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This clever little unit gives iPod/iPhone compatibility to other music players.

It also makes an iPod or iPhone more convenient to use when seeking to play music through an external sound system of any type.

 
 
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iSkin Cerulean RX Stereo Bluetooth Receiver

A clever addon for personal music players
 

The tiny (2.2" wide) Cerulean RX unit is at the top, and its sometimes relevant partner unit, the Cerulean TX, is shown below.

Part of our series on Bluetooth - more articles listed on the right.

 

 

More and more phones now include music players in them.

But moving beyond playing the music only through headphones, and getting the music out of the phone and into a home audio system, or making a non-iPod compatible with an iPod docking station/sound system, ranges from difficult and inconvenient to plain impossible.

In theory, the iSkin Cerulean allows for any Bluetooth A2DP supporting music player to connect wirelessly and conveniently to any sound system.  As such, it is a wonderful add-on to extend the functionality and use you can enjoy from your phone or other personal music player.

BUT.  The device doesn't work satisfactorily, and iSkin can't/won't fix it.  DO NOT BUY.

What the iSkin Cerulean RX Does

This tiny little device is a Bluetooth stereo audio receiver.

The Cerulean uses its Bluetooth capability to receive an audio (ie typically stereo music) broadcast from some sort of source - most commonly a cell phone or MP3 player which can transmit music via Bluetooth's A2DP profile.

After receiving the music transmission via Bluetooth, the Cerulean has a compatible iPod/iPhone style socket, so it can then be plugged into the many iPod accessory speaker docks and multi-purpose clock/radio/audio players and played over speakers.  It also has a regular audio line out so it can be connected to most audio systems as well.

This makes it easy and convenient to play music from your phone or other music playing device, either through your regular home stereo or through a player designed to work with iPod units.

More specifics are provided below in the section on using the unit.

What you Get

iSkin's strangely named Cerulean RX comes in a simple attractive cardboard box.  Inside is the unit itself, a USB cable, and two stereo audio cables.  One of these is a standard stereo mini headphone plug to stereo mini headphone plug cable that you'd use for connecting from the device to any of the audio/speaker units that have a mini headphone plug (ie 1/8" or 3.5mm) type input for an 'auxiliary' input, and the other connects from the mini headphone plug, then via another short cable, to two standard 'RCA' connectors such as are used by most home stereo receivers and amplifiers.

There are also two User Guides (one in French, one in English) and a product promotional brochure.

The unit has a miserly 90 day warranty which is also non-transferable, and requires you to keep your proof of purchase.  This is a very disappointing warranty period.

The User Guide is a short five page pamphlet, but because the unit is very simple to use, this is about all that is needed.

The product lists for $90 on iSkin's website.  I've not found it for less anywhere else.

Description of the Cerulean RX

The unit is very small and lightweight.  It measures 2.2" x 1.1" and is about 0.3" thick.  It weighs a negligible 0.4 oz.

It has no controls (but doesn't really need any).  There are three connectors on it - one to connect it to an iPod dock adapter, one for a USB type power supply, and a mini headphone jack for audio output to other devices (if you're not using the iPod dock connection).

There is one little white light on its front.  The light flashes in different patterns to indicate its working status.

The Cerulean RX is Bluetooth 2.0 compatible, and supports both the A2DP and AVRCP Bluetooth profiles.

Power Supply

The Cerulean RX has no self contained power supply.  If you are using it with an iPod docking adapter, that's not an issue - it simply draws the power it needs from the docking adapter.

If you are using it with a home stereo system, you'll need to power the unit independently.  The unit comes with a USB/power cable that ends with a typical full size USB connector, which you can plug into any USB power source.  The best type of power source in such a case is probably going to be a plug-in 'brick' power supply that plugs into the mains.  You might already have one or two of them lying around (they come included with many products these days, although - alas - not the Cerulean.  Otherwise, if you need one, you can find such things for under $10 - currently this online store is selling them for $7.

