Now that Bluetooth is becoming common place and Bluetooth accessories are just “working” the way they are supposed to, companies are starting to really explore the possibilities. As RIM tries to establish itself in the consumer marketplace, it needs to keep pace.
It makes perfect sense then, for RIM to release a small, reliable accessory for using the BlackBerry to stream audio via Bluetooth. With the exception of the original BlackBerry Pearl 8100 and 8800, every BlackBerry equipped with a slot for an external media card is enabled with the A2DP technology required to work with the BlackBerry Remote Stereo Gateway (and OS updates coming to the 8100 and 8800 will soon bring A2DP to these devices as well).
The idea, in a nutshell, is that music stored on the BlackBerry can now be sent to any audio system with a line-in jack. Does it work? Is it a “must have” accessory? Read on for my thoughts.
BlackBerry Remote Stereo Gateway
I love Streaming Bluetooth Stereo. My car stereo supports A2DP and I often use my BlackBerry to stream audio while I drive. I have other headsets/speakers that support the A2DP profile and I like to use them from time to time.
The biggest drawback I have noticed is that some devices have a noticeable drop off in audio quality when streaming Stereo signals. The technology is much better than about a year ago- but it still is not perfect.
The BlackBerry Stereo Gateway is a very simple device – simple to use, simple to set up and it does just one thing – stream your stereo music to any music system with either a 3.5mm or rca audio input.
Here is the “Official Line” on this new accessory from the BlackBerry website:
“Break away from your regular headsets and enjoy your favorite music throughout the comfort of your own home. This small, stylish device works with your home sound system or personal stereo to stream the music stored on your BlackBerry smartphone or other A2DP-compatible devices. To wirelessly transmit your music, simply connect the Gateway using the accompanying 3.5mm stereo cable or RCA auxiliary cable to your stereo system, turn on the gateway, pair your device, and that's it! You are free to roam up to 30 feet without missing a single beat. The BlackBerry Music Gateway is compatible with all Bluetooth enabled mobile devices so you can stream your music from your BlackBerry smartphone, PC, laptop, or any other A2DP-compatible mobile phone. This easy to use, ultra portable accessory is great for those looking to enjoy their music the way it is supposed to be heard. Please Note: A BlackBerry Travel Charger or other mini-USB charger must be used in conjunction with the Gateway to provide power.”
With the exception of the BlackBerry Pearl 8100 and early 8800 models, will the BlackBerry Remote Stereo Gateway will work with all BlackBerrys equipped with a Media Card slot. OS updates coming to the 8100 and 8800 will enable these earlier devices to utilize A2DP streaming audio technology.
The BlackBerry Remote Stereo Gateway is truly an example of “Simplicity” in design. It is made to do one thing – stream Stereo Music – so there is no need for it to be complicated in any way. The unit is about a two inch square with a glossy black finish on the top and chrome accents around the sides. The bottom has rubber feet to keep it secure.
The Remote Stereo Gateway has no battery – so you need to connect either your mini-USB wall charger or the mini USB PC connector (both of which came with your BlackBerry.) The omission of any kind of power cable for something that needs power is a little unusual – but it is a common charger that every BlackBerry user already has – I guess this keeps the cost down.
Along the front of the unit there is the mini USB port and a port for a 3.5 mm stereo jack. The unit ships with both a 3.5mm to 3.5mm jack and a 3.5mm to two RCA jack cable.
On the top surface is power button under the BlackBerry logo. Just push on the logo and the unit can turn on/turn off or go into “Pairing” mode if you keep holding it.
The Remote Stereo Gateway is a cinch to set up. I just connected the USB power cord and it automatically started flashing red and blue – going into “pairing” mode. I went to my Bluetooth Manager icon on my 8320, searched for the device and put in the famous “0000” pass code and I was connected.
What I really appreciated is that on the first try, my BlackBerry connected using the “Stereo Audio” profile only – that meant that it knew not to send phone calls to the Remote Stereo Gateway – to only use it streaming stereo music.
Ease of Use
Once the Remote Stereo Gateway was paired, I made sure it was “on” and just went to my media player or to “FlipSide” and started to play my music. Without a hitch, my music was now streaming right through my stereo.
Now, let’s just put this on the table – Streaming Stereo Audio is not for the “Audiophiles” among us. My guess is that if people are looking for audiophile quality – they aren’t listening to music on their BlackBerrys in the first place. MP3’s are already compressed from the original source – when that signal is sent via Bluetooth, it undergoes even more compression – often compromising the sound quality further.
All that being said, the sound quality of music sent via the Remote Stereo Gateway was not bad – it was actually pretty good. I used the device both with my office surround sound system (Altec Lansing 5.1 speakers and a Turtle Beach Sound card) and my fancy Home Theatre System with a Sony Amp and Klipsch Speakers.
Sound quality was definitely better on my home theater system. With the office system I did notice a definite lack of a “high end” when compared to using traditional headphones with the BlackBerry – but it was not “unpleasant” by any means.
This is just what we would hope for from an accessory from RIM – it is simple to use, made specifically for the BlackBerry and it just works. There is nothing fancy about this – but it is small, easy to carry around, well made and it allows us to Stream our Stereo music to any source with a Stereo Input. The BlackBerry Remote Stereo Gateway sells for $69.95 at ShopCrackBerry.com.
For those times when you might not want to use headphones it offers a nice way to have a fuller sound for your music using your home stereo or even your PC.