Real Cable iPlug-BTR: Qobuzism for this small aptX Bluetooth receiver delivering very good sound performances!
Despite having been on the market for quite a while now, this small Real Cable Bluetooth aptX iPlug-BTR receiver was completely unknown to us. It’s completely by chance that we discovered it recently, and since it’s better late than never and that it still listed in the manufacturer’s catalog, we have decided to review it.
It is true that our visits on the website of France Marketing, the founder and owner of the Real Cable brand, are usually about checking NAD and Blue Sound, whose electronics are renowned and whose network players integrate Qobuz in Hi-Res and are distributed by this company.
Mainly known by the mainstream audience for its manufacturing of audio and video cables as well as various accessories related to these areas, France Marketing also distributes, among other things, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios, other brands of cables, as well as Hi-Fi electronics, speakers, TV stands and Hi-Fi systems, and sells under its own Real Cable brand two aptX Bluetooth modules, the iPlug-BTR, which will be the subject of this testing ground, and the iPlug-BTR-NFC, with a Near Field Contact pairing type, which doesn’t require to go through your smartphone’s settings.
The Real Cable iPlug-BTR aptX Bluetooth receiver possesses a highly sober presentation with its small black plastic box receiving in the middle of its top front edge a light guide indicating the state of the device (flickering blue once for a second every five seconds during the powering on or the pairing of the device, then remains set when the connection has been established with the Bluetooth emitting source).
In the back, you will find the plug for the 5V/600mA power supply, the S/PDIF Toslink digital optical output and the analog stereo output on a 3.5mm Jack.
The card is consistent with the device’s functionalities, i.e. it contains a relatively limited number of components, and it would probably contain even less today with the developments that the Qualcomm/CSR chips have known since the conception of the iPlug-BTR.
On this card, the digital-to-analog conversion chip is a Wolfson WM8524G (under the Jack plug, reference U4). This circuit, compatible with signals up to 24-Bit/192 kHz, integrates a charge pump that avoids the use of coupling capacitors in output, and the manufacturer recommends a simple low-pass filter composed of a 560Ω resistor and of a 2.7 nF capacitor on each output. The fact remains that there is still passive filtering on this card, and no active filter with operational amplifier, which, according to our ear (and our experience), is beneficial to the sound restitution (because of the lack of feedback).
The digital optical signals are built by a Wolfson WM8804 S/PDIF transmitter receiver from the I2S signals delivered by the Bluetooth card. As for the power supply, the voltage coming from the power pack first goes through a diode protecting against polarity reversals, then is filtered through a 10μF/16V capacitor before entering a Globaltech Semiconductor GS1117Y33F regulator delivering a 3.3V current used by the WM8524G.
It is clear, aptX Bluetooth, and now aptX HD, has always impressed us, but with the iPlug-BTR we are more than impressed, we are delighted by the sound reproduction delivered on its analog output. With the title Isn't It A Pity from George Harrison’s album All Things Must Pass, we are really carried away and almost overwhelmed by the emotion we felt. Admittedly, aptX, like always, does a really great job, but furthermore, the Wolfson WM8524G digital-to-analog converter, for its part, delivers a wonderful sound (we have no recollection, not any trace in our testing grounds, to have ever heard this chip).
It goes the same way with the title Eyes Without A Face from Billy Idol’s album Rebel Yell, with a striking presence and magnificent female backing vocals. Are we suffering from an auditory hallucination?
In any case, it repeats once again while listening to the magnificent interpretation by Vera Beths and the Tafel Music Ensemble conducted by Bruno Weil of Beethoven’s Concerto for violin, an extract from the multiple album Beethoven: The Piano Concertos; The Violin. It is a highly beautiful restitution where the nature of the instruments is respected and whose coherence leaves speechless and keeps nagging us to try and understand what is happening, because we have listened to lots of DACs, and we have never felt this way, at least to that extent.
Last test with Vivaldi’s album Vespri per l'Assunzione di Maria Vergine by the Concerto Italiano conducted by Rinaldo Alessandrini, in which we find again all the qualities of interpretation, the instrumental and choral beauty, the liveliness of the string instruments, magnified by the iPlug-BTR.
To conclude, we have bestowed our Qobuzism award to this small aptX Bluetooth receiver which will allow you to listen to CD-quality files stored on a smartphone compatible with aptX, with a quality close to the CD despite the low output of a Bluetooth connection, and this in all simplicity. It also works with Qobuz Hi-Fi, by the way!
Debussy: Jeux, Nocturnes, Prélude à l'aprés midi d'un faune Les Siècles Gramophone Editor's Choice