Product Review: StarTech Bluetooth Audio Receiver With NFC

startech-bt2a-1115I’ve always found myself drawn to and interested in problem solving devices, and sometimes I find them more interesting than larger pieces of equipment, like loudspeakers and video displays.

The BT2A Bluetooth audio receiver from Lockburne, Ohio-based manufacturer StarTech is intended to turn any audio output device like amplifiers or integrated receivers into a Bluetooth-compatible media gateway that can wirelessly stream audio directly from Bluetooth-enabled devices like smartphones, tablets or laptops.

I’ll freely admit that today there are plenty of audio products in the marketplace that integrate Bluetooth functionality into them, from amplifiers to powered monitor speakers and beyond, but there’s still plenty of products out there in the field in existing legacy installations that don’t.

That’s where widgets and dongles like the BT2A come into play: updating existing installations without swapping out more expensive main components. The focus of the BT2A’s design is on maximizing sound quality, so it features a Wolfson Digital-to-Analog converter (DAC) and supports the aptX audio codec, which was developed for streaming high quality stereo audio over the Bluetooth A2DP connection/pairing between source and output devices.

In addition to Bluetooth input, the BT2A also features pairing using NFC (Near field communication). Users pair their NFC-enabled mobile device on the BT2A and they’ll be able transmit audio wirelessly to the output equipment, with no additional configuration required.

Analog output from the BT2A is via a 3.5-millimeter plug, and the BT2A comes supplied with analog cabling for connections that require 2-channel RCA audio, or 3.5-millimeter audio. For connection to output devices with digital inputs, the BT2A incorporates a TOSlink optical output.

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A small detail that I found interesting is that for power Startech includes both a wall plug AC adapter as well as a USB 5V DC cable giving the installer flexibility in how to power the BT2A: either from a 120v AC outlet, or from a USB port.

The audio system in my office is a big two-channel Speakercraft Big Bang BB2125 amplifier powering a pair of PSB Alpha speakers. I disconnected the hardwired DAC that connects to my laptop and plugged the StarTech BT2A directly into my amplifier.

In all respects the BT2A performed well. It paired quickly to my phone, and streamed music from iTunes with good sound quality and no “hiccups” (my term for the couple of seconds of dead air that happens with some Bluetooth devices).

My experience with StarTech AV solutions has always been uniformly positive and the BT2A was no exception. As a solution to connect mobile Bluetooth and NFC-enabled devices to existing installations it definitely fits the bill. The BT2A is backed by a two-year warranty and free lifetime technical support. For more information and all the specifications, go here.