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The rise of Bluetooth technology has created some (literal) disconnect between our devices. You may have invested in a top-quality stereo system or set of wired headphones in the past, only to upgrade your smartphone and realize it doesn’t have a headphone jack anymore. Now you have a huge music library at your fingertips and no way to play it through your existing audio gear.
Fortunately, there are audio receivers that can bridge the gap between your Bluetooth and non-Bluetooth devices. These receivers typically connect to your non-Bluetooth devices via an AUX or RCA cable. (Make sure your existing devices are compatible before you buy!) Some of these receivers are tiny and entirely battery-powered, small enough to plug into the AUX connection on a pair of headphones or into the console of your car for instant Bluetooth connectivity. Others need to be plugged into the wall to work, making them a great choice for entertainment centers or as a permanent fixture beside your stereo system. A few models on this list even function as transmitters, meaning they can also send audio from a non-Bluetooth device to a Bluetooth speaker or set of headphones. No matter your Bluetooth connectivity needs, we’ve rounded up the best options from across the internet to get your devices communicating again.
Connects to any kind of stereo system
Digital optical cable not included
If you have a good speaker system, you’ll want to buy a Bluetooth audio receiver that can actually transmit your music at full quality. The Audioengine B1 combines the convenience of wireless connectivity with high-definition sound — a rarity for most Bluetooth audio receivers. Featuring the latest in Bluetooth 5.0 technology, the B1 supports both aptX and aptX HD, two high-resolution Bluetooth codecs that make your streamed music sound as good as CDs in terms of audio quality. The B1 also supports AAC files, the higher-resolution audio file type used by Apple. With 24-bit playback and low latency, you can wirelessly transmit rich, detailed audio with no detectable lag. It also has an impressive range of 100 feet.
The Audioengine B1 connects to your speakers using either a stereo RCA cable (included) or optical audio cable, meaning it’s compatible with any kind of speaker system. The setup process is also super simple, so you can have your music playing in a matter of minutes.
Has to be recharged
Not the best sound quality
This budget-priced Bluetooth receiver from Etekcity is tiny and inexpensive, perfect for using in your vehicle or moving back and forth between different speakers. It measures 1.9 x 1.9 x 0.9 inches and weighs next to nothing, making it an unobtrusive addition to your entertainment center or car console. It connects to your speaker via RCA or 3.5mm audio jack and is battery powered so you don’t have to have it plugged into a wall outlet. The battery is definitely an upside if you want to use it in a vehicle, but might be inconvenient if you plan to attach the receiver to a single speaker and leave it there. It lasts for about ten hours between charges.
As an added bonus, the Etekcity Roverbeats Unify is compatible with NFC-capable phones. Just bring your device close to the surface of the receiver and it instantly connects. For all your other mobile devices, the Etekcity connects using Bluetooth 4.0, which won’t provide the richest sound quality but is expected for an audio receiver in this price range.
18-hour battery life
Built-in music controls
Supports simultaneous pairing
This Bluetooth receiver from Aukey is another highly portable option that’s great for moving between sound systems or connecting to your car. Features like built-in music controls for pausing and skipping tracks plus an impressive 18-hour battery life make this ultra-budget option a great deal. It even allows you to connect the receiver to multiple devices at once, meaning you can seamlessly switch between your phone and a friend’s, or connect your phone and your laptop and avoid the extra step of pairing the receiver every time you change devices. There are a few downsides — as with many cheaper Bluetooth receivers, the range on this device is a little shorter at 33 feet. And if you’re planning to leave it attached to a single sound system, then the fact that it’s battery-powered rather than plugged in might be a downside. Neither of these factors are an issue if you plan to use it in the car.
Makes any speaker a “smart” speaker
Connects to (almost) all stereo systems
The SoundTouch Wireless Link from Bose is more than just a basic Bluetooth receiver — it can turn your existing stereo system into an internet-connected, voice-controlled “smart” speaker. The Link has Amazon Alexa built in, which allows you to use voice commands to control the speaker itself, queue up music, and integrate your speaker with an existing smart home system (if you have one). The SoundTouch Wireless Link is one of the more expensive options on this list, but it has the ability to transform your old stereo system into a smart speaker that can simply be asked to play music straight from your favorite streaming services. It also has wide compatibility and can connect to any system with optical, AUX, or RCA outputs. Like other Bluetooth receivers, it’s super quick to set up but includes a much fuller featureset that’s great for smart home enthusiasts and fans of voice control.
