Good reception without dropouts, all the way out to 30 to 50 feet. Connects seamlessly and pairs quickly with enabled devices. Responsive customer service. Can transmit to multiple speakers simultaneously.
Audio volume is too low for some users. Occasionally unpairs from some devices and must be reset. Battery life is just OK.
Surprisingly full feature set for the money. Allows two simultaneous devices. Supplied with both solid plug and cable options. Easy to use controls. Works with Apple Siri.
Battery life shorter than expected. Connectivity can be hit-or-miss.
Bridges easily between home automation devices like Echo and sound systems. Multiple device pairing possible. Compact and low profile.
Some stuttering and dropout at longer range or behind walls. No battery backup (though that’s not a big deal for home stereo use). Slight latency even at close range.
Fast setup and good audio quality. Little interference even in multiple-frequency wireless environments.
Does not work well between rooms. Noticeable latency, especially when watching TV or using input devices like keyboards. No battery backup. Install instructions can be confusing.
Instant setup, with no buttons to press. Pairs immediately with compatible sound systems like the Bose SoundDock.
Dongle is somewhat flimsy. Device will power down after a few minutes of idling. Sound quality decreases slightly through receiver. Pairing with newer iPhones is problematic.
Bluetooth is everywhere. We use the ubiquitous wireless technology to send music from our smartphones to all kinds of devices ranging from car stereos to portable speakers to virtual assistants. Modern digital life is a practical paradise for music lovers, but what about all of the audio gear from yesteryear? Luckily, it’s possible to bring all your older audio equipment into the future with a bluetooth receiver.
Bluetooth receivers are small dongles that plug in to stereos using a standard 3.5mm audio cable and then broadcast their availability to bluetooth devices like a smartphone or laptop. With a bluetooth receiver, you can bluetooth-enable any stereo and easily stream music from your smartphone to it. It’s the perfect way to modernize your audio setup without having to replace expensive components.
We at BestReviews have compiled our best advice on bluetooth receivers – which features you shouldn’t ignore, which you should hold out for, and how to spot the best deal.
All bluetooth receivers have the same basic feature set: they make music from your smartphone wirelessly available to a stereo. Beyond that, some models have additional features that we consider indispensable. Here are the ones that are most important.
Auto-pairing: Auto-pairing means your smartphone or tablet will connect with your bluetooth receiver whenever they’re in range of each other, and you don’t have to do anything. Not all bluetooth receivers support auto-pairing, but we consider it a critical feature. Receivers without auto-pairing force you go through the connection process on your phone every time you want to enjoy bluetooth audio, which makes them a major hassle to use.
Multi-device pairing: If you stream music from multiple devices or plan on sharing your bluetooth receiver with friends or loved ones, it’s important to pick a model that allows multiple devices to connect. Many bluetooth receivers can only connect with a single device at a time, which can make swapping a headache.
Device memory: Some bluetooth receivers are able to remember a small number of devices, so you don’t have to reconnect every time you want to switch. While this might not sound like a big deal, it really is. When your receiver remembers your devices, you’re one step closer to “set it and forget it” convenience.
Adding bluetooth to your existing electronics can help unlock new functionality. Here are the most common places for a bluetooth receiver.
In the car: If you have an older car stereo that doesn’t have built-in bluetooth, using a bluetooth receiver is a great way to bring modern convenience to your dashboard. Car bluetooth receivers plug in to an existing auxiliary jack (a 3.5mm port), and connect with your smartphone to bring all of your digital tunes to your car. If your car’s a little older, but you don’t plan on selling it any time soon, a bluetooth receiver is a great way to upgrade the driving experience without spending a fortune.
With a home stereo: Whether you’ve got a turntable and a receiver or simply a boombox to pump out your favorite tunes, a bluetooth receiver can help bring music from your smartphone or tablet to life with your existing setup. bluetooth receivers are also great for guests – you can let your friends connect to play their music through your stereo, without having to mess with any tangled-up wired connections.
Bluetooth receivers are incredibly affordable, but not all of them are a great value. You can expect to pay from $10 to $80. Here’s what you get for your money.
Inexpensive: You’ll find basic models that are more frustrating than useful in the $10 to $19 range. Models at this price will have subpar batteries, finicky connectivity, and typically won’t support current versions of the bluetooth standard. Better models aren’t that much more expensive, so, in general, it pays to avoid the cheapest ones on the market.
Mid-range: You’ll find a mix of solid values and overpriced models that cost from $20 to $39. Keep an eye on feature lists – a good candidate in this price range will support bluetooth 4.2, have solid auto-pairing, and could even come with luxury features like near-field communication (NFC) for even faster wireless access. Unless you’re an audiophile with a dedicated setup for critical listening, there’s no need to spend more than this.
Expensive: In the $40 to $80 range, you’ll find the luxury models made for music fanatics along with slick-looking models that are overcharging for the same features available in cheaper models. If you’re building a high-fidelity stereo system and you want to add bluetooth, you might need to spend a little more to get a model that’s up to your standards, but most listeners won’t see any benefits from spending this much.
Practice pairing your smartphone and bluetooth receiver when you first get it. Every bluetooth receiver has its own unique connection process, and each one takes a minute or two to get comfortable with. Don’t wait until you’ve got an important call to learn how to use all of your receiver’s buttons and features! Practice enough so that you can take advantage of all the controls without disrupting your music or phone calls.
Learn how to use the quick-access menu to turn your smartphone’s bluetooth radio on and off. Both Android phones and iOS phones feature easy-access control panels that enable you to do things like turn on WiFi, use the phone as a flashlight, or get to a calculator with one tap. Look around your smartphone to find where you can most easily turn bluetooth on and off, so you can always enable or disable the feature as needed. (On Android phones, swiping from top to bottom usually reveals a quick-access “drawer.” On iPhones, swiping from bottom to top will bring up the equivalent menu.)
If you often rent cars, keep a spare bluetooth receiver in your travel bag. You never know when you’re going to end up in a car that doesn’t support bluetooth, and keeping a spare bluetooth receiver with you can make sure you’re never without it.
Q. What’s the difference between a bluetooth receiver and a bluetooth transmitter?
A. A bluetooth receiver can take wireless signals from a bluetooth device like a smartphone or tablet, and make the audio available to a home or car stereo. A bluetooth transmitter connects directly to an audio source and wirelessly transmits the audio signal to any available bluetooth speakers. If you need a device that will receive bluetooth audio from your smartphone, buy a bluetooth receiver. If you need a device that will take an existing music source and make it available to an existing bluetooth stereo, buy a bluetooth transmitter. If your needs vary, you can always buy a combination bluetooth receiver/transmitter.
Q. Will music over bluetooth sound as good as music over a wired connection?
A. Technically, no, but the vast majority of listeners won’t be able to tell the difference. Bluetooth takes a raw audio signal and compresses it for transmission to a receiving device, but the compression is so effective that the end result is practically indistinguishable from the original. If you’re an audiophile or just not a fan of compressed audio, bluetooth might not be the right technology for critical listening. But before you write it off, listen for yourself. Most listeners find bluetooth audio exceeds expectations.
Q. How long does it take to charge a portable bluetooth receiver?
A. It depends on the size of the battery, but most portable bluetooth receivers can be recharged in two to four hours.
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