Bluetooth® for home and car audio
Wireless music, no network required
Ralph Graves is one of Crutchfield's blog editors, and part of the company's social media team. He writes about home audio/video gear, specializing in Apple-related and wireless technologies. Ralph holds a master's degree in music composition, and his works have been released on various labels. He's served as product manager for an independent classical and world music label, produced several recordings, and worked extensively in public broadcasting. Since 1984 he's hosted a weekly classical music program on WTJU, and is also active as a blogger and podcaster.
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Bluetooth wireless technology has become a standard feature for smartphones and tablets. But if you’re only using Bluetooth connectivity to link your smartphone to an earpiece, then you’re not taking full advantage of this versatile and easy-to-use wireless technology.
Your Bluetooth enabled device can be connected to portable speakers for on-the-go music listening. For high-quality sound at home, there are powered speaker systems and home theater receivers with Bluetooth built in.
The Bose® SoundLink® Mini Bluetooth® speaker makes your smartphone or tablet the life of the party.
Bluetooth has a range of about thirty feet. The signal goes straight from the sending device to the receiving device. No network or password required.
Bluetooth connections are usually one-to-one. That is, a Bluetooth receiver can only be connected with one device at a time. So if you’re streaming music from your tablet to a Bluetooth speaker, for example, you can’t do some impromptu mixing by also playing music from your smartphone through the same speaker.
Easy connection between two devices
The first step is to “pair” the devices. Make sure both devices are on, and use the sender (smartphone, tablet, or computer) to find the receiver in its menu of detected Bluetooth devices. Selecting it causes the two devices to be paired — your device knows where to send its signals, and receiver recognizes it as a signal source.
Pairing devices is usually a one-time procedure. The devices should remember and automatically find each other. And usually you can pair a receiver with up to eight different portables. The receiver “remembers” the paired devices, which can be handy for systems used by several people. So, for example, everyone in your home with a smartphone can use the Bluetooth speaker system in the family room without having to go through the entire pairing process every time.
Advanced connection options
Although a Bluetooth receiver may have up to eight pairings stored, you normally have to break the connection with one sending device before another can use the system. Some newer portable speaker systems allow for simultaneous pairing of two or more devices, so you can quickly alternate from source to source.
The first device still needs to stop streaming before another one can take over the speaker. But you don’t have to go all the way through the sign-off/sign-on procedure, making the transition from one source to the other nearly instantaneous. This is a great feature for parties, as it allows several people to share the music on their devices in quick succession.
NFC — Near Field Communications
Some Bluetooth enabled devices and audio products use NFC, which enables a quick connection without having to go through the process of pairing. If both your portable and the speaker system or receiver has NFC capabilities, you can make an instant connection just by bringing your portable close to (or in some cases, touching), the other component.
The Parrot MKi9100 Bluetooth kit for car audio includes a Bluetooth reciever, steering wheel controller, and microphone for hands-free calling.
One of the most common applications of Bluetooth is hands-free mobile phone operation. Pair your phone with a Bluetooth headset and you can talk while your phone is still in your pocket or purse. Many car stereos also have built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling in your vehicle. And if necessary, you can retrofit your car stereo system with a Bluetooth car kit.
Several Bluetooth portable speaker systems come with built-in microphones, and can also let you accept calls through them. This effectively turns the system into a wireless speakerphone.
The Cambridge Audio Minx Go uses aptX audio coding for greater sonic detail with compatible devices.
Wireless music streaming
Portable Bluetooth speakers and desktop speaker systems let you stream music from these devices without needing to make a wired connection. And since any audio your device plays can be streamed, you can enjoy not just the songs stored on your player, but also Internet radio stations, online music services, as well as soundtracks from videos and games.
Regular Bluetooth can deliver good quality sound, and there technological enhancements that can make it even better. The data encoding technology aptX®, for example, retains more of the detail of the source material, resulting in higher quality audio from compatible systems. Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) is another way to send more detailed and less compressed audio to a receiver, ensuring fuller and more natural sound.
While both the sending device and the receiver need to use aptX (or Bluetooth 2.0+EDR) in order for these higher quality signals to transfer, you don’t have to worry about compatibility. If either the sender or receiver doesn’t use one of these technologies, the system defaults to regular Bluetooth and you can still enjoy your music.
The Onkyo TX-NR626 home theater receiver has built-in Bluetooth for wireless music streaming from a smartphone or tablet.
Bluetooth connectivity at home and on the go
It’s now easy to stream wirelessly from your smartphone or tablet to a home theater system via Bluetooth. Many home theater receivers have built-in Bluetooth capability. And for older systems, there are Bluetooth adapters that plug into your home theater receiver. Almost all of the receivers and receiver adapters use aptX technology (outlined above) for high quality audio.
Some portable Bluetooth speakers systems — like the BOOM Swimmer — are also water-resistent.
Some wireless powered speaker systems can deliver sound quality that rivals component systems. These systems can be ideal solutions for audiophiles who want a small system for office, den, or apartment.
Bluetooth streaming is admirably suited for on-the-go listening. Just pull out your portable speaker, and start streaming music from your smartphone or tablet. What could be easier?
One of the earliest uses of Bluetooth technology was for headsets. Most Bluetooth portable headphones have built-in microphones and controls so you can receive calls and have phone conversations through them. Larger headphones, designed primarily for home use, also use a Bluetooth connection to let you enjoy wireless listening without being tethered to your home theater system.
The Garmin Edge® 510 cycling computer uses Bluetooth to send data to your smartphone.
Bluetooth communication is the wireless standard for fitness and sports gear. These devices monitor your activity and send data to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth connection. With this information, you can easily keep track of your workouts and see your progress, and where you need to improve.