Arcam rBlink review
The Arcam rBlink is a Bluetooth audio converter that enables you to wirelessly stream music from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Mac directly to your Hi-Fi. If you want to connect your iPhone to a H-Fi system wirelessly, then this is the option to go for.
We tested the rBlink with a Cambridge Audio speaker system, and found that it delivered on several fronts: The audio quality is superb, it's easy to setup and offers good value.
First the audio quality. The Arcam rBlink uses Bluetooth, and the quality of this has come along leaps and bounds in recent years. But Bluetooth (along with your iPhone) is a digital system, and the signal needs to be converted to analogue to play through most Hi-Fi systems. According to Arcam "the rBlink uses a high-end PCM 5102 DAC to convert music to a line level output ready for connection to a whole host of audio systems."
There aren't many rival systems to the rBlink on the market (apart from dedicated Bluetooth speakers) so it's hard to judge the quality of this PCM 5102 DAC against other audio units, other than to suggest that for us the sound quality was just fine. We went back and forth between a direct connection and the Arcam rBlink Bluetooth connection and we couldn't hear any discernible difference.
Arcam rBlink setup
We also found it incredibly easy to set up the Arcam rBlink. You plug it in, attach the small plastic aerial and plug it in to the speaker system. It features left/right RCA Audio Jack connections and ships with an RCA to 3.5mm Jack lead (or you can use a standard RCA Connector if you have a spare). It also has a S/PDIF connection if you have an optical input on your speaker system. Setup took all of 30 seconds.
Once plugged in and switched on, you press the Reset button on the side of the unit until its light blinks, and pair the Arcam rBlink with Bluetooth on your device (on the iPhone via Setup > Bluetooth). We find Bluetooth typically pretty easy to get up and running, and the Arcam rBlink was no exception. As with all Bluetooth devices it can only pair with a single device at a time, although we found it easier to put the Arcam rBlink into pairing mode than most other routers.
Arcam rBlink versus the competition
As we've mentioned there isn't much to compare the Arcam rBlink to at the moment, so it's hard to review it comparatively. It's a shame that it doesn't support AirPlay, although you could pick up an Apple AirPort Express if you'd rather down the AirPlay route. However, we think Bluetooth is a better audio solution than Apple's AirPlay at the moment (it has wider support and is easier to setup)
Read more: AirPort Express review
There are lots of wireless speakers around, some use Bluetooth and some use AirPlay but they are all mostly integrated units with wireless support built in (like this Pioneer A3 review). Because the rBlink is designed to hook directly into a pre-amp device it's hard to compare it to one of these. If you've got a decent speaker system then we'd certainly advise you to go via the rBlink route rather than purchasing a separate speaker. It's cheaper and the audio quality will be ultimately higher.
The Arcam rBlink currently fills a gap in the market, that of connecting a wireless device (such as an iPhone or iPad) to your current home speaker system. At £160 it's not a cheap option, given it's just a wireless Bluetooth system with a Digital to Audio converter inside. But the quality of the audio is high, and it's very easy to setup.