How to listen to music in Bluetooth (with a hi-fi or home cinema system)


To listen to music wirelessly, the simplest solution is to use the Bluetooth transmitter present in most smartphones, tablets and laptops along with a Bluetooth receiver. Why? For at least two simple reasons ? the first being the ease of connection between the transmitter and Bluetooth receiver. The digital data is not sent through the local WiFi network. Simply search for the Bluetooth receiver with your computer or tablet, then click to pair the two devices or make contact if they are NFC (Near Field Communication) compatible.

Advance Acoustic WTX-1000
The Advance Acoustic WTX-1000 apt-X compatible Bluetooth receiver, fitted with both analog and digital outputs

The second reason concerns the transmission quality of Bluetooth, which has been clearly progressing due to the apt-X protocol. If you have a computer fitted with an ?older generation’ Bluetooth controller, an apt-X compatible USB transmitter is very affordable (from 20 ?) and totally transforms your listening experience.

Important: If the transmitter and receiver are not apt-X compatible, then the lesser quality SBC codec will be used. Those with an iPhone, iPod touch and iPad can use the AAC codec, which is superior to the SBC if the receiver supports it.

Bluetooth receiver: analog or digital output?

If your stereo system doesn’t have a Bluetooth receiver and if the manufacturer offers no optional module, be aware that there are many inexpensive receivers which are compatible with all amplifier and stereo systems fitted with stereo analog or S/PDIF digital inputs.

Real Cable iPlug-BTR
The Real Cable iPlug-BTR apt-X receiver – a safe bet at entry level

Adding a wireless listening feature to an existing installation is very straightforward.

The least expensive models of Bluetooth receiver are only fitted with a stereo analog output (RCA or mini jack format) and their output stage is of modest quality.

For less than 50 ?, the sound is good but by no means exceptional.  Bluetooth receivers such as Logitech Wireless Speaker Adapter, Terratec Noxon B1 or Harman Kardon BTA10 should be chosen for a small-scale hi-fi system, active speaker or radio with analog input. These Bluetooth receivers will guarantee satisfactory results.

QED uPlay Plus
The QED uPlay Plus apt-X Bluetooth receiver, fitted with both analog and digital outputs

For a more dynamic  and spacious delivery of digital music, you should consider specialist hi-fi brands. QED offers the QED uPlay with its high quality RCA stereo interconnect cables. Focal has brought out the Focal Universal Wireless APTX Receiver, which is connected directly to the RCA inputs of any integrated amplifier. This option, which gets rid of all interconnection cables has also been used by Advance Acoustic with its Advance Acoustic WTX-500.

Advance Acoustic WTX-500
The Advance Acoustic WTX-500 apt-X Bluetooth receiver can be connected directly to an amplifier without the need for cables

If you’re looking for the most effective option, Bluetooth apt-X receivers with digital output are the best choice.

Bluetooth receiver – the benefits of using it along with a DAC

A Bluetooth receiver with digital output enables the use of an additional DAC to that fitted in the device. Often powered via a single USB port or low amperage 12 V adaptor, the analog conversion/output stage of a Bluetooth receiver has difficulty competing with the integrated DACs of home cinema and hi-fi amplifiers. We therefore advise you to choose a Bluetooth receiver fitted with an S/PDIF digital output, such as the Yamaha YBA-11, Real Cable iPlug-BTR, NuForce BTR-100, QED uPlay PlusAdvance Acoustic WTX-1000 or Arcam rBlink.

The Pro-Ject Bluetooth Box E apt-X receiver, fitted with a double analog and S/PDIF Toslink optical digital output

What’s even better is the joint use of an audio DAC which provides excellent conversion quality of the streamed audio file. You don’t need to invest in a top-of-the-range DAC. As the aim is to decode compressed audio files, a mid-range DAC will be adequate, such as the Pro-Ject Dac Box S USB.

Bluetooth receiver – wireless but be careful of the cables

The Audioquest Forest Toslink optical cable uses a high quality fibre

We can’t stress it enough but it’s such a shame to invest in high quality electronics if you use them with poor quality cables. This only leads to disappointment. Use quality RCA cables to ensure a dynamic, balanced sound. As for digital cables, even if you listen to music in MP3 format, be aware that the digital signal conveyed by the Bluetooth receiver to the external DAC or home cinema amplifier is converted into PCM signals at a rate similar to that of a CD. A decent quality optical or RCA coaxial cable is therefore compulsory.


NB: This post was published in 2013 but we strive to ensure that its content remains up-to-date.

For further information on Bluetooth technology, please consult our guide

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