iPod Accessory Reviews: Bluetooth Adapters for Headphones
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Reviewed October, 2006 by Jacob Spindel
Bluetooth wireless headphones for your iPod are a cool idea, in theory... but in the past, the transmitter dongles you would have to charge and connect to your iPod, which were by themselves larger than regular earphones and possibly larger than your iPod, could easily leave you wondering how exactly this setup was supposed to be more convenient than wired headphones. AnyCom's BluNa Bluetooth adaptor, which is desgined for the iPod nano but is compatible with all iPod models with a Dock connector, aims to provide a more elegant solution. Although there is still room for improvement, the BlueNa has gone a long way toward convincing me that using Bluetooth headphones with your iPod is actually a practical idea.
With a name like "BluNa," you would be forgiven for not having much idea what sort of product this is. The BluNa measures just 1.6" x 0.36" x 1" and connects to your iPod's Dock connector port, and it could easily be mistaken for an FM transmitter; however, it actually transmits audio digitally over Bluetooth, rather than relying on FM radio waves that are prone to low quality audio. The device is available in either black or white and features a sole blinking blue LED on the front, with no other interactive components whatsoever. The BluNa conforms to the Bluetooth 1.2 and A2DP (audio transmission) standards.
The BluNa was clearly designed with the nano in mind, since its width and off-center Dock connector make it look like a natural extension of the iPod itself when it is connected to a nano. In fact, it even includes a plastic attachment that keeps it connected with a nano even more securely than a standard Dock connector add-on. However, you can remove the attachment and connect the BluNa to any Dock-compatible iPod (even the 3G).
Although the BluNa draws its power entirely from the iPod and needs no battery or other power source, AnyCom has apparently recognized that it will decrease your iPod's battery life significantly (the reduction is estimated at about 1.5 hours), and they have included a USB power adaptor in the package. This adaptor is handy for charging an iPod or most Bluetooth headsets, but it doesn't really have much to do with the BluNa. In fact, since the BluNa doesn't have a passthrough port, you cannot use the BluNa and the charger (or any other charger) at the same time. I suppose including iPod accessories that are only marginally related is still an advantage - hmm, perhaps the next version should include a sledgehammer for your Zune...?
So does it work? The BluNa will easily pair with your Bluetooth headphones and blink its LED 5 times rapidly to indicate success - if your headphones use a passcode of 0000. If your Bluetooth headphones use any other passcode and cannot have their passcode changed (like the i.Tech BlueBAND does), you can... buy different Bluetooth headphones. Really. This is a major shortcoming, although the headset makers are about as much to blame as AnyCom is.
If you can get the device paired with your headphones, though, it's smooth sailing from then on. Usage of the device is so seamless that there is almost nothing to explain - just use your iPod the same way you always do, without any extra configuration or other steps. The device's LED blinks slowly to indicate that it is transmitting and has a range of about 10 meters. In fact, the BluNa even supports a standard called AVRCP, which means that if your Bluetooth headset has play/pause or other playback controls, you can actually use them to control your iPod.
The audio transmission is clear and consistent, to the point that it is basically indistinguishable from the audio from wired headphones. I will not attempt to judge the device's suitability for various audio types because this depends on the headphones you use much more than on the BluNa itself. In my testing, the BluNa made the best use possible of the Bluetooth headphones it communicated with.