By Don Lindich
Week 13, 2015
Q. I read your story about building a vinyl system on the cheap and found it very interesting. I’d like to do something similar, but to play music from my phone and iPad using Bluetooth. Is there a way to build an inexpensive system that does this, using separate speakers instead of a portable Bluetooth speaker?
-Tom H., Mt. Lebanon, PA
A. There are several ways you can do this. I will start with the amplifier/speaker bundle I recommended in the previous column and go up from there.
The first way would be to adapt the Dayton Audio DTA-1 Amplifier/B652 bookshelf speaker bundle for Bluetooth use. You can find this bundle on amazon.com or at partsexpress.com for $69. The DTA-1 amplifier has a single miniplug input. You could buy an Outlaw Audio BTR-100 Bluetooth adapter for $39 and connect it to the DTA-1 and have a Bluetooth audio system with separate speakers for under $100. You can get the BTR-100 at www.outlawaudio.com.
The next step up would be using a small amplifier that already has Bluetooth capability. If you want to go this route I also recommend upgrading the speakers as well. An extra $20 will make a big improvement in the sound.
Dayton Audio has an enhanced version of the B652 called the B652-AIR. The B652-AIR replaces the B652’s dome tweeter with an exotic technology Air Motion Transformer (AMT) tweeter. The AMT tweeter sounds very detailed and open and makes a great budget buy an even better value. Given that the B652 costs $40/pair and the B652-AIR $60/pair, it is $20 extremely well spent.
I would have recommended the B652-AIR before, but it is not available in a bundle with the DTA-1. I suggested to Parts Express that they start offering a DTA-1/B652-AIR bundle and they said they are considering it, so you may see it in the future.
There are two small Bluetooth amplifiers I tested recently that I can easily recommend. Both offer comparable performance for similar prices. You can decide between them based on what other components you want to use with the system.
The first amplifier is the Grace Digital, the GDI-BTAR512, for $136. It has Bluetooth, a remote control, and a miniplug input for connecting other components with analog connections. I tried this amplifier with the B652-AIR and Audio-Technical LP60 turntable, with nice results. This makes a system that plays vinyl records and streams Bluetooth music for under $300. www.gracedigital.com
The second amplifier is the Griffen Technology Twenty for $149. This stylish amplifier is larger and better built than the Grace amplifier, though I did not find the sound quality much different through the B652-AIR speakers. It has an optical input as well as Bluetooth streaming capability. http://griffintechnology.com/
Which would I choose? It would be wholly dependent on what other components I planned on using. With its digital input and subwoofer output, the Griffen Twenty is perfect for use with a television. The Grace Digital amplifier is perfect for anyone who would like to enjoy vinyl. Just make sure you have a phono preamp or a turntable with an integrated phono preamp.