January 04, 2010

Playing audio from an iPhone

Pretty much ever since I’ve had my iPhone I’ve had a problem I’ve been looking for a solution for. Having lots of music on the phone is great for personal use – earphones on one sort or another work fine for that. Sometimes, though, I want to share the music (or podcasts, or…) with others, and in several different situations. I’ve found the built-in speaker to be surprisingly loud, and is usable in smallish rooms with a few people so long as there isn’t too much background noise. But sometimes something else is needed and I haven’t really found an ideal solution.

At home I can just connect the iPhone to my existing hi-fi via a cable and that works fine from an audio point of view. Having a cable trailing across the room is less than ideal, though. I’ve tried the Jabra BT3030 as a solution to that. It is a stereo bluetooth headset designed for mobiles, but with a 3.5mm socket for connecting headphones, meaning I can also feed it to my hi-fi. As a wireless headset for an iPhone it has some shortcomings, but for this application the main problem is that the audio quality isn’t quite good enough.

I’ve also tried the Griffin iTrip (thanks, Santa!). This is a much better solution all around, apart from one little detail. The range is irritatingly short. More than a couple of metres away and the signal starts to break up. The Griffin website claims a range of 9m. I don’t get anywhere near that. And anyway, it seems that not everywhere I want to do this has a conveniently located FM radio capable device. A decent enough portable FM radio isn’t hard to come by, though, so this is my current best solution to the problem.

Does anyone else have the need to play audio from an iPhone/iPod in a portable way without spending a fortune? There must be a better solution out there somewhere. Do decent bluetooth speakers exist? Bluetooth appears to have a longer range than the iTrip…

- 5 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. John Rawnsley

    I’d like to be able to stream music wirelessly without using FM. That means either wifi or bluetooth.

    The Airport Express wifi base station has something called AirTunes which might do the job.

    There are also quite a few bluetooth dongles for iPods some of which work with iPhones and come as a pair with a bluetooth hifi receiver. I’ve never heard one, but it might be better quality than the built in bluetooth.

    05 Jan 2010, 22:44

  2. Steve Rumsby

    I think the main problem with the built-in iPhone bluetooth is that it is only half-done. There’s no track skip support, but worse there’s no volume support. I’m told that means that the audio is sent at “full volume” across the BT connection, which upsets the poor Jabra. The Jabra has a local volume control, but at its lowest it is almost too loud for earbuds. That makes me think it’s local audio circuitry is getting overloaded and distorting the sound. Maybe the separate dongles work better? I might investigate…

    Or maybe Apple will finally implement bluetooth audio properly in the next OS upgrade?

    06 Jan 2010, 10:08

  3. John Rawnsley

    Comments by purchasers of dual dongle solutions do not complain about distortion so if you find a good solution let me know. On the other hand people’s sensitivity to poor audio varies so it could be there’s no solution short of new hard/software.

    06 Jan 2010, 21:14

  4. Nat

    Hi Steve

    I believe you have had contact with my colleague Mark in the past.

    We might have an answer to this problem! It’s called the AirCurve Acoustic Amplifier for iPhone, and is also by Griffin. You can check it out here linkurl:http://www.mobilefun.co.uk/griffin-aircurve-acoustic-amplifier-for-iphone-3gs-3g-p20797.htm

    It allows you to make your iPhone into a mini-soundsystem, without using wires or speakers. If you fancy reviewing one on your blog, drop me a line and we’ll get one sent out to you.

    All the best

    19 Mar 2010, 16:11

  5. Daniel

    iv found that there arnt a great deal of solutions to your issue and on looking around a bit, (im good like that) unless you have a hard connection, ie: cable trailing across the room, you are always going to have range issues with blue tooth because it not got the strongest signal.

    09 Jun 2010, 15:45

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