Very high quality Bluetooth streaming form your mobile device to your hi-fi
The Arcam rBlink lets you stream music stored on your mobile phone or tablet to your existing speaker system or hi-fi via Bluetooth. This means that not only can you stream MP3s and other audio files to your hi-fi, you can also stream audio from YouTube videos or catch-up TV services. It also means that changing an album or track takes little more effort than removing your phone from your pocket.
It’s expensive, but the Arcam rBlink uses a high-end digital-to-audio convertor (DAC) to translate the zeroes and ones of an audio file, such as an MP3 file, to high-quality sound we can hear. It also has both RCA and combined optical and coaxial S/PDIF outputs, so you shouldn’t have a problem connecting it to your sound system. Using the combined optical and coaxial S/PDIF bypasses the rBlink’s excellent DAC, so we only recommend using it if your hi-fi has its own high-quality DAC or doesn’t have any spare analogue inputs.
The RCA output is fed by the outstanding Texas Instruments Burr Brown PCM5102 digital-to-analogue converter. It provides extremely detailed and well-balanced sound with a great sense of space and positional audio. At the back of the device is a power connector, the Bluetooth pairing button and a detachable antenna. We experienced no problems, such as audio drop-outs, when streaming audio at a distance of 10 metres – the rated maximum range of Bluetooth.
Bluetooth communication is handled by the CSR BlueCore7 system-on-a-chip (SoC), and it supports the aptX audio codec as well as more common audio standards. Although AptX is still somewhat uncommon, it is supported by recent Samsung and HTC phones, some Apple MacBooks and USB dongles released by Creative and Sennheiser.
AptX streams at a high bitrate of 380kbit/s, but the rBlink can also stream at lower bitrates and use other codecs. The rBlink can, for example, stream AAC audio from iOS 6 devices at 256Kbit/s.
It can also handle the standard 128kbit/s SBC codec used in A2DP Bluetooth audio. Even lower quality SBC audio streams sound better than they would when streamed by other Bluetooth audio streaming devices such as the Bayan Streamport Universal, largely due to the rBlink’s excellent DAC.
Unfortunately, the rBlink is also much more expensive than the Streamport. Its build quality, sound quality, codec support and selection of hardware are all far superior to any other Bluetooth streaming device we’ve encountered. The only major feature it lacks is NFC pairing.
Even so, pairing the rBlink to your tablet or smartphone isn’t difficult. You simply press the pairing button on the rBlink and select it on your mobile device. Once paired, it’ll remain connected to your device until you break the connection. Sadly, you’ll have to pair your mobile device to the rBlink again to reconnect it, but this is the work of moments. Should you receive a call, the sound of the caller is output through your phone’s speaker, not the rBlink.
Yes, the rBlink is expensive, but it sounds brilliant and makes audio streaming easy. If you want the convenience of streaming music stored on your smartphone or tablet to your hi-fi, and you demand excellent sound quality, then the rBlink is a great buy. The Bayan Streamport Universal is certainly cheaper, but we think the Arcam rBlink is definitely worth the extra cost.