Apple’s recent switch away from the established 30-pin Dock Connector to Lightning has created compatibility issues for hundreds of prior iPad, iPod, and iPhone accessories, rendering many of them useless. Developers are quickly coming up with viable work arounds to this problem, including wireless adapters for Dock Connector-based speakers. Three different takes on the concept recently arrived in our office, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. BlueAnt’s Ribbon ($69), Harman/Kardon’s BTA 10 ($59), and RadTech’s WaveJamr ($40) all extend the life of otherwise obsolete accessories. We think there’s one clear winner in the bunch; read on for all the details.
Of the three accessories, BTA 10 is the most burdensome. Although it looks very nice, the roughly 2” by 2” by 0.5” block is not powered by a Dock Connector plug, nor does it have its own battery, but instead requires a surprisingly large wall adapter for power through its Mini-USB port. Standard audio cables are used to send audio to an external system with both 3.5mm and RCA cables included. The result is a sharp looking unit that will most likely remain stationary and connected to whatever system you plan to use it with.
Thankfully the audio performance is better than the connectivity. When powered up, BTA 10 automatically enters pairing mode with an LED on top showing its status. Once paired and playing music there’s no noticeable difference between the quality of the audio being wirelessly streamed and that coming from a Dock Connector port. Our high-end speaker performed just as well as it normally does and the range also lived up to our expectations, with interruptions coming only when the source was moved about 33 feet away. Although Harman/Kardon doesn’t market the BTA 10 for use in a car, we tested it in that environment as well and did notice some audio interference.
Although it’s the most expensive, Ribbon is far and away our top choice among these Bluetooth adapters. It features an attractive design, compact size, impressive audio performance, and the most versatility too. While the Bluetooth range deficiency must be considered, it’s not a killer problem. If you’re in the market for an accessory to repurpose your old speaker or just make your headphones wireless, this is the one to get. We highly recommend it, and it earns our A- rating. BTA 10 is the runner-up. The audio performance is just as good as Ribbon’s, and it’s very handsome, but the fact that it has to be tethered to the wall is a serious deficit. If you’re only looking to transform a stationary speaker, it’s a good option worthy of our B rating. Finally there’s WaveJamr. We really wanted to like this one for its simplicity, but the sound it puts out torpedoes it. If it sounded good it’d certainly deserve a higher rating, but the quality brings it to the C level.
Company and Price
Model: BTA 10
Compatible: All Bluetooth-Capable iPods, All iPhones, iPads