Arcam Mini Blink Bluetooth DAC
As far as I’m concerned Bluetooth has always been something that belonged firmly in the realms of teenage boys bedrooms, but it seems that this nifty technology is becoming a bit all-pervading. No sooner had I bought a tablet device I was out trying Bluetooth keyboards and we even got a pair of Bluetooth headphones to try out.
So, never one to stand in the way of progress I requested that Arcam send us over a review sample of their Mini Blink.
What Is It?
It’s a little ovoid box that measures 12 x 12 x 10 cm and weighs just 150g – it sort of looks like a largish water smoothed pebble – that you plug into the back of your preamplifier or integrated amplifier. It allows you to stream music from your laptop, computer, phone or any Bluetooth enabled device. It costs £90 and will work with PC, Android and Apple machines.
In the box you get the unit itself, a tiny wallwart powerpack (with a choice of plug connectors to match your country’s sockets), a USB cable to connect the Blink to the wallwart and a minijack to stereo RCA cable (I used my own chunkier cables). The unit can be powered via USB from your PC or laptop too.
With the heavier cables I used I had to use a bit of Blutack under the unit to stop it slipping about but it was fine with the supplied cable. It’s a bit plasticky looking but it’s not a product that is really going to be on show…more of a plug it in and forget about it until you want to use it kind of thing.
The unit has a claimed range of ten metres and so in theory you should be able to stream your music from your chosen device at the touch of a virtual button.
Inside the unit is a Burr Brown DAC that will accept aptx Bluetooth and which should give a much higher quality of sound than standard Bluetooth.
Easy To Use?
Ok, I’m not really known for my prowess around computers but this is a pretty simple device to get your head round once you’ve got your tunes on your player of choice…this was a Nexus 7 in my case.
For me, set up was simple case of pressing the little button on the Blink (it blinks), go to settings on the Nexus 7, find the Blink (called Arcam Bluetooth) and choose it…hey presto you get music out of your speakers.
The Nexus 7 isn’t exactly what you’d call an audiophile product and it refuses to recognise my FLAC files and so I was ‘reduced’ to using 320Kbps MP3 files to stream to the Blink, but you know what, the sound isn’t too bad at all… in fact it’s really rather splendid.
The only thing I can fault is the actual DAC in the Blink – it’s just never going to compare to the reference DAC we use, but then we’re talking oranges and apples as the reference DAC is the best part of £7000. For £90 what you are getting is damned fine sound that is really hard to bash in anyway with the files I threw at it. If you were to spend a little more you can get the Arcam rBlink which sports a digital out.
There’s a nice and relaxed feel to the sound with no nasty top end hash or digital artefacts and there’s an openness too that belies we’re listening to MP3s through a sub £100 DAC…that is connected by the Bluetooth fairies. With the chilled techno (Kompakt) I listened to there was decent bass clarity and depth, fine and clear mids and good top end definition… certainly nothing to complain about for all but the most critical of listening. With vocal tracks (Gil Scott-Heron) there is a warmth and none-fatiguing quality.
Another no-brainer for me. If you have folks come round who want you to hear a new tune they have on their phone then this is ideal…press the button, pair the phone and away you go. Personally it’s a product I’ll not use all the time as I have dedicated sources, but for parties and where I don’t want folk messing with my expensive kit then the miniBlink is perfect and hard to pick any fault at all with.
For folk who have a phone with all their tunes on and who want to listen through a proper hifi rather than headphones then again this little doodad is hard to fault. Personally I’d like to have the option of a digital out.
Sound quality isn’t the very best in the world but then for the asking price any one that moaned would surely be being churlish in the extreme and I found it perfectly adequate, even through the best part of £20Ks worth of pre, amp and speakers.
Sound Quality – 8.2
Build – 8.1
Value – 8.5
Overall – 8.23
Price as reviewed £90
Highly Recommended for those looking to get good sound from their phones to their proper hifi, or for those looking for a unit to use once in a while for parties and the like.