Arcam miniBlink Bluetooth DAC review
Having your Hi-Fi, or PC for that matter, be able to receive audio sent over from a Bluetooth equipped laptop, tablet or smartphone can prove to be a handy addition indeed. This instantly makes your sound system more social as visitors can share their latest favourite with you quickly and easily. Some of you may be put off by previous devices’ lack of fidelity. Others amongst you might not want another bulky addition that you have to find room for. What if there was a small yet capable Bluetooth receiver out there from a well respected audio company? How about the Arcam miniBlink?
The Arcam miniBlink is put forward as an audiophile Bluetooth music converter which promises to be able to push out high quality music from mobile devices thanks to its Burr Brown PCM5102 24bit DAC (Digital Analogue Converter) and aptX streaming technology. The latter is the tech used to send CD quality files wirelessly over Bluetooth.
Oh, and it’s tiny.
So, can the little miniBlink live up to its rather big claims?
The miniBlink is indeed mini. I thought my V90 Blu was small but the Arcam device is the size and shape of a well-polished pebble. Thanks to this it certainly breaks up the sea of rectangular boxes that most Hi-Fis are comprised of.
The size of the miniBlink also means that it can sit next to, or even on, your PC and not take up any valuable desk-space.
Connections at the rear of the miniBlink are a USB which is used for power, either directly to a computer USB port or via one of the many supplied mains plugs, and an audio out which is via a 3.5mm analogue output.
The only other thing to break up the pebble-esque lines is the comparatively large round, recessed button adorned with a Bluetooth icon sat atop of the miniBlink. Simply press and hold this button down and it’s ready to be paired with your sound source.
As many of you will surely testify, it’s sometimes difficult to approach testing something out without already having some preconceived ideas of how it will perform. I went in to this review thinking that that the little Arcam wireless pebble would be ok and prove useful but that would be just about it. Especially when I saw that the miniBlink didn’t even have a digital out to lead to an external DAC.
Hooking it up to my Hi-Fi I slung some tunes at it from my HTC One. “Interesting”, thought I.
I started to select some tracks that might show some weaknesses.
I was getting impressed by the diminutive device. I was expecting a slightly bright reproduction of the tracks, leaning more toward highs and high mids but the Arcam sounds well rounded and gives the wirelessly transmitted tracks a nice smooth and warm feel without sacrificing any detail or edge.
Remember, this is through the supplied 3.5mm-to-RCA phono cable.
I even started to flick between the miniBlink and Musical Fidelity V90 Blu to see if the Arcam could hold its own in a side-by-side test and, you know what, there’s very little between them. The V90 has a slight edge over the miniBlink in attack and clarity but, honestly, for the price difference I don’t think anyone would point-and-laugh at the Arcam’s talents.
David Bowie’s ‘I’m Afraid of Americans’ and ‘The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret’ by Queens of the Stoneage test out the Arcam’s talent for dynamism and being able to cope with more angular tunes. Again, the miniBlink remains surefooted and the shifts from quiet moments to more aggressive sections are delivered expertly.
Switching to a more instrumental and jazz vibe and the Arcam handles percussion and strings pretty well and smoky vocals hang wistfully in the air. Slow piano tracks are tastefully warm and woody. The miniBlink handles this all remarkably well, but this is where the V90 slightly pushes a nose in front with the detail to my ears.
Taking the ‘little device who could’ over to my home office this is where its size plays its trump card. I’m currently using some Blue Aura powered speakers which can receive audio from both Bluetooth and NFC, but not everyone will have this kind of set-up so adding Bluetooth smarts to your PC without taking up any room on your desk is a definite bonus.
Conclusion and price
It is safe to say that the Arcam miniBlink is impressive. It’s not only impressive in size but it is also impressive how Arcam has been able to squeeze such a sense of refined audio and quality in to this tiny bit of kit.
I was just not prepared for the level of sound quality that the miniBlink is able to dish out and, for the price, I dare another product to step-up confidently to take the tiny Arcam on.
The fact that it is portable and you’re able to shove it in your bag and take it to wherever you need it is an added bonus that many other housebound Bluetooth DACs will look on with envy.
If you’re looking to add Bluetooth smarts to your PC audio system or Hi-Fi and want bang-for-your-buck whilst keeping an eye on quality then you should definitely have the Arcam miniBlink on your list, without a doubt.
The Arcam miniBlink is available now for £90 from Amazon.co.uk.
Arcam miniBlink full specs
DAC Burr-Brown/TI PCM5102
Frequency Response 10Hz-20kHz, +0 -0.2dB
Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise 0.002%
Signal-to-noise ratio (A-weighted) 106dB (24-bit)
Maximum output level 2.15V RMS
Supported CODECS SBC, AAC, aptX™
Power requirements 0.7W max
Dimensions W60 x H30 x D75mm