Wireless audio used to require expensive devices using transmission antennas and proprietary technologies. All that changed with Bluetooth because the transmitter comes pre-loaded in mobile devices and computers. But planned obsolescence doesn’t occur as rapidly in the audio world, and many people have no plans to scrap their high-quality, high-priced non-BT amplified receiver (a.k.a. AVR) just to catch up. That’s where an external Bluetooth receiver comes into play; providing the reception means for a “legacy” AVR to be updated. But to stream high-resolution music without incident, the BT receiver needs to function in as simple a manner as possible. Hence the value of knoll’s DC7BT Bluetooth Docking Station/Receiver.
The AVR used with the DC7BT was a 5 year old 100 watt Yamaha 5.1 amp, sans Bluetooth technologies. The DC7BT, which is decidedly tiny, was placed next to the Yamaha, but far enough away to avoid any possible RF interference. The mini-jack of the included audio cable was then plugged into the DC7BT’s input, with the RCA stereo outputs at the other end going into one of the Yamaha’s analog inputs. The Yamaha was then turned on, the video circuitry disabled and the front left/right speakers channeled to the input the DC7BT was connected to. The last step was to plug in a power adapter to power the DC7BT.
Now at this point some button or tab on a BT receiver would be pressed so that it could pair with the device that would be streaming music to it (an iPhone 5 in this case). But this is where the DC7BT differed from others of its type because it automatically went into pairing mode when turned on — there wasn’t anything to touch. I brought up the BT setting on the iPhone and found the DC7BT listed there and so chose it in the usual manner. The small blue LED lit up and that was it, end of pairing.
The “default” reception distance for Bluetooth is generally spoken of as being 33 feet, although many devices purport to exceed that. That’s also true of the DC7BT’s specs: being noted as up to 80 feet in “ideal” conditions. What that means is that streaming past 33 feet can occur but depends on the local environment: is it an open space or are there walls? And what about interference issues from multiple home network frequencies working in an apartment bldg., and so on? The only way to tell is to try it out in one’s own location. So I did.
The audio response, according to knoll, is full-frequency stereo (A2DP), so I ripped a number of CDs, including pop classics from the likes of the Eurythmics and Bruce Springsteen. I wanted to see if the “sound” differed when streaming versus playing digital files contained on a USB drive. This test was far from scientific, but I couldn’t hear any difference when streaming “Sweet Dreams”, for example, versus playing it off the drive.
I also tried to foil the Bluetooth streaming by moving around my apartment while it played through the speakers. But I never lost the signal, except the one time I walked out the front door and turned a corner around the hallway — the sound cut out once I had attained a distance of about 50+ feet. Returning to my apartment, the audio resumed.
There was no hiss or humming to indicate interference during the time I spent using the DC7BT to stream music. It just worked. And since the DC7BT was always on, it also automatically paired itself with the iPhone whenever I came in range so all I had to do was select it from the audio output choices when I wanted to stream music to the Yamaha.
Bottom line: knoll’s DC7BT Bluetooth Docking Station/Receiver is designed to receive streaming high resolution audio and transfer same to an audio receiver (or any compatible audio reception device) in an efficient manner that doesn’t require any maintenance. $99.00 retail doesn’t just buy a Bluetooth add-on but simplicity of operation as well.
Power adapter heats up over time
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.