It is a shame that a $90 item doesn't include a moderately important component, subjecting you to both the inconvenience and cost of having to buy the power supply elsewhere.  To put this into context, the cost for iSkin of buying a USB power supply such as the one being retailed for $7 above is typically less than $1.50 (if sourced from China).  Shame on iSkin for being so penny pinching in a manner reminiscent of the former ubiquitous but now rarely found 'batteries not included' concept.

Using the Cerulean RX

The unit can be used two different ways :

1.  Connecting to an iPod dock device

This is amazingly simple.  Just plug the Cerulean RX into/onto the dock adapter where an iPod would otherwise be connected, and that is all you need to do.

The Cerulean is now ready to pass music from whatever player you are using through to the audio system you have connected it to.

2.  Connecting to other sound systems

This is also very simple, but you'll have to use the connecting cables in this case.

You first plug the mini headphone/mini headphone cable into the Cerulean, and then you plug the other end of this cable directly into an input jack on the sound system if it accepts mini headphone jack inputs.

If the sound player you are connecting the Cerulean to does not accept headphone jack inputs, the chances are 99.9% certain that it will instead accept typical RCA jack type inputs.  So take the second cable that was supplied with the Cerulean and simply connect it to the end of the mini headphone cable.  At the other end of the second cable are the RCA jacks - plug the red jack into the right hand input, and the white jack into the left hand input.

You'll also need to run power to the unit.  Plug the supplied USB cable into the Cerulean, and plug the other end of the cable into any USB power source, such as a 'wall brick' USB power source detailed above in the subsection on power supply.  This is, unfortunately, not an included item in the Cerulean kit, but happily if you don't already have a spare unit, you can buy one for $10 or less at many electronic stores or online (see above section on power supply).

Pairing to a Bluetooth device

After you've connected the Cerulean to the sound system that you want the music to come out of, you need to also connect (ie 'pair') the Cerulean to the music source - possibly a cell phone or other type of personal music player.

Assuming the music player device has built in Bluetooth A2DP support, this is also a simple process.  If the music player doesn't have this feature, you'll need to get a Cerulean TX or other add-on Bluetooth transmitter as well, although this starts moving from the 'really easy and simple' category into something a bit more complicated (see next section below).  In such a case, maybe it is better to just upgrade your phone to a newer model that has the A2DP Bluetooth profile built in.

The Bluetooth pairing code is not printed on the unit.  But it is 0000 (like so many other devices) so if you lose the instructions (and you can download a new User Guide from iSkin's site at any time) it is easy enough to guess.

The Cerulean only remembers one pairing profile, and it 'forgets' this if it loses power (a shame that it wasn't given some permanent memory to store this in).

Sound Quality

The A2DP profile definition supports high quality audio with some error correction (for lost packets of data).  While it is true that a wired connection between your music player and your sound system is a better quality way of connecting the two units, the amount of quality lost via Bluetooth is negligible.

More quality was lost when you converted the music from its original format to the compressed and 'lossy' digital MP3/AAC or other format it is stored on your player with.  And unless you're feeding the output through a reference studio quality sound system costing tens of thousands of dollars, you'll probably not hear any appreciable additional loss of quality caused by the Bluetooth connection between the music player and the sound system.

In other words, for all normal and casual purposes, there is no measurable loss in sound quality by streaming your music via the Bluetooth wireless connection.

Range

The unit is a Class II Bluetooth device, and has a theoretical range of about 10m/33 ft - more if there is an unobstructed line of sight between the two connected devices, less if there are walls and other obstacles.

I was able to get better than a 50' moderately obstructed range between an iPhone 3GS and the Cerulean RX, which is excellent.  I could also have the phone on the bottom level of my tri-level house and the player two floors up on the top level, and that worked fine, too. When the range gets marginal, there is no distortion to the sound, it just starts to cut in and out entirely.

Testing with phones

I tested with three phones - an iPhone 3GS, a T-Mobile G1 Android phone, and a Blackberry 8900.

All three phones paired up easily with the Cerulean and sent music streams to it perfectly.

