Receive an audio signal up to 50 feet / 15 meters – best replacement for wires, also work as hands-free in a vehicle. Hands-on guide and five types tested and compared: cheap from China, for Hi-Fi, and midrange and expensive hands-free. Regardless of locale and prices, these four types cover most flavors on the market.
What Bluetooth Receivers are: small, most commonly less than a lighter-sized electronic devices, which connect to your smartphone / tablet / computer via Bluetooth, and output audio signal received to whatever device they’re plugged into.
How they work
Turn Bluetooth on, turn on receiver, lights flash, ready to pair with your device: unit will show up instantly.
That’s it, audio will be routed to Bluetooth receiver. Hint: it’s better to turn on Bluetooth on phone first, then the receiver. I haven’t come across pairing problems, devices were operational within seconds.
Receiver or transmitter?
You wanna hear what you play on your phone: A receiver will receive an audio signal from a Bluetooth equipped source and put it into the device which it is plugged into, just like a cable did in the 90’s.
Transmitter: sends an audio signal via Bluetooth to any Bluetooth-equipped device. For instance, if you have a TV / home theater system / anyhing with sound output, a transmitter can send that signal via Bluetooth.
This post details receivers, for sending a signal from a non/Bluetooth equipped device, get a TaoTronics combined transmitter / receiver just like I did for my parents and be merry.
Example – upgrade existing earphone / headphone to Bluetooth-equipped
Say you have an ol’ trusty headphone you paid top dollars for years ago, but it only comes with a regular cable.
Any earphone or headphone can be upgraded to Bluetooth status, and it’s much cheaper than buying a newer model with built-in Bluetooth.
Example – home HiFi / stereo with Bluetooth receiver
Head unit, like most, has an AUX-in at the front, or RCA connectors in the back, so Bluetooth receiver can be connected:
On more serious home theater units, and on car amplifiers, you’ll have two connectors in the back, often called Line level RCA input in user manual, use an RCA – 3.5mm cable.
In practice, transitioning from walking to car to home mode with constant music playing is seamless, as only the appropriate Bluetooth destination on device needs to be selected (you can rename multiple receivers of course):
Example: In the car or mobile use
Majority of affordable car stereos have an AUX-in port, which is a hole at the front, Bluetooth receiver goes in there, such as:
Same procedure again, plug in Bluetooth signal receiver, power it on, select aux in with source button, voilà, your tunes are coming through car speakers.
Knowing that in most jurisdictions you’ll be quartered and burned crispy on a stake for hand holding a mobile phone, buying a Bluetooth Hands-Free is a good investment.
Where to buy?
Amazon if available, eBay for rest of the world. One major issue with eBay recently (2018 Fall / Autumn) is exorbitant shipping times, often a month or more on the China-Europe axis, which is not gonna improve come Christmas and Chinese New Year.
Personally, living in Ireland, I subscribed to Amazon UK Prime for two-day shipping; in reality, that means 3-5 days and always less than a working week.
Brand-name, or more than $10 products cost nearly the same, and they are here from Amazon quickly with generous free returns policy.
Power and portability
Built-in batteries: good for 4 to days of standalone operation, really depends on model and physical size, larger has more battery inside = more juice, works longer. Charging via micro-USB power cable (always supplied in pack), which is the standard on every Samsung / Huawei / HTC, practically every smartphone uses same charger standard with the exception of iPhones (supplied micro USB charging cable works with USB iPhone chargers, the other end of the cable is the same USB):
At home, I just keep receivers always connected to charger, as they won’t be moved around. On the road, if 8-10 hours isn’t enough, battery banks will also charge devices if you have no power outlet nearby.
In an ideal scenario, receiver can “see” the source of signal, so about 50 feet / 15 meters maximum.
At home, playing music or taking calls was seamless once the receiver and source was in the same room, even one room away quality did not suffer, bringing thrash out and signal starts to disappear. Know that residential results depend on wall materials, radio signal can permeate drywalls better than a brick wall.
