Review: CoolStream Bluetooth Receiver
At the time this review was being completed, CoolStream discontinued this product and lowered the price on the Duo. For the sake of completeness and because the original receiver is sold by some resellers, we decided to leave the review as-is for reference and comparison to the Duo.
We reviewed CoolStream’s Duo a few months ago and have enjoyed most of its features and usability, but were curious about some of the other models in the lineup. As such, we took a look at the original version of CoolStream’s Bluetooth receiver, which sells for about $10 less than the Duo at $30. Is it worth saving a few bucks?
In short, most of the review for the Duo still applies—it’s a small module that attaches to a 30-pin Dock Connector and turns most older speaker docks into Bluetooth-compatible audio receivers. Unlike the Duo, the original lacks a battery, separate 3.5mm audio input, and the ability to pair to two devices. It features Bluetooth 2.0, which doesn’t feature the modern audio codecs that some devices support with Bluetooth 3.0 or 4.0, but still carries stereo sound. It’s a tad smaller and pairs via a button.
In testing, the device worked well, as it powered on and off with the car or speaker dock, paired almost instantaneously, and worked just as one would expect. Every once in awhile, there’d be a skip or blip in the audio, but we were never able to reproduce the issue. Some of this might have been due to interference, buffering of audio from the source, or even bugs with iOS Bluetooth audio. Either way, it seemed no different than built-in Bluetooth in some devices. As the device is Bluetooth 2.0, as opposed to Bluetooth 3.0 and 4.0 in CoolStream’s other products, it does have a more involved setup process and may not support as many newer audio codecs.
For Dock Connector power, the Duo is compatible with both 5V and 12V power sources. 12V is what many older docks use, especially if they were in the era of the third-, fourth, or fifth-generation iPods. Docks for newer devices that charge over USB are 5V. There is also a small LED to indicate the power and pairing status.
In summary, we really recommend the slightly more expensive Duo over this unit, especially since it adds battery power, a normal 3.5mm line out, and just seems like an overall more flexible product. That being said, if you want to save a few bucks and have a specific use, this Bluetooth receiver is certainly a solid performer.
The One-Sentence Verdict™
CoolStream’s original Bluetooth receiver is certainly a solid performer and one of the earliest products in this category on the market, however, we strongly encourage getting the newer iteration.
Pros: Good streaming quality, fast pairing, 5V and 12V power
Cons: Older Bluetooth technology, Duo offers quite a bit more features and flexibility for only a bit more