Blackstar build Bluetooth into some of their more consumer-orientated amplifiers, but many amps and hi-fi systems don’t have Bluetooth capability... and certain popular smartphones don’t have line outputs! The idea behind Blackstar’s Tone:Link is that it will allow any device with an external line input to receive audio streamed by Bluetooth (v3.0 with EDR). At 50 x 25.5 x 11 mm, it’s little larger than a typical USB drive. The Tone:Link has a stereo mini-jack output socket, a large button with blue status LED for Bluetooth pairing, and a pair of up/down buttons that can step through tracks or, if pressed and held, act as volume buttons. The large button doubles as a music play/pause button, and if your Bluetooth device is a phone, it can also be used to answer or reject calls. The Tone:Link also has a miniature mic inside for use with a phone. Pressing and holding the same button powers the device up or down.
Power comes from an internal lithium battery that charges via a mini-USB connector to give around eight hours of play time, and the necessary cable comes with the kit. Also included are a double-ended mini-jack connector that allows the device to be plugged into an amp without a cable, a mini-jack cable, and a 3.5 to 6.35 mm TRS adapter. The Blackstar web site also mentions that the Tone:Link can link to two Bluetooth devices at the same time.
It takes only a few minutes to confirm that the Tone:Link does exactly as intended. Its range is around 20 metres, depending on the location and the audio quality is certainly very listenable despite a little background hiss — but why might you need such a thing? Guitar players can use it to play backing tracks for practice, feeding their phone through the PA or a spare amp channel, without the need for cables, and you could conceivably use Tone:Link to set up a hands-free phone system. However, for the studio owner, it allows mixes to be played on your DAW computer to be streamed to the home hi-fi or other speaker system in a different room. Most computers have Bluetooth capability, and being able to stream your mixes to a second system in a different room as one stage of your quality control process is a very attractive proposition. Given the low cost of the Tone:Link, I think Blackstar are onto a winner here. It’s simple and affordable, but very practical.
£19.99 including VAT.
£16.66 (about $21.50).