This is a review of Antec GAIN bluetooth receiver with Android phone controls: AMP
I think this little gadget is one of the best kept secrets, and I will tell you why in my review. After spending some time reviewing wired headphones with in-line remotes and wireless bluetooth headphones with built-in controls, I have a good idea of what to expect from a headphone and it's control when using Note 2 or any other Android phone, like S4 I was just reviewing. Bluetooth technology is great since you don't have to tie yourself up with an umbilical cord to your phone and can pickup/end a phone call and play/pause audio and maybe control volume or skip a track, depending on models you use. But you also run into an issue when you are in a middle of something and battery goes dead. Plus, not all the headphones have both volume and track skip controls, and sometimes you are dealing with a single button with multiple functionality. Either way, you have some pluses and minuses with both. What GAIN does is to bridge these both giving you an option to use either one while also providing you all the necessary controls.
This little device is small, well actually its tiny! Measured at 40mm x 23mm x 15mm and weight of under 10 grams it looks almost like a toy you get with a Happy Meal. But it actually packs a lot of functionality and executes it really well. First of all it has a clip on the back so you can attach it close to you. Keep in mind, it will host the microphone so you have to remember its not the same as in-line remote on your wired headphones which is close to your face or a microphone built into your earbuds. You want to keep it close to you so it will pick up your voice better. It has a regular micro-usb charging port which is a big bonus since you don't have to dig for any old mini-usb or proprietary cables. According to Antec the battery should last 6 hours of continuous music play. I haven't tested it for 6 hours, so can't confirm that yet. Will rely on a vendor data for now. Next you have 3.5mm jack where you connect headphones. Headphones are supplied as part of the package. These are actually decent looking earphones, doesn't look cheap at all, and they even come with 3 pairs of interchangeable ear tips. The sound quality is not top notch, but its acceptable in this case. I have to note, they have a short cable which is the whole intent of the use because you are not plugging these into a remotely located phone, but rather into a small GAIN receiver which should be closer to you with it's microphone. Of course, the main idea is that you can use ANY headphones connected to this bt receiver to turn them into wireless headphones!!! In case of any regular wired pair of headphones, you will have to deal with an excess of wires, so will have to figure out how to manage it. Another bonus, this is BT receiver so you can use it to turn ANY speaker into a wireless speaker! As a matter of fact, you can even hook it up to aux input of your car stereo to stream music from your phone and/or pick up the calls that way. The possibilities are endless, but I wish Antec would have included 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio adapter cable. They did include usb/micro-usb cable in the package, but audio adapter cable would have been nice as well.
Now, about the bluetooth interface and phone/multimedia controls. When you look at this device, you don't see any buttons. It has a top flat panel which is clickable in the corners and in the middle. The corner functions are assigned to next/prev track selection and volume control, while the area in the middle is multi functional to pick up/end the call and to play/pause the music and the videos. To prevent accidental clicking, there is a lock button on the side. You also get LED indicator in the middle with a cool blue and red light. Pairing up with Note 2 and S4 took seconds, no need to enter any code. From the get go it was working controlling the audio tracks, volume, calls, YT videos, etc. Everything worked as expected. When you pair up with Android smartphone, you get both multimedia and phone pair up and this device supports all the profiles such as EDR, A2DP, Hands Free, and Headset. I was very impressed because I have seen bluetooth receivers before, but this one has a unique functionality to integrate all the audio, multimedia, and phone controls, comes with a bonus pair of headphones and charging cable, and cost around $30 plus change. I do have to mention the sound quality. It will not make a cheap pair of headphones sound like a million bucks. It just transforms it into wireless. So the bundled headphones were not necessary of the highest quality which is noticeable especially at higher volumes. But once I plugged in a pair of my Klipsch earphones - the sound was top notch. I did a/b comparison using Klipsch (S4A II) pugged directly to a phone and through GAIN and found very little degradation. I'm not an audiophile to analyze the whole frequency spectrum to exhaustion at different volume levels. I'm looking at it from a consumer point of view, and I was satisfied.
So, this one definitely gets my two thumbs up!!! A great design, excellent functionality, easy to use, and flexibility of converting any wired headphone into wireless and then back if you run out of battery - definitely a very impressive gadget. I will try to see how it works in the car next, just need to get audio cable adapter.
Here are some pics for your enjoyment: