Dec 122015
 
A small hockey puck device connects Bluetooth players to your car through an Aux input to your stereo.

A small hockey puck device connects Bluetooth players to your car through an Aux input to your stereo.

This is an interesting gadget, and as regular readers know, there are very few gadgets I don’t like.  But it was a bit of a struggle to work out when this would actually be useful.  Its use is probably the most important issue, so let’s address that first.

The gadget provides a way for Bluetooth equipped things (ie cellphones) to connect to a car’s audio system, if the car itself doesn’t have a Bluetooth receiver already built in to it.  Okay, that’s a clear statement of application, but there’s an interesting catch to it.

The Aukey receiver receives the signal from whatever Bluetooth device it is that is transmitting to it, and then feeds the signal into the car’s audio system via the audio system’s ‘Line in’ or ‘Aux in’ feature.

And therein lies the obvious and the subtle catch.

First, what happens if your car’s sound system doesn’t have an Aux/Line in option?  You either have to do some ‘brain surgery’ on the car’s electronics or give up.  That is the obvious catch.

The more subtle catch is – why bother with the Aukey receiver?  If the car has a line-in connection, why not feed the output of the phone direct into the line input?  That’s a very good question, and most of the time, you could do exactly that and save yourself the bother of getting another gadget, learning how to use it, and so on.

So I stared bemusedly at the gadget for a while, wondering if it was a solution without a problem.  And then I re-read the short but helpful manual and realized.  It also does double duty as a speakerphone type unit that probably allows you to lawfully talk on the phone in ‘hands-free’ mode while driving.  No, sorry, it won’t allow you to text or read emails or watch Youtube videos while driving!  But it will allow you to talk.

So that is the key use for the unit.  If your car (a) doesn’t have Bluetooth, and (b) does have an Aux/Line in option for its sound system, then possibly this unit is perfect for you.  But if your car does have Bluetooth, and/or does not have an Aux/Line in option, then go away.  This unit is of no use.

But if you do fit these parameters, keep reading.  If you’re in a state that has already banned cell phone use while driving unless you’re using a hands-free unit, you need this or something similar.  And even if your state hasn’t yet banned talking on the phone while driving, studies do suggest it is less dangerous to use a hands-free kit, so you probably should get one anyway.

Another Use Too

You could also use this as a way to connect Bluetooth equipped devices to your home stereo system.  (Thank you, Mauricio, for pointing that out!)

You might need an adapter to convert the single plug output from the Aukey receiver to whatever type of input sockets there are on your receiver, but that is a very easy and simple thing, and you could power it through any type of USB power supply unit – perhaps connected to a switched power socket on your receiver, or conceivably left on all the time (such as is the case with Roku players).

The Aukey wireless receiver is a modest $28 on Amazon, so it doesn’t break the bank, and at this time of year has to be considered as another stocking stuffer type product.  It has a two year warranty (the information is a bit confusing and contradictory about this, but I’m told by Aukey that it is indeed a two year warranty) and like other Aukey products, if you register it with them, they give you another six months of coverage.

The unit itself is a small circular hockey puck thing, about 1 1/2″ in diameter and 1/2″ thick.  On the flat side of it there are three buttons – a generic multi-purpose control button such as all Bluetooth headsets have, and two buttons designed to skip forwards and backwards between tracks when listening to music.  The unit’s microphone is located in the hockey puck, so it should be located reasonably close to your face and in front of you.

The wire from the unit runs just over 3 ft (almost but not quite 1 meter) and then splits into two wires – a 12″ wire to a USB connector, intended to be plugged into a power source (it is a power supply connector only, it doesn’t do double duty as a USB type audio input) and a 3′ wire that ends in a sleeve/ring/tip stereo type 1/8th inch audio connector.

These lengths are not as long as you might think.  Let me explain.  Sure, on the basis of ‘the shortest distance between two points’ they are probably perfectly long enough to mount the control head wherever you want, and plug in the power and audio connectors wherever they are located in your vehicle.  But if you’re wanting to route the wires discreetly and semi-out-of-sight, you’ll find that you may quickly use up the entire length of wire and still be a little short.

Okay, so that’s not the end of the world.  It is easy enough to buy extensions for both audio and USB cables.  But you should be aware you might need them – I’d suggest cutting lengths of string or sewing thread or something to create these three lengths and work out if they will be sufficient for your car’s layout.  If not, you’ll save yourself time and frustration if you order the audio and USB extensions at the same time you order the Aukey receiver.

For what it is worth, while I could barely stretch the wires to create an acceptable solution in my Landrover LR3, I decided to add extension cables to give me a better position for the control head and better routings for the cables.  Extension USB cables are $5 – $10, and the same for extension audio cables (but make sure you’re getting a compatible three wire not two wire audio cable and plug/socket.

A nice touch was a magnet inside the control unit.  If you’re lucky, there’ll be a piece of iron/steel immediately underneath the (probably) plastic dash and the control unit will ‘stick’ to the dashboard by magnetism.  If not, don’t despair.  There’s a sticky adhesive piece (and a spare as well) provided to stick it to most surfaces.

Another really nice touch was a three port car charger.  I guess Aukey’s thinking here is that you’ll need one port to drive their receiver, you might want a second port to charge up the phone or whatever the receiver is connected to, and so a third charging port can be used for anything else you or other people in the vehicle might want to charge.  Better still, two of the three ports are high current ports (the receiver can use the low current port) so you can quickly charge up phones or tablets while driving.

Using the Aukey Receiver

It was easy enough to install in the car, and the device ‘auto paired’ with my iPhone 6+ without my needing to key in the passcode (which is 0000 in case devices don’t auto-pair).

Once the phone was paired, things just sort of ‘worked’ without any fuss or bother.  The sound level out of the device was a bit lower than ideal, perhaps, but with both the phone volume up high and the car volume similarly higher than normal, it worked out just fine.

The audio was surprisingly good.  Here are two recordings – one of me in the car, more or less stationary, and the other while driving along in the rain at 40 mph.  There was considerably more background noise that could have interfered with my voice in the second sample, but it isn’t very apparent at all.

The Aukey unit is designed to switch on when it receives power, and of course to switch off when the power is turned off.  So, assuming your cigarette lighter goes on and off with the car’s ignition, it automatically powers on and off when you turn the car on and off.

I definitely recommend you keep a copy of the manual in the car with you – some of the commands, like all Bluetooth items, are hard to remember.

Helpful Hint

If you already have something using your auxiliary input to your car stereo (I have a satellite radio receiver, for example) you could get an A/B input switcher to switch between the Aukey and other inputs.  Just make sure it takes the appropriate type of plugs – this one seems like a good choice and a suitable size for adding to a car.

Summary

If you have a car without Bluetooth but with a Line/Aux input to your stereo system, then this could be a very helpful, easy to use gadget, and at a moderate price ($28 on Amazon).  Recommended.

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