W3 Wireless Audio Adapter Review
A true Swiss Army Knife!
Company & Product Overview
They were one of the first brands that we partnered with upon launching the online division of Audio Advice back in 2015, and they’ve been great to work with. They’re good people that love creating high-quality products. What’s more important than that?
While their speakers earned them their great reputation, there is a little gem in their product lineup that we thought deserves more attention. The Audioengine W3 may just seem like a basic wireless adapter at first glance, but it’s really a Swiss Army knife.
The W3 kit is a package of a sender, receiver, and power supply. Get a little creative with this $149 device, and the possibilities are endless.
Design & Build Quality
The W3’s design is nice enough, but it’s more of a “behind the scenes” type of product, so you’re not going to be inviting people over to show off its great looks.
The package comes with everything you need to get started. You’ll get two dongles -- one sender and one receiver, each with a USB end. Also included in the box is a power supply, two mini audio cables and a female mini to dual RCA (or “Y” adapter).
Each piece has a small mini plug connector for the audio cables, and since they look identical, there is a little icon with an arrow pointing away from the mini plug and into the plug to indicate receiving or sending. If that is not enough, the sender has a little picture of a rocket ship and the receiver has one of Saturn.
Each little dongle is well made for what it is, but it’s a $149 device, so it’s all plastic. This actually turns out to be a good thing in the sense that the dongles will typically plug into the back of a component and will be hanging down, so being constructed of lightweight plastic helps reduce any stress on the inputs.
Features & Technology
Unlike a lot of wireless audio transmitters, the team at Audioengine put a lot of work into making sure that the audio quality is as good as possible. High-quality DAC’s (digital audio converters) are used at both ends, in order to provide CD quality sound. They also have a very high signal to noise ratio and super low distortion, so your sound is not altered as it passes from the sender to the receiver.
Another big advantage these DAC’s comes into play when you are using the W3 system with your computer. In this situation, you’ll connect the USB end of the sender into your computer and it will take over the audio side of things. Instead of the audio passing through the low-end audio card in your computer, it will all be routed through the far better DAC in the W3 sender.
The wireless solution they chose uses the Texas Instruments PurePath. TI developed this for USB wireless as a system on a chip solution. It’s capable of a pretty amazing 100’ range.
This wireless system requires you to “pair” devices that will communicate with each other. When you get the W3 package, the two units are paired. However, the system allows you to add up to 3 more receivers. It’s a pretty simple pairing process to get them all working together.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the creative ways you could use this “Swiss Army Knife!”
For those of you who don’t know, Audio Advice is not only the fastest growing online retailer of audio products in the US, but we also have two stores and do some very high-end residential installations.
As you can imagine, we’ve pretty much seen it all. Our team is staffed with some of the best designers, installers, and technicians in the industry, so we love being presented with a challenge. The W3 is a great tool that we use in many cases to creatively solve problems in our customer's homes.
Here are a few examples.
Computer to Powered Speakers
Connect the sender into the USB port on your computer. Connect the receiver to the analog input on your speakers. That’s it.
You’ll be able to play anything on your computer through your speakers. Of course, this will work with any powered speakers. The great part about this is your computer does not even have to be in the same room!
Computer to Main Audio System
Connect the sender into the USB port on your computer and the receiver to the analog input on your audio system. You’ll be able to play anything on your computer through your home stereo system.
You’ll just need to use the little adapters that come with the kit or better yet, upgrade to an AudioQuest mini to dual RCA high-performance audio cable.
Phone to Powered Speakers or Audio System
If you want audio quality that is better than what Bluetooth can provide from your phone, the W3 will help. Or perhaps you do not have a bluetooth receiver on your powered speakers or legacy audio system.
Simply connect the headphone jack on your phone to the sender and connect the receiver’s analog out into your powered speakers or stereo system. Now you can play anything on your phone through your system.
Add a Subwoofer to Your Audio System Without Wires
This one will require one more cable. You’ll need RCA’s at each end, but simply connect your subwoofer out on your home theater system to the sender and connect the receiver to your subwoofer audio input. Voila! Wireless subwoofer!
Add a Pair of Wireless Surround Speakers to Your Home Theater System
We recommend using a pair of self-powered speakers for this and you’ll likely need another audio cable. You’ll also want to make sure your home theater receiver has preamp outputs for the rear channels (most do).
Just connect the sender to the preamp outs for the rears and connect the receiver to a powered pair of speakers. Place them in the back of your room and you’ll have instant surround sound. Of course you will want to balance the levels.
Create a Wireless Zone 2
Many home theater receivers made in the last 10 years have a zone 2 output which lets you send signals from the receiver to a second zone of audio. The catch is that you have to get wires to that second zone.
The W3 package solves this with a snap! Just connect the sender up to the Zone 2 pre-outs and the receiver end into the home theater receiver or powered speakers you want to use for zone
DIY Whole House Music
If you’re interested in creating a simple whole-house music system, you could piece one together using the W3, a few extra W3 receivers, and perhaps an old stereo receiver. Add on receivers are only $89 each.
Let’s say your audio system is in one room, but that comfortable chair you like to sit in and relax is in another room. Take the Zone 2, preamp out, or tape out from your audio system and connect it up to the sender. Get yourself a small headphone amp, connect it up to the receiver and you’ll be able to relax and escape the world with your headphones in another room. This also works great by sending the audio out via your computer to the headphone amp.
There are probably a few more use cases out there, but this gives you a good idea of all the possible scenarios this great little “Swiss Army Knife” can solve!
We do need to point out that both the sender and receiver need a source of power. In the case of the computer as the sender or some powered speakers, you could use the USB connection to supply power, but in many of these you just need another one of those little power blocks that plugs into the wall and has a female USB connector, like your phone charger.
Like all Audioengine products, the W3 just works! While we did not try going the full 100 feet, we did find it that it worked great around 50 feet away.
There is a tiny bit of audio lag introduced by the DAC’s and WiFi sender. The spec from Audioengine quotes it as less than 20 milliseconds. This does have some small ramifications for use with a subwoofer or surround speakers as the signal will be slightly more delayed than if it was a direct wire connection. To fix this, we would recommend that you set up less than the measured distance delay in your home theater receiver when you set things up. In most rooms, you would just tell your system the distance is the minimum it will let you put in and you should be fine.
Of course, for all other applications, you will not hear it.
The Audioengine W3 will let you get high-quality audio from one place to another with ease! It may not be a set of towers speakers, a multi-thousand dollar integrated amp or a gorgeous turntable, but it’s a very cool toy that has a million different possible applications.
We think that everyone should have one. You’ll constantly find new uses for it.
HIGH NOTES UNPACKED
Uses USB or analog to send sound 100ft without compression
Experience the ease of pairing within seconds without downloading a thing
Transmits up to three receivers
Port your signal from one to three receivers for an entire home audio experience