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Review - Sony DRC-BT30 Bluetooth® Headphones Adapter

Sony DRC-BT30 Bluetooth® Headphones Adapter - A Review

 

Introduction

 

I began considering a wireless link between my iPhone and my earphones after a series of disasterous, cartoon-like incidents where I lost focus and was nearly flung out the back of a treadmill. I pictured my iPhone (which I depend on for, well, everything) being pulled off of the shelf under the treadmill speedometer, landing on the belt and being flung at my face at high speed. After it caused catastrphic damage to my face (theoretically heal-able) it would, of course, be smashed (healable with $800).

I was also search  for a wireless music solution for my car. FM transmitters do not produce a good enough quality of sound for me - I think they provide an absolutely TERRIBLE quality of sound due to the inherent limitations to FM.

I use an audio cable connected to the *dock* of my iPhone because iPhone (and iPod) produce line-level output from the dock. This means that the equalization and volume settings for the iPhone are not imposed on the music signal and it sounds perfect. This is the baseline on how I judge music quality.

I really liked how when I get into my car the iPhone automagically connects to my Bluetooth car speakerphone so that I can safely (and in Saskatchewan, legally) answer and make phone calls. What if I could get into my car and it does the same for the podcast I'm listening to?

I started to wonder if Bluetooth could provide what I wanted. A device's Bluetooth capabilities are described by 'Profiles' and the phone carries the Bluetooth AVRCP (Advanced Audio Distribution) profile and the A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution) profile.

Requirements

  • Must provide remote control for iPod functions (start, stop, volume)
  • Must provide very good sound quality when compared to a direct connection to the device
  • Could provide phone functions (activate voice dialling, act as a microphone

Selection

Really, the Sony was the only alternative. Perhaps that's why it cost $80. I checked out the reviews and decided to give it a go. I ordered it from ncix.com and it arrived not long after.

Results

I'll embed a video review here and summarize below.

When it arrived, I had to wait (isn't that the longest wait in the world?) for it to charge. It charges by mini-USB which means that I'll always have a charger for it.

Once it was charged, the first thing I did was pair it with the iPhone. This was as easy as any other device. The iPhone picked it up straight away.

From there, no manual reading was required. Everything worked right the first time. Amazing!

Build Quality

The device feels like a small plastic gadget. There's a clip, some buttons, a light, and a control stick. The clip feels average in it's quality - it isn't super sturdy nor is it flimsy. The stick protrudes a bit from the body of the DRC-BT30. The functions that it provides are activated by rocking it in one direction or another so some protrusion is necessary. It doesn't feel like it could be broken through normal use but if it got caught on something it might be a bit fragile. There's also a cover that covers a reset button and the charging port. The cover is super hard for me to open with a fingernail - it requires something point to wedge open. I'm sure that this will be the first thing to go for my DRC-BT30.

Ease of use

It paired easily and re-paired easily as well. Whenever the DRC-BT30 and the phone came into proximity it just worked.

Music Sound Quality

I have to admit - the sound quality is excellent. With my super-sensitive Sennheiser ear goggles, I can tell that there's something "a bit off" of the sound but the difference is not enough to cause me to switch to direct connection. In the car it's perfect and with my cheaper sony workout earphones it's perfect.

The DRC-BT30 has a microphone to support phoning. I put an mp3 showing that sound quality here:

As you hear, it isn't exactly studio quality. As for whether it's 'good enough' for phone calls, I'm told that it is.

Functions for iPod playback

Play, stop, volume, next, previous are supported and work as expected. The only thing you can't do is skip forward (or backward) a few seconds in a track the way you would do if you were pressing and holding the fast-forward button on your iPod.

It really needs a lock switch - I tended to bump the rocker switch while running and the song changed when I didn't want it to change.

Phone functions

By pressing the 'phone' button, voice dialling on my iPhone is activated. When the phone is operating, the DRC-BT30 is listed as a sound source, like 'Speaker' or any other Bluetooth source. You can take the call off of Bluetooth without problem.

Other cool stuff

If the 'voice recorder' app on my iPhone is running, it gives the option to record from the DRC-BT30.

The DRC-BT30 will pair with a Mac and you can tell the mac to "Use as audio device (mono)" or "Use as audio device (stereo)". When you've chosen to do that, you can control iTunes with the DRC-BT30 in the same way you can control your iPod. It's really really cool in that when I'm cycling on my trainer, I can put a movie on the Mac and watch it wirelessly!

You can also record from the microphone in the DRC-BT30 (mp3 embedded above) but the quality is poor.

Battery Life

I used it once for an entire day - on and off (mostly on) from 0800 to 1700 and the battery was fine. I should have asked it's battery level at the end of the day but I forgot. There's a keypress combination that will tell you the battery level but the bewildering complexity of the flashes from the status light (remember that there's only one?) leave me befuddled. 

Conclusion

 

I recommend this device if it has the requirements that you need.

Advantages

  • Decent build quality
  • Very easy to use
  • Very compatible with Mac and iPod (dizzyingly compatible, actually)
  • Excellent sound quality for listening
  • good battery life from a built-in battery
  • mini-USB charging port (highly compatible with your existing chargers)

Disadvantages

  • Expensive (c$80 when I bought it)
  • Door that covers the charging port should be softer rubber to make it easier to open
  • Needs a lock switch so that you can't sccidentally pause or next when you are doing active things.

 

Vendor Link

I paid c$80 from ncix.com in January of 2010. Then Dell had it on sale for $60 but they listed it as "out of stock" so who knows if that would have turned out.

candotri: 
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