Now here’s a convenient thing: instead of having your iPod or other media device dangling out the back of your hi-fi stereo by an ugly cord, secrete this little lozenge of Bluetooth goodness somewhere and connect wirelessly. Switch your AV rack to the relevant input, and all control reverts to your MP3 player! Of course, there are a couple of limitations…
This is a refreshingly simple device: a basic Bluetooth receiver with a little electronic DAC inside that turns a stream of wireless info into music. Output is via a 3.5mm stereo jack, though Belkin includes a 3.5mm-to-RCA cable as well as a 3.5mm-to-3.5mm. This makes it suitable for really basic all-in-one sound systems as well as a big amp. Though of course, you’re not going to be using it for audiophile-grade tunes.
Simple stuff again: the receiver is always discoverable and doesn’t have any encryption options. Why would it? It only decodes sound, not sensitive data. Plug it in, then go to the Bluetooth option in your music device’s setup menu. The Belkin will appear, click ‘Connect’, and away you go.
Bluetooth on the latest generation iPod Touch is very easy to use – other devices might have slightly more arcane Bluetooth arrangements (such as the need to specify stereo) but it’s easy stuff.
And in the case of iPod and iPhone, unlike when you connect to a dock, the volume controls on the i-device still work.
There’s not much to complain about here: Bluetooth is a well-established protocol that just works. There are two caveats though. First up, Bluetooth’s bandwidth is not especially large so uncompressed audio will get compressed, and that can affect audio quality. If you’re only listening to MP3s, you won’t notice it. Lossless or uncompressed formats will suffer, though.
Secondly, the box claims a range of about 10 metres (33 feet in Ameri-speak), but you’ll be lucky to get this. The unit does seem to be sensitive to architecture, especially things like metal fireplaces or door jams – the audio will stutter or cut out. Recovery is quick if you move, and typical couch-to-stereo range is well within the unit’s limits.
There’s basically no good reason not to buy this handy little receiver. It cleans up the whole business of listening to your latest downloaded album on the big speakers in the living room, and for casual listening, an iPod connected wirelessly to an AV rack is fun indeed.
Our only regret is that it doesn’t offer a digital output. This would enable it to simply pass the audio signal through to a device that’s better equipped to decode it, such as the thousand-dollar AV receiver it will be plugged into! Still, analog-only keeps it simple, and low-cost.
In fact, the only reason for not grabbing one is if you have an AV receiver that already has Bluetooth itself!