In vehicle, no problems encountered, even in large coaches (called RVs Stateside).
Microphone: most models come with a microphone, so can be used as hands-free in a vehicle. Two microphones are better than one.
Buttons: some units come with volume up / down, take call / pause / play track, skip forward or ahead buttons, think about which way you’ll be using the device and select a model accordingly.
AptX: better sound quality claims IF source and receiver both support the standard, Wiki here.
CVC: external noise suppression, also written cVc, 4.0 and 6.0, higher is supposedly better, info here. If ya plan to use receiver as a hands-free, CVC is great, makes a world of difference.
Bluetooth 4.0, 4.1 and 4.2: higher number is better, shows improvement, backward compatibility, so a 4.2 receiver will work with a 4.0 sender smartphone. Generally, if device has Bluetooth, it will work.
Audio quality for music: tried all tested models in several vehicles, streaming music and podcasts from my phone and couldn’t tell the difference.
Around $3-4 shipped from eBay, on Amazon USA, found it for $2.68 from CreazyDog, $5.88 for a Jahyshow, and various other versions up to seven dollars, pretty much the same:
Use several of these, as they simply work, even when connected to a battery bank for extended operation, built-in battery lasts for 4-7 hours, never less than 4 hours.
On button with backlight, long press to pair, shines blue when paired, one press to stop/play source music or take/end incoming call. That’s it. Job done.
Built-in microphone, in a car, caller could hear me and I could hear caller via speakers, no more I ask for $3, was happy with them until spurred on by functionality bought more expensive models.
Less than 15 dollars for Home HiFi
Mine is called Golvery, sold as Friencity in the USA for $12, this is primarily for home stereo music listening only, no built-in microphone, but comes with RCA adaptors:
Feels good in the hand, connects instantly, battery life is significantly better than the basic model, 8 hours easy.
If you need the extra RCA cables for home HiFi definitely get this, or a similar model.
20 dollar price bracket
Numerous versions with better features, volume and track buttons, a good representative would be the MPOV below, spent $20 on this. Taotronics also sells a seemingly identical model for $16, which doesn’t come with a side power button.
Comes in a nice box with Jack-Jack cable if you wish to place it away from radio, normal adapter for direct plugin, and charging micro-USB cable.
Added features are noise cancelling technology CVC, that works fantastic, less “Can you hear me?” CVC cancels drone of engine or a swooshing of a window down. Difference between this and basic version above is someone calling you and knowing an easy and understandable conversation to both parties will be possible.
Battery life: 8 hours easy, or more, lasts a working day. Official promise is 15 hours.
Two signal sources: connect a tablet and a phone at the same time, or any two Bluetooth-equipped devices simoultenously. Say you’re watching a video on laptop with headphones+Bluetooth adapter combo and phone is on charger long forgotten where, can pick up call without rummaging around. Or travel with partner in car and both of you can connect to head unit.
Daily use: power on via side button, one hand movement, instantly connects to paired devices, no lag.
Backlit: buttons are white, middle flashes blue indicating it’s connected to source device.
Extremely light, also use this around the house with headphones.
Volume and track buttons are extremely handy, all-in-all, well worth the money.
$30 price bracket: Taotronics
26 dollars on Amazon USA for top of the range feature set:
Where does the extra money go? Excellent battery life, noise canceling cVc 6.0 standard, callers in a car said that audio quality was better versus the MPOV.
Sightess operation e.g. in your pocket are easier, as volume buttons are on the side, but no backlit buttons, plus supplied cables are also shorter than those coming with the MPOV. I can live with that, as caller audio quality overrides niggles for me.
And many other choices
Amazon and eBay is full of various flavours and makes of essentially these receiver types, whichever model you choose, decide on one that suits your lifestyle, and personal preferences: pushing a button might be favored, backlighting, size, and so on.
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