time, though on occasion I have to reactivate one or other to make it all happen. Sure, you can connect directly via cable but the beauty of this little speaker is its mobility, its ease of placement to listen in places where your normal audio components won’t reach.
And moving it all around the place is exactly what I have been doing for the last few months. The B2 served as the main sound provider in my kitchen area where public radio is constantly on, occasionally giving way to music streaming from my iPad. It’s been moved into living areas when full blown listening to the main rig is not an option, and the convenience factor of just having the scale of sound you want close to hand cannot be underestimated. Finally, and where the B2 has proved a wonderful addition to my domestic set up, is in the breeze room out back where I can stream music for outside meals or drinks on summer evenings. So good is it in this location that I can sit on the deck outside the breeze room and both control and hear the B2 clearly from my iPad while sitting 25 feet away.
So, how does the Audioengine B2 sound? The word that immediately comes to mind when hearing it is big; it just sounds way bigger than it looks. The dual 2.75” woofers offer up more sound than you would think possible in terms of fullness. In the right space, you can forget the size and just enjoy decent rich sonics that don’t sound tinny or strained like so many other small driver portables. The B2 also sounds big in terms of volume. Never once did I feel it could not go loud enough for me, even when sitting 25 ft away; quite a trick really when you experience it.
Characteristically, the sound is warm, bass-rich, with the upper treble slightly rolled off. Consequently, the B2 never sounds etched or sharp, further enhancing the strain-free, room-filling impression it provides. For some, this might be a tad too warm. I do think that for spoken word radio, the B2 could sound a little too heavy for my tastes at time, and I found myself wanting to tweak the audio balance slightly for a flatter sound. Initially, my wife thought that the treble on voices had an irritating leading edge harshness but this impression faded over time. Speaker break-in, listener adjustment, or an artifact of the Bluetooth connection? Who knows for sure but it’s not a major concern as over time the speaker proved again and again to offer an enjoyable and surprisingly well-resolved listening experience.
One final move was to use it in my main listening space, a 25x18ft living room where I run my Von Schweikert VR5 Anni II speakers and reference gear. Positioned on the top shelf of the center rack, and connected to the clean power provided by the Audience amp filters I use, the B2 nearly caused my wife to leap from her skin when I suddenly played the Tsuyoshi Trio’s Midnight Sugar album, the deep bass of the opening notes of the title track filling the room with ease. In fact, I let several albums over several days play like this before anyone twigged that it was the B2 that was playing. No, the VR5s haven’t met their sonic match but it’s clear that the B2 plays very well in a large space, in fact I like listening to it best of all in areas where it has room to breath and let the music flow rather than nearfield set-ups where its fullness of sound can be a little overpowering. In office or desktop settings, I prefer to position the B2 on the other side of the room, which the Bluetooth connection easily enables.
To sum up, at its price, the B2 is simply beyond reproach. It is the best bluetooth speaker I’ve heard, and while that might damn the product with faint praise, it really does offer the type of enjoyable musical reproduction you can expect from a pair of decent mini monitors. Its ease of set-up, and generally flawless operation over multiple uses and settings, means this is an entry to streaming music that even the most technically-wary can handle and almost anyone can afford. Give it space, connect your portable device, and take the music with you. This is simply the best affordable component I’ve experienced. Highly recommended.