How to make your stereo wireless with Bluetooth
Here at Geek Squad, we love Bluetooth – the wireless technology that lets you stream audio and other data between your various devices. A Bluetooth-enabled stereo lets you effortlessly stream music from your phone, tablet or computer – and as we reveal, you don’t need to invest in a load of expensive new kit to take advantage of it.
These days, it seems the old-fashioned audio cable is on the way out – and a Bluetooth-enabled amplifier is a brilliant way to listen to music from any Bluetooth-enabled phone, laptop or tablet.
With Bluetooth, gone are the days of running lengthy wires across the room just to plug your device into the stereo. But of course, to take advantage of it, you need to have an all-singing, all-dancing Bluetooth amp. Or do you?
Actually, no! With the right gadget, you can convert any old amplifier – or headphones, or indeed any device at all that receives audio through a cable – into a lean, mean, Bluetooth audio machine.
Best of all, these add-on devices are usually much cheaper than buying new gear outright. With that in mind, then, here’s how to give your stereo – or just about anything else – Bluetooth!
- Step one: Get a dongle
- Step two: Connect it to your stereo
- Step three: Pair it with your device
- Step four: That's it!
The first and most important step is to get your hands on a Bluetooth audio receiver ‘dongle’.
This is essentially a tiny box – generally about the size of a box of matches, although some are even smaller – that has a Bluetooth antenna built into it, as well as an attachment for an audio cable and a way to power or charge the device.
This dongle is what actually detects the Bluetooth signal from your phone, tablet or other device. It then converts that data into an audio signal, and sends it through the audio cable into your amplifier.
In a way, you can think of the Bluetooth dongle as being a kind of “wireless” audio cable. One end plugs into your stereo just like any other audio cable – but rather than plugging directly into your phone or other device, the other “end” of the cable is connected wirelessly by Bluetooth. But as far as your stereo is concerned, it acts like any other audio cable.
When it comes to choosing a Bluetooth dongle, you have a load of options. They mostly work in the same way whichever you choose, and there are dozens out there on the market – but here are a few to consider:
TaoTronics TT-BA07 Bluetooth Transmitter and Receiver
This dongle has a few great features that really stand out. First, it’s got an internal battery that charges via USB – so you don’t need to be near a socket to use it. This makes it a great choice for powering headphones and other portable gear on the go.
Second, a simple button allows it to switch from ‘receive’ to ‘transmit’ mode, meaning it can also stream audio from a non-Bluetooth source to Bluetooth speakers and headphones. This effectively gives you two useful gadgets for the price of one.
Finally, it comes bundled with both 3.5mm jack and RCA-style cables – meaning you should have everything you need to get started with streaming straight out of the box, whatever other gear you're using.
KitSound MyJack Bluetooth Converter
While the TaoTronics model is packed with features, the MyJack from KitSound takes a more streamlined approach – indeed, it's the smallest device on this list, and should fit effortlessly into your amplifier, car stereo or just about anything else.
Like the TaoTronics, it's got a built-in battery that charges via a USB cable, which should provide you with around five hours of playback time. 'Multi-point pairing' also means you can connect two devices at the same time – a very welcome feature for large households!
The main drawback here is that it connects directly using a 3.5mm jack – meaning you'll need to pick up an adapter if your stereo or other playback device needs a different type of cable.
Aukey Bluetooth Receiver
This final pick is another low-profile, minimal option. Like the other picks on this list, it features a rechargeable battery – but unlike the MyJack, it also comes with a 3.5mm to RCA cable, so it should work with most stereos straight out of the box.
Setting this device apart is its built-in microphone. While we wouldn't necessarily expect great results from it, it does make the device a little more flexible: plug a pair of headphones in, and you can use to make hand-free calls from your Bluetooth-enabled mobile!
Of course, these are just a few suggestions – feel free to shop around and find a dongle that suits your setup and wallet.
The next step is to physically connect the Bluetooth dongle to your amplifier (or headphones, or whichever other device you’d like to receive Bluetooth audio).
This is generally as simple as plugging in any other audio cable, but there are a couple of things to be aware of:
Most Bluetooth dongles only feature a 3.5mm ‘headphone’-style jack as an output. This is fine for plugging in a pair of headphones, or connecting to another device that uses that type of jack – but many amplifiers use a different type of cable.
For most stereos, this will typically be an ‘RCA’, or 'phono' cable – pictured to the right. Thankfully, this won’t cause too many problems: you just need to make sure you connect the dongle to the stereo using a cable that has a ‘male’ 3.5mm jack on one end, and a pair of RCA stereo plugs on the other.
Many Bluetooth dongles actually come bundled with just such a cable – but it’s worth checking before you buy. If you do need one, you can get one pretty cheap on Amazon.
Once you’ve got the cable you need, plug one end into the Bluetooth dongle and the other end into your stereo. Alternatively, if you're connecting a pair of headphones, you can plug those into the dongle directly.
While you’re at it, connect the dongle to a power source if required and make sure it’s switched on. At this point, we’re nearly done!
The next thing you’ll need to do is ‘pair’ your phone, tablet or other audio-playing device with the dongle.
The first step here is to put the dongle in pairing mode. The precise method will vary from device to device, but this basically sends a signal to all nearby Bluetooth devices, letting them know the dongle is ready for a connection.
Then, you’ll need to activate pairing mode on your other device. Bear in mind the devices will need to be within range – ususally between 10 and 20 metres – for this to work!
For iOS devices:
- Go to Settings > Bluetooth and switch the toggle switch to On (green).
- Next, you should see your dongle appear in the list of Devices.
- Tap the dongle’s name and follow the instructions on screen. You may need to enter a ‘pairing code’ the first time you do this – this should have been provided along with your dongle.
- That’s it! From now on, the dongle should appear in the My Devices section of your Bluetooth settings, and will connect automatically when Bluetooth is enabled on your device and the dongle is in pairing mode.
For Android devices, the process is broadly similar:
- Touch your finger to the top of the screen and drag downwards to reveal the quick settings.
- Tap on the cog icon in the top-right corner of the screen to go straight to the Settings menu.
- Find and press the Bluetooth option on your Settings list.
- Make sure Bluetooth is turned on – you may need to tap a switch on the screen to enable it.
- A list of nearby Bluetooth devices will pop up, with your dongle appearing somewhere in the list. Once you’ve found it, press it to start pairing it to your phone then follow the on-screen instructions to finish the connection. Some dongles need you to type a pairing code, which will be included in your dongle’s instruction booklet.
- Once the dongle is paired up to your Android handset, you’ll see the word connected below it. This device will stay in the list even when you’re not near it, so it should always be able to reconnect automatically.
Of course, you might not always be streaming audio from a phone or a tablet. If you're using a Windows PC with a Bluetooth transmitter, Microsoft have put together a helpful guide to setting it up. And if you're a Mac user, Apple have produced something very similar.
Take a look for yourself – and if you run into any trouble, drop us a line in the comments below and we'll do our best to help.
By now, you should now be able to stream audio from your phone, tablet or other Bluetooth source directly to your dongle.
And remember, you’re not limited to using your dongle with just one device! It can link up with just about any device that uses an audio cable – so you can use it in your car as well as your living room.
There you have it: a complete guide to getting wireless Bluetooth audio on your stereo, headphones or just about anything else! But if you're having any trouble with the process, drop us a comment below and we'll do our best to help.