The addition of the A2DP profile
to the Bluetooth specification has opened up a lot of novel ideas for wireless audio streaming. Although usually used to ferry audio from mobile phones to wireless headsets, more ideas are starting to appear in odd areas.
Belkin’s Tunestage 2 combines a Bluetooth iPod dongle with a receiver base station. The base station provides both 3.5mm and RCA analogue audio outputs which you can connect to a sound system. In practice this is hugely useful: it makes you the music gatekeeper during parties and lets you play music through speakers while keeping your iPod handy for track selection.
The dongle includes a mini-USB port at the base which will charge the iPod. There are no data connectors inside, so you won’t be able to plug your iPod into a computer and synchronise it. Thoughtfully, the base station includes a powered USB port at the back so you can charge without using a computer.
When you plug the iPod dongle in it takes a few seconds to synch up with the base station, however you don’t have to do any manual configuration. The line of sight range is quoted to be 10 meters, but in practice we averaged roughly 15 meters. Obstacles will chop this down to varying degrees depending on their density. The sound is slightly less crisp than a direct cable connection, but the convenience factor makes up for this.
Any music that is sent to the receiver is governed by the iPod’s internal volume control, meaning you should turn your sound system up to below the point of distortion and use the iPod’s controls instead of your amplifier’s.
Like most of Belkin’s products, the quality comes at a cost. The Tunestage 2’s RRP is $249.95, but other than that, it’s very hard to fault. It’s compatible with iPod Nanos, the iPod Mini and any iPod with a click wheel.