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Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Portable size and functionality
Low-level Bluetooth codecs
This isn’t the fanciest unit out there, but it is incredibly affordable. With NFC and a 10-hour battery, it packs some great features and delivers solid performance at an excellent price.
The Roverbeats Unify is a Bluetooth receiver from Etekcity that is unapologetically simplistic. On its own that’s neither a pro or con—it depends entirely on what your expectations are for features and usage. This isn’t a receiver for those looking for super high-quality codecs, a premium build, and exceptional Bluetooth range. It is a great fit, however, for anyone looking for a no-frills Bluetooth receiver at a bargain basement price, one that packs a welcome, robust feature set. As is the case with most budget, off-brand tech, you’re going to make some concessions in favor of a super-low price point. Read on to find out what those concessions are, and if they’re going to matter for you.
The Etekcity’s aesthetic is akin to an early 2000s take on “futuristic.” The first thing we noticed when pulling the receiver out of the box was just how tiny the thing is. It’s a mere 48mm on each side, and only 24mm tall, the smallest Bluetooth receiver we’ve tested. To put that in perspective, it’s similar in size to a smartphone credit card reader. This is a huge plus because it can easily disappear into your entertainment system (or pocket). In fact, this unit’s portability is probably its strongest feature, one we’ll touch on in a dedicated section later on.
The Etekcity’s aesthetic is akin to an early 2000s take on “futuristic."
The design itself is comprised of a rounded off square built mostly of glossy plastic. The edges feature small, cutout, pill-shaped matte areas that contrast nicely with what is otherwise a budget look. The brand name and “Roverbeats Unify” are printed in white right on the top in tacky and oversized lettering, and the main control interface button is surrounded with a blue LED ring (though that ring turns red if something isn’t connected). This unit will look more at home in your car stereo system than it would in a modern home audio system.
One big drawback of this unit is how basic the build is. The unit somehow felt even flimsier than we were expecting.
The inherent benefit of a device like this is that it’s very light (right around 1 oz.) and portable. The downside of that portability is that because you’re moving it a lot, you’re more at risk of dinging it up. The surface seems very prone to scratches, seeing as it’s a glossy plastic, and the case has quite a bit of give to it. On the upside, Etekcity included a pretty comprehensive 1-year warranty.
One big upside is how simple the receiver is to connect. When more expensive Bluetooth receivers try to add lots of connectivity features, sometimes it muddies the initial setup (we’re looking at you Bose). This one works well right out of the box. Just power it up using the large button and it will enter pairing mode. Our phones and computers all connected seamlessly once the adapter was in pairing mode. Plus, with Bluetooth 4.0, you’ll get around 33 feet of range.
You aren’t getting flashy controls, a premium build, or high-quality Bluetooth codecs, but what you are getting is a really solid portable unit and the convenience of NFC, for a ridiculously low price.
Because this is marketed as a mobile-friendly device, we would have liked to see Bluetooth 5.0 for more stable range (in case you’re using it for an outdoor party or in a similar setting), but that’s a small nitpick. What’s really interesting to see here is the inclusion of NFC. Most Bluetooth receivers do not include this added featured, because they’re mostly meant as “set and forget” home units. This one will work nicely with compatible Android phones, as you’ll be able to simply tap your phone against it to set up the pairing without jumping through hoops. Anecdotally, it worked well when we tried it with our Android device, but it’s important to note that NFC can get a little muddied if you’re trying to pair a second device—a small gripe, but important to note.
One downside is the limited I/O. On the back of the unit you’ll see only two ports: one USB port for charging and power, and an aux 3.5mm audio out. This means you don’t have a direct RCA option or premium I/O options like digital optical ports. Thankfully, Etekcity includes both a standard 3.5mm aux cable and an aux to dual-RCA adapter, right in the box.
As far as controls go, there’s a single, big button on the top to power on the device and enter pairing mode. This button will power the device on or off if you hold it for a few seconds, and will automatically pair with devices when you turn it back on. You can also use this button to play/pause tracks if you’ve got it tucked into your pocket or in the console in your car. The focus is clearly on simplicity, with no app or additional controls.
Because there’s an on-board lithium-ion battery, the best use for the Etekcity is in your car or on the go. On average, the battery holds a charge for around ten hours. The included charger refilled the battery quickly—not surprising, considering that this device is just a wireless go-between for music.
The Etekcity packs the standard A2DP protocol, and will transfer audio using the SBC Bluetooth codec. This means that you’ll have the industry-standard (and fairly lossy) level of compression, not a huge deal if you’re just playing MP3s anyway, and if you’ve used low-end (or even some high-end) Bluetooth headphones, you likely already have some experience with this codec. Our testing yielded the exact sound quality we’d expect, and you won’t notice much of difference unless you’re sending this compressed Bluetooth audio to really high-end speakers.
The Etekcity retails for around $23. You aren’t getting flashy controls, a premium build, or high-quality Bluetooth codecs, but what you are getting is a really solid portable unit and the convenience of NFC, for a ridiculously low price.
Logitech Bluetooth Receiver: The Etekcity’s obvious competition is this similar offering from Logitech, which offers better build quality for basically the same price, but lacks some of the Etekcity’s features.
Avantree aptX Receiver: There’s a similarly priced option from Avantree that trades in the battery for the inclusion of the more lossless aptX codec.
Bose SoundTouch Link: If you want something that’s more premium, and that will work as both a Bluetooth receiver and a hub for wireless music system, this Link has you covered (for a significantly higher price).
An easy impulse buy.
What’s surprising is that Etekcity has managed to give us a taste of premium receiver features for a fraction of what you might expect to pay. Standouts like a ten hour battery life and the convenience of NFC make this a no-brainer for those who put on-the-go versatility a the top of their list. If you want the best possible sound you’ll need to look elsewhere, but otherwise this is a really solid unit.