I have had my hands on quite a few 2.1 amplifier boards. Some are good and some are…well to say it nicely…not. But typically the ones I like the most give you the most control. They will have a dedicated high pass on the main speakers, to protect them and allow for seamless integration with the subwoofer. Even better when you can adjust everything independently. Something like this tpa board. It has 5 different knobs giving you the best control, offers a decent array of inputs, such as bluetooth and aux in. And up until now, was really one of the best units I had reviewed. But even that one that offered so much still came up short.
Mainly it did this, because when I think 2.1 boards, I think of the ability to use them as a soundbar or a 2.1 system for your television. Unfortunately with many televisions getting rid of the stereo audio output and going toward fiber optic and HDMI arc, it is becoming increasingly hard to use those boards in that type of setup. And this is really where the Arylic steps up to the plate. It offers more array of inputs as I have seen on any 2.1 board, the flexibility of digital signal processing to give the greatest control of sound adjustments and even offers the ability to stream audio to your entire house (think Sonos).
Before we dive too far in, let’s take a look at it’s specs provided from Arylic.
One spec you see will be missing is fiber optic. I know, you are thinking, why bring up fiber optic, if this board also doesn’t have it? Quite simple really…it does! Sort of…What I mean to say is it does not come standard with Fiber Optic. However, this board offers add on modules. These include modules such as Fiber Optic and digital coax in or out, rca out, button boards and more. You will really want to see everything they have to offer, found here. It is quite impressive. But for me, the ability to have fiber optic and digital coax in, is extremely important if you want to connect to some of today’s digital equipment.
What you will first notice about this board is it’s ability to connect to your wireless network. It also offers dedicated Ethernet if you are a true techy and have everything hardwired. This is due to the fact that you can connect this amplifier up to your wireless network. Once you have done this, you can download the Android or iPhone app called 4Stream. This app gives you multiple options. The first is that it can stream one of their providers directly from your phone. It can even access your music on your computer or phone through DLNA. This means you can now stream music that is downloaded on your computer to your 2.1 Arylic unit. However that is just the tip of the iceberg.
This also offers multi-room or whole house audio. What this means, is if you buy more of these Arylic units, you can link them all in the app. Then you can play the exact same song to any or all the devices you select. You can also group these devices, so some or all of them can be playing entirely different music. THis makes this a very powerful unit. If you want to understand more about it, check out how Arylic explains it here.
What if you don’t want to connect it to your WiFi, is there any other ways to hook this up? Yes there is. Besides the optional expansion boards mentioned earlier, you can also use a 3.5mm cable or even use bluetooth. This even uses the most current version of bluetooth, 5.0. On top of that, it offers the ability to hook up a USB full of music to pay to it and it has a micro USB to connect directly to your computer. This is called a DAC (or digital to analog conversion). Which will decode 24bit/192Khz, much better sound than you would receive hooking it up via a normal 3.5 able. Suffice to say, you have a lot of options on how you want to hook this up. The best part is, that any of the above connections can also be streamed to your whole house using the aforementioned WiFi and app. But how do you change inputs?
If you use the App, there is a setting on the left hand side that allows you the change the input. However if you are close enough to it, you can just push the power button in. This quickly changes the inputs. In fact, all the knobs on the front have secondary functions that will be enabled when pushing the knob in. In fact, just pushing in the tone or bass knob will change the selected crossover from 80hz-200hz. This will stop your main speakers from playing too much bass and your subwoofer from playing too much midrange. This will not only protect your drivers, but will allow you to have much greater control of how it sounds. And for those who don’t want to build this into a project, they do offer an optional acrylic case.
This also offers an optional remote control. That way you can control the volume from far away. This allows easy switching of inputs, skipping songs, changing the volume and even some EQ settings. And the EQ is where this continues to set itself aside from the competition.
Typically when you buy an amplifier you are left to however it sounds and your speakers sound. Sometimes you are left wondering ,why does my desktop system not sound as good as even a cheaper bluetooth speaker. That’s because a lot of those units will use DSP which gives you greater control of how your speakers sound. IN fact they can extend your bass response or even add a bass boost. But typically, boards like this, you are left with limited features to control your sound. That is until now.
Arylic offers a simple DSP program called ACP workbench to do exactly that with your 2.1 system. That means you can completely customize this unit to sound however you want. You want it to be a mono board, no worries, you can change that. You want to extend your bass response, you can do that as well. Add bass boost? Increase treble? completely alter certain frequencies? It does all this. Now this can be turned on or off at anytime. All you have to do is hook up your board via micro usb to a windows computer, that you have purchased the optional ACP workbench. This will then give you full control to a graphical dsp. There are some preprogrammed to the board, while others you can manually adjust certain frequencies and the Q. By changing the Q you will change how wide or narrow that change will occur. It truly is a way to get much more out of your speakers than they were originally intended. And you can take a blah system and make it surprisingly good. However, you may need to get used to the program. Either way you can change it at any time, so no worries if it takes you some time to learn. I should mention that you do have to buy ACP Workbench, but it is minimal and the license is for one computer. So you do not have to buy it again unless you decide to get another computer.
As you can see there is a lot to love about this amplifier. The real question is there anything I do not like about it. Well there are a few things I would like to see improved. First, I am not a fan of how the speaker wire connects to the board. The green terminal is used to screw in your speaker wire. This detaches from the board, you screw in your speaker wire and then attach it back to the board. There is nothing wrong with this, but I would rather see banana jacks. That would allow me to use a little thicker speaker wire if I wanted to.
Honestly, for the price, even if you guy the option add-ons, I think this is by far the best vale and best 2.1 board I have reviewed to date. It is what I plan to use on my own computer system. And I really look forward to doing some quick DSP to speakers I am testing just to see if I can get just a bit more performance from them.