Console-mounted control panel
Uses both the AUX connection and the cigarette lighter
A Bluetooth audio receiver is a great solution for the car if you’re tired of plugging and unplugging an AUX cord (or if your phone no longer has a headphone jack). We’ve included a few battery-powered Bluetooth receivers on this list that are compact enough to fit in your car, but the Aukey car kit is really the best choice for this purpose. It plugs into your car stereo and cigarette lighter and has a circular control panel of buttons that sticks directly to your console. The control panel allows you to easily skip tracks and answer phone calls without having to unlock and scroll through your device while you’re driving — a great safety feature. It sets up in seconds and can be paired with up to three devices at once.
Can transmit and receive Bluetooth data
Connects to a wide range of devices
Needs to be recharged
The SoundSync A3341 is a highly versatile device that does double duty as both a Bluetooth transmitter and receiver. This means it can send audio from a TV or entertainment center to a Bluetooth audio device (like headphones or a speaker), and it can also receive audio from a portable device like a laptop or phone and play it through a non-Bluetooth stereo. In short: it allows both Bluetooth and non-Bluetooth devices to interact, no matter which way the audio is travelling. Just flip the switch on the side between Transmitting and Receiving to change functionalities. Featuring aptX HD and Low-Latency sound, the SoundSync A3341 delivers rich, high-quality sound with no perceptible delay so you can enjoy your music at its best and watch videos without audio lag. It can connect to your devices using an RCA, AUX, or optical cable for maximum versatility. The only downside: it’s battery powered, meaning it needs to be recharged after about 20 hours of use.
RCA or AUX connection
No built-in music controls
This Bluetooth audio receiver from Logitech is a solid device at a mid-range price that makes a convenient and reliable addition to your home speaker setup. It connects to your existing speakers using a common RCA or AUX connection and plugs into the wall. This means it isn’t portable (so don’t get this one for your car) but it also means you never have to worry about the battery dying once you set it up. The best feature: its impressive 50-foot connection range that keeps the music streaming even as you carry your phone around the house. It has a single button that initiates “pairing mode,” making it super simple to operate, and it can pair to two devices at once for seamless and convenient switching between audio sources.
“I have this receiver and can vouch for its impressive range. It keeps my phone connected to my speakers even when one is upstairs and the other downstairs.” — Emmeline Kaser, Tech Writer
20-hour battery life
Low latency feature does not work with dual pairing
This little device from TaoTronics is both a Bluetooth transmitter and receiver. That means it can receive audio from a Bluetooth smartphone and play it through a non-Bluetooth speaker, and it can also transmit the audio from a non-Bluetooth device (like a TV) and play it through a Bluetooth speaker or set of headphones. Audio transmission is low-latency, meaning it’s fast enough to keep your sound in sync with the video on your screen. The TaoTronics adapter is tiny (a two-inch square), battery-powered, and can plug into your devices via an RCA or AUX connection. It’s extremely versatile, a device to finally bring both your Bluetooth and non-Bluetooth devices into harmony. And unlike other battery-powered receivers that run out of juice in only a day or so, the TaoTronics Bluetooth 5.0 Transmitter/Receiver can last for up to 20 hours on a single charge.
Built in music controls
Microphone for phone calls
Conflicting info on whether it can be used while charging
Mpow is something of a dark horse in the audio market and is best known for its line of affordable headphones. This is a straightforward Bluetooth receiver that’s highly portable and includes a few extra features that make it a good value for such an affordable price. The receiver is compact and extremely lightweight (about half an ounce), great for using in the car or plugging directly into the cable port on a pair of wired headphones to make them wireless. It has one large play/pause button on the side and smaller skip/volume buttons on the edge so you can control your music directly from the device. The battery lasts for about ten hours between charges and it has a decent range of 30 feet. If you want something portable, affordable, and easy to use, the Mpow MBR1 is a solid option.
The Audioengine B1 is a pricey but high-powered receiver that streams your audio at full quality, providing the best listening experience and a plethora of connectivity options. If you’re looking to spend less, then check out the Etekcity Roverbeats Unify. Its ultra-compact design is great for connecting to car stereos and headphones and it has the added bonus of NFC compatibility.
Portability - Do you intend on hooking up your new Bluetooth receiver to your car stereo, cinema system, or headphones? Ensure your solution is small enough for travel if you want to bring it with you on the go. Additionally, check the power supply as some units are designed to work only in cars, while others will use a standard AC wall adapter or batteries.
Audio inputs - If you’re using a Bluetooth receiver in your car, you’ll most likely be fine with a single 3.5mm AUX input jack. However, if you are considering hooking up your adapter to a cinema system, you might want to search for a solution that supports RCA inputs.
Audio quality - Bluetooth isn’t always about high quality. If you want the best possible sound, search for a device that supports the AptX codec for high-quality streaming from many Android phones, Macbooks, and PCs.
A former editor of Lifewire product round-ups, Emmeline has years of experience researching and writing about the best consumer products out there. She specializes in consumer tech.