Streaming music is a relatively recent phenomenon, as running wires from an amplifier to a pair of speakers, or multiple pairs, is simple enough for anyone to understand — or do. The advent of Bluetooth, combined with mobile devices carrying music libraries, has driven this idea of wirelessly sending music from the source to the speakers.
However, the middle-man — i.e., the amplifier — has to be taken into account. And while amplifiers now feature Bluetooth pretty much across the board, those with non-Bluetooth models can’t participate in this dance. The convenience may be great, but is it “great” enough to justify buying a new piece of equipment? Few think so (me being one of them). But if there was a universal-type Bluetooth receiver that was portable and simple enough to work with whatever audio system a person has — well, that would be a different story. To introduce that different story I’ll turn to New Potatoes Technologies Tunelink Home.
Good news first — it works with any iOS device. The bad news is that this leaves Android systems out.
Two more pieces of good news — first, the Tunelink Home system has the means to remote control not just the audio system but any IR-equipped device within range of the receiver. Secondly, there are two methods for transferring the streaming stereo music from the receiver to the audio system: a 3.5mm mini-jack analog out for use with stereo RCA inputs, but also a Toslink optical audio out. Using an optical out provides for a better signal, providing that there’s technology in play to keep high-fidelity on the table. We’ll see if that’s the case shortly. New Potato Technologies also notes that the transmission distance between the source streaming the music and the Tunelink receiver is good for 100+ feet. That’s about 3X the normal range you’d expect from Bluetooth, but again the only way to verify this is to try it out — keeping in mind that signal strength can be negatively affected by the environment the Tunelink Home is being used in.
In my case, a third generation iPad provided the music, with the Tunelink app loaded in. The Tunelink Home connects to an amplifier through the optical cable and for USB power the AC adapter was used (there not being a USB socket on the amp). That took about 2 minutes. Then another minute to pair the Bluetooth between the iPad and the Tunelink Home.
Using the app was fairly intuitive but instructions are provided for those who want it. With the amp and receiver paired, I went and found the access code for the amplifier (Company name/brand), and activated a “remote” so I could control functions while streaming the music. There’s no infra-red IR dongle because the commands were sent by Bluetooth to the receiver, which then “blasted” it out via its IR array. Also I could create other remotes as well, so there wasn’t a need for making a “universal” remote to try and control every part of my home theater system. IR needs a direct line-of-sight, but the Tunelink app let me walk around without being concerned about that.
I selected Big Brother and the Holding Company from my iTunes library (through the app) and the room was filled with the (extremely loud) harsh tones of Janis Joplin — muted down considerably once I lowered the volume control. But even when it was playing loud, Janis’ voice was clear and sharp and free of any hiss. I walked around the room and there was no cut-off of the audio playing. I even went to the other end of the apartment next to the front door (about 60 feet away) and again there wasn’t any music cut-off or loss of audio clarity. That’s about as far as I can get away from the receiver and it’s a reasonable test of the Tunelink’s range. Over the course of a few days use, I never lost the signal while playing. Nor did the IR “blaster” on the receiver fail to receive and transmit my “remote control” commands. I never was so far away that it didn’t function.
Bottom line: The advantage of streaming music in a home theater is that 1)you’re not confined to the audio speaker/headphones to use with the mobile device, and 2)superior audio quality can be listened to. Add the remote control capabilities of the Tunelink Home via Bluetooth that obviates the need for a physical IR transmitter and the $99 retail seems a pittance to pay.
- Audio from any app streams through
- Share Mode allows for multiple users
- IR extender socket for use with existing IR “Blasters”
- Model does not support Android OS
- Receiver can only stand vertically
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.