The D-Link WiFi Audio Extender does double duty as a way to connect your smartphone to speakers without wires, as well as extending the range of your Wi-Fi network. It’s a pity, though, that it doesn’t work with every audio app.
D-Link WiFi Audio Extender: On the plus side
As a piece of hardware, the D-Link WiFi Audio Extender isn’t much to look at.
In fact, it’s a plug. You’re probably familiar with plugs if you’re reading this. The D-Link WiFi Audio Extender is a plug with a hole in the top, and historically speaking, plugs with holes of them suggest breakage, and that’s not a good thing.
The D-Link WiFi Audio Extender’s hole, however, is a 3.5mm audio jack, because it’s designed to fix a specific problem. There are, as I’ve noted previously, no shortage of Bluetooth speakers if you want something small and portable to stream your tunes to. The issue is that most of those speakers offer only ordinary audio at best, and involve adding another speaker to your home where you may already have a quite high-end sound system. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
The D-Link WiFi Audio Extender’s pitch is that you can use it to turn any set of speakers into wireless speakers via 3.5mm audio jack. That means that, presuming you’re streaming suitably high bitrate material that you can take advantage of better audio while being able to stream in a wireless fashion.
The WiFi Audio Extender isn’t a one trick pony, either. It sells itself as an audio extender, but it’s also a fully capable 802.11b/g/n WiFi repeater, which means you can hook it into your existing Wi-Fi network to extend its range around where you place the D-Link WiFi Audio Extender.
Setup of the D-Link WiFi Audio Extender is quite simple, using either WPS or D-Link’s own QRS Mobile configuration app, which is a free download. It walks you through configuring the repeater onto your network once you’ve connected to the repeater itself. You can also optionally change its default SSID and password settings if you wish.
The general throughput of Wi-Fi, unless for some reason you are still chugging along on ancient 802.11b gear is more than enough to handle audio streams, so I wasn’t surprised that there were no real issues streaming music to the D-Link WiFi Audio Extender. Once nice surprise here, having tested a number of Bluetooth audio extenders is that you’ve got to go a solid and essentially impractical distance from the extender and a connected speaker before the audio will cut out. Basically, anywhere it can get even a sniff of a Wi-Fi signal from the D-Link WiFi Audio Extender, it can send audio. That’s a big plus.
D-Link WiFi Audio Extender: On the minus side
As with any repeater, the connection from the D-Link WiFi Audio Extender feeds through to a connected device, so you can stay on your home or office Wi-Fi network for data purposes. That’s a big plus, right up until your data connection goes offline, at which point you’ve got to troubleshoot both the repeater and the original data source — which adds complexity. Equally, it means that in order to actually use the D-Link WiFi Audio Extender for audio, you’ve got to connect only to its Wi-Fi network. If you’ve got devices set to connect to your primary Wi-Fi network, it’s feasible you might have to tweak settings to make the D-Link WiFi Audio Extender your primary connection.
The D-Link WiFi Audio Extender sends audio via either UPNP or Airplay, which means that unlike a Bluetooth repeater, you can’t just use any particular music playback application. I’ve been testing the D-Link WiFi Audio Extender head to head with the Belkin HD Bluetooth Music Receiver, and the difference is quite stark. In order to use the D-Link WiFi Audio Extender, your app of choice has to support either AirPlay or UPNP natively, which means that applications such as Pandora and Spotify aren’t natively compatible. There are software workarounds for this, hooking into Spotify via self-hosted servers, but it’s not exactly hassle-free.
One oddity with the D-Link WiFi Audio Extender is that despite its audio focus, it doesn’t come with a 3.5mm audio extension cable to connect to the speaker of your choice. It’s a small thing, but I could see someone being righteously annoyed to get the D-Link WiFi Audio Extender home only to find that they have to procure an additional cable to actually make it work.
D-Link WiFi Audio Extender: Pricing
The D-Link WiFi Audio Extender has an RRP of $79.95.
D-Link WiFi Audio Extender: Fat Duck Verdict
I’m quite torn between the Belkin HD Bluetooth Music Receiver and the D-Link WiFi Audio Extender, because while they both ostensibly serve the same purpose, namely streaming your phone, tablet or laptop audio out to existing speakers, they do so in quite different ways and with different overall results.
If you want absolute best-quality audio from your music sources, it’s hard to overlook the Belkin HD Bluetooth Music Receiver’s output potential — as long as you don’t wander too far away from it.
On the other hand, the range of the D-Link WiFi Audio Extender simply cannot be beat, and it acts as a repeater to boot. The downside there is that it’s trickier to get an app that will stream due to its UPnP/AirPlay limitations.
Ultimately that’s a matter of your usage scenario; if all you want is audio then buy the Belkin, but if the repeater function has utility for you, then the D-Link is a better bet.