HTC Bluetooth Car StereoClip review

I've always had a love-hate relationship with Bluetooth. I love the idea. Being able to easily and wirelessly connect our devices to other devices just makes sense. Wires and cables are decidedly unsightly and unsophisticated. But in actual use, well, that's where the hate comes in. Sometimes Bluetooth works great. Other times it's the devil, refusing to connect, or to hold or connection, or basically sounding crappy.

I've been pleasantly surprised by the HTC Bluetooth Car StereoClip. (Sprint currently is selling it under the "Bluetooth Music Adaptor" name.) Here it is, in a sentence: Pair it with your phone, plug it into a 3.5mm jack, and play audio to your heart's content. Done. It's that easy. (But that doesn't mean you shouldn't read on for our full review. Let's hit it!)

To answer everyone's first question: Yes, you can use a non-HTC phone with it. It's Bluetooth, after all. (It paired just fine with our Samsung Galaxy Nexus in addition to the HTC One X.) The only real requirement is that your device needs to have at least Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR. And chances are your phone or tablet has that. A couple other protocols you'll see listed are A2DP (stereo Bluetooth) and the CSR aptX codec. Your device also likely has A2DP. That's old-school. CSR's aptX codec is for lossless compression. Like A2DP, it's "supported," but not required. 

Audio quality is the next question, of course. And it's excellent. To my abused metalhead ears, output quality is as good as if you were using an AUX cable. No static at all. (Remember that you lose HTC's Beats Audio enhancements when not using a connected output, though.) And that leads into Question 3.

If you're plugging this into your car's AUX port, why not just use an AUX cable that's cheaper and doesn't require charging? (Yes, you have to charge this thing via microUSB.) We can't really answer that one for you. Your workflow might be different than mine. But if I have the choice between Bluetooth that actually works and cables I have to reconnect every time I get in the car, I'm going with Bluetooth.

As for the dongle itself, it's about the same size as a typical flash drive. No, not one of those tiny flash drives. A normal flash drive. It's got a cap that protects the TRS connector when not in use. (You're on your own to not lose that cap -- there's no lanyard or anything.) The cap has a hole in it, so you can keep the whole kit and kaboodle on a keychain if you wish, or on a necklace, if that's how you roll. 

On the opposite end of the dongle is the microUSB port for charging and a red/green LED indicator light. It gives a triple-green flash every few seconds when connected, lights up red when charging and turns green when topped off. (See the manual for all the lighting patterns, but those are the important ones.) There's a single button one the bottom for turning the adaptor of and on. Speaking of the battery, it's rated at 5 hours' playback time and 120 hours' standby time. You can charge while listening, but it looks pretty funny.

One advantage you get in using the adaptor with newer HTC phones (with Sense 4) is the ability to automatically connect and output in the excellent HTC car app. Your newer HTC phone should be set up to do this automatically.

Downsides? Aside from the current $60 price tag (at least that's what we paid), you don't get much range with this thing. That's not necessarily a strike against it though, as it's mean to be used in the car. So your phone likely is within a couple feet of the adaptor. But get more than 6 feet away, and you start losing the signal.

And that's the HTC Bluetooth Car StereoClip. Simple, to the point, works well and sounds great. Is it worth the price and worth unplugging your cheap and even easier-to-use AUX cable? That one's up to you.

Update (6/5): By the way, I've been using this to connect my MacBook Air to the stereo for a while now, and it works just fine, as you'd expect. Huzzah!

Phil Nickinson