How we choose
Do You Even Need A Bluetooth Range Extender?
Looking to go hands-free? Our roundup will teach you everything you need to know about Bluetooth range extenders so that you can choose the best option for your needs and price range.
Are you tired of being restricted by wired headphones or having your Bluetooth audio cut out around the house? Whether you’re using a Bluetooth headset, Bluetooth speaker, or other Bluetooth device, quality and reliability are key.
Bluetooth range extenders aren’t a necessity – many smartphones like iPhones and Android phones have Bluetooth transmission capabilities that allow them to connect to Bluetooth speakers or headsets. Like a WiFi range extender, these devices repeat signals across a certain distance to expand coverage. However, these higher-tech smart devices can also cost a pretty penny. If you don’t feel like upgrading to a Bluetooth-capable device, using a transmitter-receiver to enable Bluetooth on your current device may make more sense.
A repeater or bypass device can come in handy for extending the range of your Bluetooth devices, which may help to prevent signal dropping, making it a worthwhile purchase. However, you probably only need one if you’re trying to populate your whole house with Bluetooth because current Bluetooth versions are solid over shorter distances – even indoors.
Time is valuable, so here’s a crash course on Bluetooth range extenders:
- A transmitter-receiver allows non-Bluetooth devices to send or receive signals that can be translated through the input/output option you choose. They can also extend signals to cover more range with a bypass or repeater feature.
- Transmitters take input from your PC, smartphone, or other devices to transmit it over Bluetooth.
- Receivers receive the signal from a transmitter and output the result to speakers, headphones, cell phones, and more through the output ports.
- The most common input/output options are VCA, Optical, and AUX. Always double check your extender and the ports you have available for compatibility.
- Aim for Class 1 long-range Bluetooth extenders for maximum range and signal reliability.
- Rechargeable battery models offer superior versatility over AC adapter power. Just ensure they can be used while charging.
Bluetooth Range Extender Features and Options
There are quite a few features that separate different Bluetooth range extenders from each other. The right choice for you will depend on your specific needs, so keep reading to learn what to look for.
The range of a Bluetooth extender is likely the most important feature because it dictates where you will be able to use the device. As a general rule, more range means more versatile use. However, you’ll need to assess your surroundings before deciding how much range will be enough for your Bluetooth device. After all, you don’t need to spend more on longer range if you’re using it in the same room.
Devices such as routers or other broadcasting wireless signals may interfere with the range extender and require you to have a stronger range to overcome it. You’ll need to use your surroundings to decide how much indoor and outdoor range you’ll need to maintain a strong signal.
If you plan to use the extender outside where there isn’t much interference, then your signal will be much stronger than if you’re in a crowded house with many wireless devices. Many range extenders will have a line-of-sight range of between 50-100 meters but will only have an indoor range of 25-40 meters. This means that you may struggle to maintain the connection if you’re accessing it from down the hall, but it should be clear in your yard for listening by the pool.
So always go for as much range as you can afford to be safe.
The Bluetooth version that your range extender uses is important because it determines how effective the device itself can be. A newer version means more improvements, optimizations, and features like dual streaming, so if you can, go for the newest version with the highest number for the best results.
The Bluetooth version on your range extender should always be somewhere between 4 and 5, which seems insignificant but can make a huge difference in performance. Version 5.0 will have 4x as much range as using version 4.0, and there are more benefits such as speed, connection stability, battery usage, and compatibility. It also enables dual streaming.
There are some small benefits from 4.0 to 4.2 such as a benefit to battery usage in 4.2, but the biggest increase in performance will be noticed when upgrading to version 5.0.
With your Bluetooth range extender, you’ll be using one of three extender modes at a time. Your extender will either be a receiver, transmitter, a bypass, or it may have the ability to switch between the three types.
A receiver and a transmitter are opposites with one having the ability to receive a signal, and the other having the ability to send out or transmit a signal. Many models will have both features, but you could save some money or find additional features if you choose a specialty device.
A transmitter will send out a wireless signal that can be picked up by any headphones, speakers, cell phones, TVs, or other devices with Bluetooth and WiFi capability (either inherently or with an attached receiver). It basically makes a non-wireless device like your PC’s audio available for listening elsewhere.
A receiver will pick up the Bluetooth signal from transmission and connect to it without the need for an additional cable. You can then use the output of the extender to transfer sound to your speakers from your PC or gaming system.
A bypass or repeater both receives and then transmits an existing Bluetooth signal. This can extend the range of it to cover more ground and maintain a stronger signal over an already covered area because there is less distance for interference to weaken the signal. This would extend the range on a PS4 controller or another device that doesn’t require audio in or out like remote controls as well.
When it comes to Bluetooth signal, literacy is like latency. High literacy causes a slight audio delay when using a Bluetooth connection to listen to something because of the time it takes the signal to travel. Basically, you should just aim for as low as possible literacy for the best results.
The input and output options are essentially your choices for how to transfer the signal to or from the Bluetooth extender. To make it easier to remember whether to use input or output, the input is for transmitting (you are inputting a signal to transmit) while the output is for receiving (receiving the sound and outputting it to the speaker, headphones, or other audio devices).
The input formats will be AUX, RCA, or optical cable and this will enable you to plug your PC, iPad, stereo, phone, or another device in to broadcast a signal to your wireless devices.
The outputs are very similar but the exact opposite. You will still be using AUX, RCA, or optical cable to transfer the signal, but this time you are connecting to the end destination for the signal. This would be a TV, headset, or speaker system that is receiving the signal to play.
