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.
WaveJamr is the least expensive of the Bluetooth-streaming options we’re reviewing today; it’s also fair to say it’s the most cheaply designed. The 1.5” by 1.25” by 0.25” adapter is very light—too light—and the plastic feels inferior. It has one output—the Dock Connector port on the bottom—and the only other interruptions to the plain blue material are the product’s name printed on the front, its Bluetooth pairing code on the back, and a hole on the top to expose an LED. The use of a Dock Connector port is beneficial because no external power sources or batteries are needed with most modern Dock Connector speakers, but unfortunately this also limits WaveJamr’s usefulness to only those devices with the appropriate plug. RadTech sells ProCable Line-Out ($24) as a solution to this issue, which converts the Dock Connector to stereo 3.5mm and USB plugs, allowing the accessory to be used wherever an audio input and USB port are available.
Because there are no buttons or other controls, WaveJamr automatically enters pairing mode when it’s plugged in. Once connected, we found that it offered the worst audio performance of the three devices we tested, with significant audio distortion that made us not even want to listen past our initial testing—it actually made a very good speaker sound bad. At the very least the range was where we expected it, giving out right around the 33 foot at which Bluetooth is rated, and while the simplicity is to be appreciated, the performance is not.
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
Compatible: All Bluetooth-Capable iPods, All iPhones, iPads