Looking for an easy way to stream audio from laptops and phones during sessions? For years, Jackpot! has had a 1/4-inch jack mounted on the producer’s desk, with a long cable line feeding a Radial Engineering J+4 (boosting -10 dB to +4 dB) into our Dangerous Music Monitor ST [Tape Op #60]. This works okay for a laptop headphone output, but with more phones eschewing 1/8-inch output jacks for other formats, we found less people using the lonely input jack. At a studio staff meeting/hangout, I asked if anyone thought a Bluetooth receiver would make sense for studio playback. Everyone agreed, and engineer Adam Lee noted that one he’d had at another local studio gets a fair amount of use, even as a source to directly record demos and virtual instruments off of people’s phones, iPads, and laptops during a session. Someone mentioned the Heritage Audio BT-500 ($219), which works via a 500 Series rack, but our 500 Series racks are always full here. I’d also checked out the standalone Radial BT-Pro V2 [#140] Bluetooth direct box, but at $314, I paused for a moment. That’s when a search through Sweetwater’s website found the Klark Teknik AIR LINK DW 20BR. At $79, it was an easy splurge, and I knew if it sucked, they’d let me return it. This little standalone unit has balanced XLR and unbalanced 1/4-inch stereo outputs, claims a wireless range of 100 feet via an external antenna, and runs off a 12 VDC wall wart. It’s been easier to pair to than most of my consumer audio Bluetooth devices at home, like earbuds or travel speakers, and I’ve yet to have any issues with distance in the control room affecting the connection. There’s a blue LED-ringed button on the front for pairing that will also work as a pause/play button in most cases. The Level attenuator (that I leave maxed out) is an excellent addition if one was directly feeding powered speakers. Included are floor/wall mount brackets, which could be handy (though ours sits on some gear). Klark Teknik claims a maximum output level of 4 dBu @ 1 kHz, but in use the output level always seems somewhat low, forcing me to crank the monitor levels. Always make sure that the device/app levels feeding the DW 20BR are turned up. Most of the time the audio is clearly reproduced, but in a few cases I did notice slightly garbled signals when my MacBook Air was overloaded with downloads and many open apps. Overall, I feel the audio arriving via Bluetooth was better than via a laptop’s 1/8-inch jack, despite Bluetooth’s likely lossy data compression.

I love problem-solving tools in the studio, and as technology marches along I find new additions to make workflow easier. The Klark Teknik AIR LINK DW 20BR has been an affordable, welcome addition at Jackpot! Recording Studio, and I’ll bet many of us could benefit from devices like this.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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