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Bluewave Get: Qobuzism for this aptX HD Bluetooth receiver with headphone amplifier!

If the aptX codec enabled the Bluetooth connection to reach a quality almost similar to the CD, its big brother the aptX HD allows for the encoding of Hi-Res files up to 24-Bit/48 kHz. It’s the aptX HD compatibility that is offered by the Bluewave Get Bluetooth receiver and the sound performances provided on the whole that have impressed us deeply and led us to bestow this device a Qobuzism.

By Philippe DAUSSIN | Testing Ground | February 22, 2018
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Qobuz

The Bluewave Get, a small aptX HD Bluetooth receiver with headphone amplifier, has crossed the Atlantic in the luggage of the Qobuz emissaries when they came back from CES in Las Vegas. Since it’s not (yet) exported to France, the device has been lent directly to us by its creators—a fledgling Canadian company based in Montreal which also had a stand at CES—and was financed thanks to a crowdfunding on Indiegogo.

“But then, what is aptX HD?” is the question you are going to ask us. Well, it is the Hi-Res version, up to 24-Bit/48 kHz, of the aptX codec (that we already had the chance to test on multiple occasions) created by the CSR (Cambridge Silicon Radio) company, who had belonged for some time to Qualcomm, whose Snapdragon processors can be found in many smartphones. The latest versions of this processor, the Snapdragon 835 and the Snapdragon 845, integrate the aptX HD codec, while Android 8.0 Oreo, the latest version of this operating system, also supports aptX HD.

So, to be able to use this Bluewave Get to the full extent of its abilities, you will have to possess a compatible transmitting device, both in encoding terms (aptX HD) and in Bluetooth, as it must be the latest version, i.e. Bluetooth 5 which allows for, theoretically, a throughput of 2 MB/s and a range of 240 meters, with a power consumption similar to Bluetooth 4. The backwards compatibility is however ensured with Bluetooth 4 and this receiver can be used with the aptX codec that has been present on many smartphones for years.


Presentation

“Compact, atypical and original, a success, awesome”, these are the qualifying terms we use for the presentation of this Bluewave Get Bluetooth receiver. Its reversible clip will allow you to adapt it to the pocket on which you will want to put it in order to have the commands and volume—beside it a status indicator multicolored LED and the microphone are located—within easy reach of your left or right hand. The 3.5 mm headphone Jack socket, the micro USB connector allowing for the internal battery charge and for a USB DAC use (limited to 16-Bit/48 kHz), as well as a small opening giving you access thanks to a paper clip to a reset switch, are located in the lower part of the device.


Manufacturing

On one side of the circuit the 200mAh 3.7V battery, the volume potentiometer, the command keys, the headphone Jack socket and the micro USB socket, as well as the system reset switch (labelled SW4) are all located.


On the other side, you will find next to the potentiometer the Microchip microcontroller, accompanied by its oscillator and its working memory from the Winbond brand.


In the middle of the circuit a Qualcomm CSR8675 chip that handles all the Bluetooth processes (pairing with the transmitting device, reception and decoding of the audio data depending on their encoding when they were emitted, MP3, aptX, aptX HD, etc.) can be found. It also includes a 24-Bit/192 kHz digital-to-analog converter, thus compatible with Hi-Res digital audio files, as well as a digital-to-analog converter for the microphone and a battery charging system, visibly used here.

The headphone amplifier is logically located not far from the Jack socket (a QR Code separates them). It is a Maxim MAX97220A model, whose great sound performances have already impressed us in the past and which integrates a charging pump in order to avoid using capacitors on the headphone output.

Sound

We were talking recently about it, we currently possess a Sony Xperia XZ1 smartphone that we were unfortunately unable to review with the aptX HD codec, and it will finally be possible since it connected in aptX HD with the Bluewave Get Bluetooth receiver, and this in the absence of the Sony Headphones Connect application.


By clicking on the window notifying you of the aptX HD compatibility, the Xperia XZ1 even offers you a choice between this codec and normal aptX.

It is worth noting that we used the Music application installed on the Xperia XZ1 in order to be able to play all the digital audio files stored on a micro SDHC card.



Let’s start with the Allegro from Dvorak’s American Suite, in 24-Bit/192 kHz Hi-Res version (converted through the encoding into 24-Bit/48 kHz), performed by the Budapest Festival Orchestra directed by Ivan Fischer. It is like we are listening to a USB DAC or to a network player, the sound quality is so good, and we have listened sufficiently to this work to have memorized almost every detail of it.


Everything is well and truly there, vivacity (the string attacks are reproduced without any pressure), dynamics and also—and most of all—rich timbers that make this work so suitable for reviews (and also for pleasure). Therefore, we perfectly perceive the triangle’s interventions, restituted with excellent finesse, while the cymbals, rather dazzling in this allegro, are expressed with all their strength and richness. This aptX HD and Bluewave Get ensemble is impressive!

Let’s be even meaner and choose something even more demanding than the previous track, Carl Orff’s profane cantata Carmina Burana performed by the London Philharmonic Choir and the London Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Hans Graf (24-Bit/44.1 kHz Hi-Res version), to which we also listen regularly.


If only we could freeze sound, it would make the task of audio equipment reviewers much easier, but once again with Carmina Burana, or at least the long excerpts from it that we listened to, the reproduction seemed rather similar to what we hear usually on other systems, in our opinion. We thus note no difficulty in restituting the imposing orchestral and choral masses nor in following the level variations, and we also found there all the instrumental colors—and they are numerous here—with also very nice treble details. You will also notice a very good reproduction of the percussion, in particular the timbales that strike hard and firm, that is also to be credited to the headphone amplifier that holds up well in the bass. On the whole then, there’s only positive things. It’s the same (is it really surprising?) when listening to various titles from the Bee Gees’ album Size Isn't Everything, in 16-Bit/44.1 kHz, in which we liked the finesse of the guitar chords in the beginning of the song Blue Island or even from For Whom The Bell Tolls, as well as the voices of the Gibbs Brothers being restituted in all their tessituras, supported by an accompaniment with a nice density and substantial bass.

To conclude, we applaud our cousins from Quebec who have designed this awesome small Bluewave Get receiver, which we bestow with our Qobuzism award for its very good sound performances in Bluetooth with the aptX and aptX HD codecs. We have spent some wonderful musical moments with this device.

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