Provides: Wireless Stereo Bluetooth audio transmission
Minimum Requirements: Transmission: iPhone with iOS 3.0, or dockable iPod/iPad, Mac/PC, or audio device with 1/8″ stereo output. Reception: Speaker system with iPhone/iPod dock or auxiliary input.
Quite often when I’m reviewing hardware or software, I end up focusing on what the product can’t do. If I find myself asking, “Wouldn’t it be great if … ?” too much, I give it a lower rating. Every now and again, though, I’ll review a product where this question has already been answered. Such is the case with iSkin’s Cerulean TX+RX wireless stereo Bluetooth transmitter and receiver, which covers just about every need you could have for it.
Of course, iSkin did tip the balance in their favor. This is a combination package of the Cerulean RX (which allows you to wirelessly connect your iPhone to most any speaker dock system), with the TX (which provides this functionality to non-Bluetooth devices, such as an iPod, first gen iPhone, or even your Mac or PC). Anything left?
We’ll start with the RX portion of the combo. This device, which is about as wide as an iPod classic, plugs into your speaker dock to receive the Bluetooth signal (A2DP stereo audio). You then just need to pair your iPhone with the device, and you’re all set. Play music on your phone, hear music from a better speaker system.
There are a couple of things to like here. First, I’m more comfortable resting my iPhone on a table or shelf than I am in a speaker dock with only the docking pins to support it. Less chance of damage this way, both to the phone and to the speaker system, as the much smaller RX means there’s less chance you’ll bump it.
Second, I won’t need to worry about dock adapters, as the RX will remain the same size even as my iPhone designs change. This also eliminates the possible need to remove the phone from a case, since you won’t physically be plugging the iPhone into anything.
Another feature may also be a drawback, depending upon your setup. The RX doesn’t require batteries. This is good, but it means you’re drawing power from your speaker system, and some may not be able to provide enough power.
The Cerulean RX is $89.99 on its own. That may be a little much to justify the convenience of wireless audio transmission. And yet, I’ll more heartily recommend the RX+TX combo although it’s $50 more. Why? Because it opens up the functionality to a much wider range of setups.
The TX is a Bluetooth transmitter you can plug into any iPod with a dock connector. It becomes your Bluetooth connection to the RX, so you can achieve the same results you would with a built-in Bluetooth device. Pairing is automatic, taking about 10 to 20 seconds, and slowly flashing LED lights on both devices will indicate when this is complete.
The dock pin on the TX has a bit of an elevated base, so you may be able to plug into your iDevice without having to remove it from its case. Of course, that’ll depend upon the case.
But iSkin still isn’t done with compatibility, because the Cerulean TX+RX also comes with a USB adapter that allows you to plug it into a computer. More importantly, this adapter also has an 1/8″ audio input jack, so you can plug the TX into any audio source, not just an iPod. Even better, the RX has an 1/8″ audio out, so you plug the device into any stereo system, not just one with a dock (you’ll need your own RCA to 1/8″ stereo cable, but that’s fair).
In other words, with the Cerulean TX+RX, you can transfer audio from your iPhone (or iPod or computer or anything with stereo output) to your speaker dock (or stereo system or anything with auxiliary input).
All that that remains to consider is sound quality and range. Quality is decent…what you’d expect from a Bluetooth transfer. Audiophiles likely won’t be satisfied, but I can’t imagine they’re playing MP3 or AAC files to begin with. The range will be largely affected by placement of the speaker system (higher is generally better) and the number of interfering devices along the way (cordless phones, WiFi routers, etc.). iSkin claims an average of around 33 feet. I was able to achieve that.
If you want wireless audio transmission, the Cerulean RX+TX will cover just about every setup you’ll face. It’s expensive, yes, but it’s also diverse, convenient, and effective. Is that worth $140? Only you know that for sure.
Well, you and iSkin, since they’ve apparently already thought of everything.
Buy the Cerulean TX+RX