Tap to Listen
Most classrooms were designed for a less electronic age with only a few AC outlets and maybe a PA speaker that probably doesn’t work anymore. Few have an internal sound system that can allow the teacher to play music, an informative podcast or the soundtrack of an educational video. Belkin’s HD Bluetooth Music Receiver can easily add wireless audio to a room in a few minutes.
The $60 device comes with an AC adapter as well as a pair of audio cables for connecting with a powered or unpowered speaker. In addition to Bluetooth, the Music Receiver can directly connect via a 3.5 millimeter, digital coaxial or S/PDIF optical cable; it has a blue light to show that it’s on and connected. This lets it work with anything from a phone or tablet to a notebook or desktop computer.
Small enough to stash just about anywhere there’s a speaker, the receiver has a cool trick up its sleeve that can ease its set up. The Music Receiver has a Near Field Communications (NFC) chip built-in that makes setting it up a snap.
If your phone, notebook or tablet has an NFC chip, all you need to do is start its transfer software and tap the device on the top of the Music Receiver. The NFC chip does the heavy work and establishes a Bluetooth connection. The source displays a confirmation that the link has been made. You only need to do it once and after that, the two will automatically link up when they are in range.
After tapping the Music Receiver with a Nexus 7 tablet the two devices connected on the first try in about 20 seconds and streamed audio without a problem. It reconnected several times when I returned to the room and the receiver has a range of 25-feet, which should be more than enough for most rooms.
The good news is that NFC is quickly being incorporated into a variety of school-ready devices, including new Sony notebooks, tablets and many phones, although you might need to download an app to make it work. The bad news is that neither the iPhone nor the iPad have NFC capabilities nor apparently will have them in the near future. For them, you’ll have to manually connect using Bluetooth. It took about a minute for an iPad Mini to connect.
The audio quality was generally quite good and depends on the quality of the speakers. It worked well with powered speakers and was able to fill a room with audio. On the other hand, if you’re using unpowered speakers, you might need to use an amplifier to get the volume up. In this case, an inexpensive $25 amp does the trick.
On the downside, Belkin’s Bluetooth Music Receiver, lacks a volume control, mute button or even the most rudimentary remote control. To change the sound level you’ll need to adjust it at the source. All told, it is not only a product that simply does what it is supposed to do and does it well, but an unsung hero of classroom technology.
+ Quick set up
+ Good range
+ NFC enabled
+ Works with notebooks, tablets and phones
+ Comes with audio cables
- No volume or remote control