The input and output options to look for really depend on what you’re planning to use the Bluetooth range extender for. For example, if you’re connecting your iPhone or Android phone to speakers for your party, you’ll need to make sure that your receiver has a free AUX or RCA connection to play the music. However, if you’re transmitting to an older phone without Bluetooth capabilities, you’ll need a 3.5mm AUX output because there are no optical cables on cell phones.
Every Bluetooth device is classified according to power consumption and range. This helps distinguish how much power or battery it uses as well as how far the device can transmit to or receive from.
Class 1 devices have a range of up to 100 meters and operate at 100 milliwatts. With technology advancing, Class 1 devices are becoming more and more common due to their better range, but they are often more expensive than other classes.
Class 2 is the most common class of Bluetooth devices and works at 10 meters with 2.5 milliwatts of power. They are recommended for smaller areas due to their ineffective range through walls and other solid objects.
Class 3 devices have 1 meter of range and 1 milliwatt of power. They are less common but still important to be aware of if you’re looking for a short range extender.
Thanks to Bluetooth 5.0, on certain devices dual stream may now be a possibility. Dual stream allows two separate Bluetooth devices to connect to the same source signal simultaneously. You could also play two different forms of audio from two audio sources and have each individual Bluetooth headphone, speaker, or TV hear one of those sounds. This is something that is only possible on Bluetooth 5.0 or higher devices, so expect to pay for the luxury.
Some devices may be able to provide voice prompts when connecting or disconnecting. This can be useful for checking your connection if you’re using it on the edge of the range where you may lose signal, and also saves you from needing to get up to figure out why it isn’t working. You can also find extenders that integrate with Amazon Alexa or Google to streamline usage across all devices and accounts.
LED indicators are a minor, but very handy feature of a range extender. At a quick glance you will be able to see if any devices are connected, the way in which they’re connected, and which Bluetooth mode(s) are being utilized. Many range extenders will have LED lights for power, AUX, RCA, Optical connections, and for bypass, receiver, or transmitter modes if they are able to switch in between.
The power source determines whether or not you can use the extender outdoors or wirelessly. Some Bluetooth range extenders need to be plugged into the wall to work, powered by an AC adapter. Others contain a rechargeable battery that can be charged by an AC adapter, but don’t require a constant stream of power.
An AC adapter power source is the simplest source of power because you can plug it in and never worry about needing to charge it. However, you can’t bring it outdoors or in the car to play your phone’s music so it loses out on some portability.
In general, a battery offers more versatility (as long as you remember to charge it) and if it can be used while charging, there’s not much difference at all.
If you have a transmitter, receiver, or bypass with a battery, the battery life is going to be important to you. Longer battery life means you don’t have to worry about charging it as much, so you’ll be able to use it for longer periods of time. This helps make it more portable for car rides, camping, or other mobile uses.
You’ll often find the battery life to fall somewhere between 10-20 hours, giving you enough time for an all-day party or a few nights of use before it needs to be plugged back in. Fortunately, it charges much faster than it drains!
Usable While Charging
For range extenders that do have the rechargeable battery, there may be an option to use it while charging. This is the equivalent of a model with an AC adapter as its power source, but you can always unplug it for portable use.
If you don’t want to choose between rechargeable and AC adapter power, a rechargeable battery that can be used while charging gives you the best of both worlds.
Volume control is not a feature you will find on a huge amount of range extenders, but instead is found mainly on receivers that will work with speakers. When it is available, it is usually just a volume switch on the base of the device, or you may find some that use remote control.
Similar to volume control, the option of being able to play and pause music is something that will be more frequently found on receivers. You’ll find a simple series of buttons just like any other audio device on the receiver, and pressing them will pause the sound if connected directly to a Bluetooth device.
Where Do You Plan to Use Bluetooth?
Much of the difference between different Bluetooth transmitter-receivers is their range, so knowing where you plan to transmit or receive your signal can tell you what kind of class and range you need to look for.
If you’re only transmitting short distances like across the room or car, you don’t need to go crazy with a Class 1 long-range Bluetooth transmitter. The open space will provide little interference, so you could save some money by choosing something with a lesser Bluetooth range, and Bluetooth 4.2 instead of 5.0.
For longer distances (throughout a yard) or short distances with interference (between bedrooms), it pays to upgrade to a Class 1 transmitter receiver to ensure your signal stays solid throughout use. If you don’t get a strong enough extender, you risk signal cutting out frequently.
For huge homes or long lengths of space, consider multiple Class 1 range extenders in bypass mode. This will ensure the signal reaches as far as possible without interference so that your smart devices can still get a steady connection anywhere in the house or yard.
Do You Need Individual Volume Control?
Whether you’re listening to music or watching TV, if you have sensitive hearing or struggle to hear, individual volume control can be incredibly useful. However, there’s only one TV to watch so you both need to be able to use the same Bluetooth signal.
If you share your home with someone hard of hearing, look for a range extender with Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-stream functionality. This will allow 2 people to receive the Bluetooth signal from your transmitter, controlling volume levels on your headphones or smart device individually without affecting the other user.
How Much Are You Looking to Spend?
Price is an important factor in any purchase, and because Bluetooth range extenders come in various price ranges depending on their functionality, your budget is going to determine what the best option for you is. Fortunately, they are not too expensive so going for the top-of-the-line may be the best approach regardless.
For under $35, you can expect to find Class 1 or 2 range extenders that work well for open spaces and some shorter indoor applications. Just double-check that all your input/output needs are addressed, and it is the extender type you need.
For under $60, you should be able to get a Class 1 extender with a range up to 100 meters and all input/output methods you need, plus transmitter, receiver, and bypass functionality.
No matter your budget, it is best to look for a range extender with the highest class and longest range within your price range. Among comparable literacy, inputs/outputs, and extender types, more range is almost always better because it allows a more stable connection over wider distances.