Review: BlueWave Get Bluetooth Audio Adapter | iLounge

Review

Review: BlueWave Get Bluetooth Audio Adapter

B-
Limited Recommendation

Company: BlueWave

Model: Get

Price: $129

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Guido Gabriele

Bluetooth audio adapters are fast becoming one of our favorite audio accessories for the iPhone. Advanced codec support has nearly solved the problem of poor-quality Bluetooth audio, and battery technology has enabled these adapters to be both small and long-lasting. For many, these are an easy solution to the headphone jack apocalypse. The Bluetooth adapter we're looking at today has been on our radar for almost a year, since we first met its creators at CanJam New York in January. The oddly-named "Get" is the first product from Canadian company BlueWave. In our testing, we were impressed by the Get's features and power, but found that there are a few issues with the Get's design that make it fall short of greatness.

The Get’s design is as unique and quirky as its name. Though it serves essentially the same purpose as the Fiio BTR-1 we recently reviewed, it makes no attempt to mimic the BTR-1’s monolithic and minimalist design. On one side of the Get is a metal cylinder about the size of a AA battery; this holds three large, easily-discernable buttons that handle power, pairing, play/pause, and track controls, a hefty metal shirt clip, and, at the bottom, a 3.5mm headphone jack. Opposite the Get’s controls is a module made of matte black plastic where we find a micro USB port, ALPS rotary volume control, microphone, and LED status light. The Get is barely bigger than a book of matches, and incredibly light; light enough, in fact, that it could probably mounted to the side of a pair of headphones if one was so inclined. Despite it’s off-beat looks, we like the Get’s build quality and feel. What really matters, however, is what’s inside.

As a Bluetooth headphone adapter, we couldn’t ask for better codec support from the Get. The Get supports SBC, MP3, aptX, aptX-Low Latency, aptX HD and, for iOS, AAC. It’s a Bluetooth 5 device, which means that the Get is somewhat future-proof and, if you have the iPhone 8 or X, can take advantage of higher transfer speeds and greater range supported by the new wireless tech. Its 200 mAh battery lasts around 6 hours, and can be used while charging. If that weren’t enough, the Get has a “hidden” feature: it can be used as a USB DAC/amp. Although its DAC is limited to relatively mundane 16bit/44khz audio, in practice we think this will be fine for most users — this resolution is not high-res, but it does match the vast majority of music currently available for download or streaming. The Get’s USB DAC/amp feature worked without drivers on PC, Mac, and with the iPhone using the USB3 Camera Connection Kit, albeit with some quirks — when in USB mode, the Get’s Bluetooth is also active, which can result in some back-and-forth fighting between which device starts playing audio first.

The Get’s amplifier is spec’d at a claimed power output of 125 mW into 32 ohms, at a THD of 0.004. The Get’s headphone jack output impedance was not published at the time of our review (we’ll update here if we learn that information). It’s capable of surprisingly high volumes — dangerously high volumes, if you’re not careful. The high gain of the Get is a mixed blessing. On one hand, it was able to drive relatively high-impedance, full-size headphones like the Focal Elear to loud volumes. However, the Get’s high gain also caused audible hiss in lower-impedance/higher-sensitivity headphones. We spoke with one of the company’s founders and learned that they intentionally chose a gain setting of +12 dB for the Get so that it would better drive full-size headphones, even if that would raise the noise floor audibly for other headphones. We can’t fault Bluewave for making a choice, though we also can’t help but think that they could have accommodated a wider range of headphones with a slightly lower amount of gain — perhaps +6 dB or +8 dB?

Our only real complaints about the Get lie with its volume control. The Get’s volume control seems analog, but its digital steps can be heard if you’re listening closely. Though the tactile rotary control is a nice alternative to the up/down buttons common to these devices, the Get’s volume knob is far too loose. A light touch can instantly spin the control from minimum to maximum, causing ear-splitting volumes. This is a particularly serious risk for a mobile device that’s clipped to a shirt or backpack; we experienced a few incidents where we accidentally brushed the volume control and received a shocking amount of volume from this powerful little amplifier. A little more resistance and some raised edges to protect the knob from unintended movement would have been appreciated. Also, we think the slope of the volume control could use some reprogramming — rather than a linear volume increase, the Get’s volume stays nearly inaudible for the first half-turn, then suddenly ramps from “low” to “extremely loud” in barely a quarter-turn. Both these issues can be somewhat avoided by leaving the Get at full volume all the time, and regulating volume using the iPhone — a sub-optimal workaround at the expense of battery life.

The Bluewave Get has a lot going for it. It’s well-built, its controls work nicely, and it’s got a lot of power for such a tiny device. It’s a little more expensive than the excellent Fiio BTR-1 that we reviewed recently, but has more functionality (USB DAC/amp!) and more power. However, its volume control is in need of refinement and we think that most customers will buy the Get to use with high-sensitivity/low-impedance headphones that don’t such high gain. A low/high gain switch and some tweaks to the volume curve would have made the Get much more compelling but, for now, we have to limit our recommendation. If any of these quibbles can be addressed with firmware updates, the Get would be a very compelling option for those who want to use wired headphones with the newest iOS devices.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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