by Mark Sparrow
Those of us who grew up in the age of analog hi-fi are perhaps still a little uncomfortable with the concept of having all our music held in digital format. It may be convenient to have all your music on one small device, but nothing beats the pleasure and ceremony of putting a vinyl album on the turntable or selecting a CD to play on a decent audio system. Then it’s a case of settling back in a comfortable chair with a drink and unwinding to some late-night jazz or whatever takes your fancy.
That scenario is perhaps a little quaint in the digital age now that most of us also own a large collection of music on our smart phones, MP3 players or laptops. Digital music collections are so convenient and there isn’t the hassles of rooting around for a CD you haven’t played in years. However, the thought of plugging a cheap MP3 player into a decent hi-fi system goes against every fiber in the average audio buff’s body.
One of the best ways to square the circle here has been to marry the convenience of an MP3 player and a high-end audio system with a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) device. Over the past decade the UK’s Arcam, a respected manufacturer of high-end amps and CD-players, has carved out a nice niche producing DACs for discerning audiophiles. However, with a starting price of £150/$300, its DACs are too pricey for the job of merely hooking up an iPhone to your hi-fi.
Well, now there’s the Arcam miniBlink, a lightweight and affordable (£89/$149) new device for wirelessly streaming music from a smartphone or MP3 player to any audio system. The miniBlink uses the latest Bluetooth technology from CSR & Arcam, offering lower noise and lower distortion levels than previous versions of Bluetooth streaming DACs. This improved Bluetooth performance has enabled Arcam engineers to squeeze a level of sonic purity that it claims can rival the audio quality you’d expect from a conventional CD.
The miniBlink weighs just 40 grams and has a cute little pebble shape and can stream music from Android devices, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, PCs, Macs or tablets. As long as the streaming device has a Bluetooth interface it will work with the miniBlink. Power for the DAC is drawn from a micro USB socket and the audio output is delivered to your stereo through a standard 3.5mm stereo jack.