Both the Blackberry and the G1 allowed me to control the volume from the phone as well, but the iPhone regrettably did not.  This is a serious omission, and destroys much of the convenience of being able to remote control a music system from one's phone.  However, being as how the other two phones do allow this, it would seem the problem is not to do with the Cerulean but with an incomplete implementation of the A2DP and AVRCP specifications by Apple.  Shame on Apple.

Testing with music players

I tested the Cerulean RX with several different iPod docking music players, and also with a regular stereo system.

Everything worked easily and conveniently, with the Cerulean creating normal level good quality music outputs that worked well with all the music players.

Incoming phone calls

When a phone call comes in, the phone simply stops playing music through Bluetooth and allows you to take the call normally on the phone handset.

Restart the music and Cerulean connection when you've finished your call.

Problem with sound cutting in and out

Although the music was clear and at a good level, there was a problem that was observed with two different phones (G1 and 3GS - the Blackberry wasn't tested) and using the Cerulean both in a docking role and freestanding with a stereo system.

The music would cut in and out on a semi-random basis, with brief breaks during which just silence would be heard, then the music would return again.

This seemed to happen whether the phone was right next to the Cerulean, or 20+ ft distant, and because it happened with two different phones, it seemed that the problem was not related to the phones, but rather to the Cerulean RX.

It is an annoying problem which appreciably detracts from the performance and pleasure otherwise available from the unit.

Which leads to the next point - getting some help and hopefully a fix from Cerulean to this problem.

Support

If you have questions or problems, you can phone iSkin's technical support on their local (not toll free) number in Canada - (416)924-9607.  Unfortunately, their support is only available 9-5 Eastern time, Mon-Fri.  So if you're hoping to resolve an issue after getting home from work, or over the weekend, you're completely out of luck.

At least people on the west coast can call before going to work, but if you live in the Eastern time zone, it seems you'll have problems trying to solve an at-home problem because you'll necessarily be at work not home during iSkin's limited support hours.

I spoke to various people who gave various responses about my problem, but no-one could or would fix it.

I was even sent a second unit, in case the first one was faulty, but the exact same problem continued to occur.

My unavoidable conclusion is that there's a problem with the design of these units.  I must recommend you NOT to buy one accordingly.

Opening Up New Content Possibilities

One of the exciting additional capabilities inherent in this unit is using it to play more than just the plain recorded music you might have on your phone.

Maybe you also have one of the various internet music services on your phone - for example, last.fm or Pandora or Slacker - services which stream customized music to you.  You can play these through the Bluetooth connection to an external music player, exactly the same as you can play pre-recorded tracks stored on your phone.

This becomes a great way to 'pipe' internet sourced music to any type of music player without needing for the music player itself to be connected to the internet.

A Related Product - the Cerulean TX

The Cerulean RX relies on the device that has the music on it being able to transmit its music signal via the Bluetooth A2DP profile.  (In case you need to know, A2DP stands for 'Advanced Audio Distribution Profile'.)

Although the A2DP profile is becoming more common, not all phones and very few digital music players provide this capability - and note that just because a phone says it has Bluetooth, that does not mean it has the stereo music streaming capability.  Most Bluetooth equipped phones simply allow for you to connect a headset to the phone, not for any of the various other Bluetooth connectivity capabilities.

So, what to do if you have a non-A2DP equipped music playing device that you'd love to conveniently connect to your stereo or to an iPod type speaker dock or external music player?

Summary

In theory, this is an easy to use device that makes it much more easy and convenient to feed music - either already stored on your phone/personal music player, or sent live via the internet to your phone - out of your phone/music player and into a regular music player so you can fill a room with music rather than be forced to listen to it through headphones.

The device is small and simple, but the problem with the music being interrupted with brief silences detracts from its usefulness.  Hopefully this can be resolved.

BUT.  The device doesn't work, and iSkin can't/won't fix it.  DO NOT BUY.
 

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Originally published 25 Sep 2009, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 

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