Review: Avantree Bluetooth Music Adapter BTTC-200X

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Bluetooth.

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When it first came out in the nineties it looked like it would end the tangle of cables on my desktop, but the reality has fallen short.

Apple have embraced Bluetooth for keyboards and mice, but the PC world is dominated by proprietary 2.4GHz dongles for wireless communication which gobble up a USB port before eventually getting lost. Unfortunately adoption has been slow so Bluetooth is often at a premium price compared to similar devices.

Bluetooth devices are also far from “plug and play”. The pairing process is often hit and miss, and I defy you to set up a Bluetooth headset without reading the manual – “Hold down button B for five seconds until the light flashed red then enter the code 8888 (maybe…. if you’re asked for it)“.

On top of that, after nearly twenty years there is still no guarantee that the headset you use with your mobile phone will connect to any other device, say a laptop. It’s almost as though the vendors want to lock you into using their headsets exclusively with their phones… No, stop. That’s crazy talk.

That said, once it works it (mostly) works, but the audio quality has never been a high point. The Avantree Bluetooth Music Adapter attempts to fill some of the gaps in wireless connectivity, at least for streaming audio. It allows you to:

  1. Transmit audio to a Bluetooth device from an analog audio source (such as a CD player).
  2. Receive audio from a Bluetooth device and pass it to an analog destination (such as a stereo receiver).

You can even use two adapters to create a Bluetooth link between say, an audio source and remote speakers. I wasn’t able to try this though, as I only had one adapter to play with.

My first impression was that this was a bit of a solution-looking-for-a-problem. However I soon found a number of scenarios where a wireless audio link is really handy.

In the Box

As you can see in the picture above, the adapter itself is compact and you can squirrel it away among your audio gear once you have set it up.

It has a LI-polymer battery that you can charge with the supplied micro USB cable.

photo 1The adapter comes with enough cables and gender benders to connect pretty much any RCA or 3.5mm audio source:

  • 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable
  • 3.5mm female connector to RCA audio cable
  • 3.5mm male to male audio connector
  • USB charging cable

As a Receiver

I decided to do a simple test by streaming audio from an iPhone to a stereo receiver.

Setting up was easy: turn off the adapter and plug it into a stereo RCA port, slide the switch to Receive and hold the power button for a few seconds till the LED flashes. It immediately appeared in the iPhone’s list of Bluetooth devices and selecting it blasted music through the receiver. Too easy.

The adapter uses the AptX audio codec to compress the audio and minimise latency, so I would have expected a crystal clear digital audio experience. I was surprised to find that the audio seemed slightly distorted. Just to be sure, I streamed the same audio from iTunes via AirPlay to an Apple TV connected to the same receiver and toggled between the two for an A/B test. Presumably the codec is compressing the audio to the point where I was picking up compression artifacts, but for general listening it does a fairly good job.

I was able to walk out of the room and put a door between myself and the receiver before the connection started to break up so the stated ten metre range for Bluetooth was about right.

As a Transmitter

To test the transmitter I used the BTTC-200X to connect a pair of Logitech H800 Bluetooth headphones to the stereo receiver and, just to make life difficult, I didn’t read the manual.

I plugged the BTTC-200X into the headphone port of the receiver, switched it to Transmit, and held down the power switch for five seconds to go into pairing mode. The blue light flashed to show it was waiting.

Now for the headset: not so easy. Luckily I had to pair this recently so I knew I could do it by holding down the Select Previous button while simultaneously pressing Decrease Volume…no, wait… Increase Volume. Yeah… obvious really.

The two devices were now blinking frantically at each other and I was about to give up when the two lights went steady and music started pumping out of the headphones! Nice.

Audio quality was excellent – certainly good enough to use the headphones for TV listening.

Pros

  • Easy to set up.
  • Does what it says it does.

Cons

  • Slightly distorted audio in some setups.

 

The Avantree Bluetooth Music Adapter was provided for review by MobileZap.