Audio Review: iSkin Cerulean RX

The iSkin Cerulean RX.When Apple released iPhone OS 3.0, one of the most exciting features was A2DP bluetooth support. Finally you could use a pair of Bluetooth headphones or stream to a pair of Bluetooth speakers without music sounding like utter trash. It also opened the door for devices like the iSkin Cerulean RX, an iPod/iPhone dock adapter that allows you to stream music to any dock wirelessly. The Cerulean RX isn’t limited to iPod/iPhone dock use, but that’s really where you’ll appreciate the wireless goodness.

Appearance/Build Quality
The Apple fanboy in me loved the iSkin Cerulean RX packaging. If I’m going to pay $89.99 for a little stereo Bluetooth adapter, it better be sexy, which the Cerulean RX is. It comes in a sleek black box with the main adapter tucked into a little cardboard cubby. All the cables and manuals are hidden from view, giving the impression that the adapter would be simple to setup and use. To my delight, it was.

Along with the adapter, which uses a 30-pin dock connector to attach to your dock/speaker system, you get a 3.5mm extension cord, a 3.5mm female to RCA male adapter, and a USB/mini USB cable. Unfortunately, you need most if not all of those accessories to use the Cerulean RX with any non-dock stereo. The adapter, which also includes 3.5mm output, has to be powered via the included USB cable to produce sound through the 3.5mm. While the unit is pretty much plug and forget when connected to a dock, it’s locate your cables and a usb charging plug (you can get one on Amazon for $3.15 shipped) before you can listen. No problem if you plan to plug it in and leave it. If you want something a little more mobile, it’s a bit less than elegant. I do appreciate, though, that they included the accessories. Without them I probably wouldn’t recommend the product.

Sound Quality and Features
iSkin Cerulean RX with dock.If you can put aside your inner audiophile, the Cerulean RX is more than fine. Though I wouldn’t recommend it for close listening (certainly not its intended use), it’s a great solution for more casual audio enjoyment. Through a dock the sound is fairly clear and crisp. My signal held strong and the unit stayed cool to the touch. Streaming music from my iPhone for a few hours left me with 70% battery life or so, which is really quite decent. Music was fairly crisp and clean, and Ira Glass was clear as ever.

Using the unit with my Macbook yielded similar results. I used my iPhone charger to provide the power and plugged the 3.5mm cord into a Sony 5.1 system. Bass came through clearly enough, though it took some EQ tweaking to get a balanced sound. Again, it’s a nice setup for casual listening, and I would gladly tuck one of these things behind my stereo if it meant I could stream music from my laptop whenever I wanted. My girlfriend especially loved this idea.

One note for using the Cerulean RX with your computer. Most computers recognize the device as both a Bluetooth headset and a pair of Bluetooth headphones. When selecting your audio output source, be sure you pick “headphones.” Selecting headset gives all the mono quality of Bluetooth 1.0. You’ll come back here thinking I lied about the sound quality. I didn’t. Your computer just wants to confuse you.

The last feature I should mention is call interruption. There is none. The best experience I had with the Cerulean was streaming music while I was doing some work, hearing my phone ring, and being able to instantly pick up my phone and take the call. The music paused and, on hangup, resumed where it had left off. That’s good on both the iPhone and the Cerulean RX.

The Verdict
The iSkin Cerulean RX is a great device for cutting the cords between your audio source and your speaker system. Sure, it’s on the more expensive side of wireless solutions at $89.99, but you’re really paying for versatility. iSkin did a smart thing by including all the cables necessary to use the unit wherever you see fit. Remember to get that USB plug from Amazon if you’re planning to put your Cerulean RX on a non-dock stereo. PIck one up from the iSkin store.

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