Editors' note: With the addition of stereo Bluetooth capabilities in Apple's latest iPhone 3.0 operating system (also available for the second-generation iPod Touch), we've revised this review and increased the rating to reflect the product's narrower purpose of bringing Bluetooth to the iPod Nano, iPod Classic, and first-generation iPod Touch.
Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch include tons of desirable features, but they can't stream music over Bluetooth. To address this shortcoming, the folks at Scosche created TuneStream, a $79 stereo A2DP Bluetooth transmitter that plugs directly into the dock port of your iPod or first-generation iPhone.
For better or worse, there's not much to the TuneStream--no buttons, no switches, and no battery to change or charge. What you get is a 1.7-inch tall by 0.7-inch wide rectangle of black plastic, measuring a slim 6.5mm thick, with an iPod dock connection on the top edge and a blue LED set into the front. The TuneStream is as light as a penny, and its plastic construction shows no obvious signs of durability issues.
Scosche correctly advertises the TuneStream as compatible with the iPod Touch, iPod Classic, and iPod Nano (third generation). We found the TuneStream also cooperates with the first-generation iPhone and fourth-generation iPod Nano; however, we couldn't get it to work with the iPhone 3G, or older iPod models, such as the fifth-generation Video iPod.
After successfully using the TuneStream to wirelessly pair our iPod Touch with a set of Bluetooth headphones, we uncovered a few idiosyncrasies. For instance, plugging the TuneStream into the iPod's dock connection immediately resets the volume to 50 percent and triggers the iPod to start playing music (some may consider this a feature, but we found it annoying). Also, while connecting the TuneStream to a second-generation iPod Touch or first-generation iPhone, we found that music playback is initially routed through the iPod's internal speaker. Eventually, we remedied the problem by unplugging and replugging the adapter several times, but it's an awkward workaround.
The most glaring flaw in the TuneStream is its inability to enter or remember Bluetooth device passkeys or pairing history. Unlike Bluetooth music phones or MP3 players with integrated Bluetooth, such as the Samsung YP-P2, the TuneStream doesn't keep a record of your preferred Bluetooth receiver hardware. Instead, you'll need to switch your Bluetooth audio receiver into discovery mode each and every time you want it to connect to the TuneStream. Also, if your Bluetooth receiver requires a passkey to connect, there's no way to enter it using the TuneStream. On the upside, the TuneStream does accept remote playback control (AVRCP) from compatible devices, allowing you to play, pause, and skip through your iPod remotely.
The TuneStream's sound quality and wireless range (about 30 feet) is comparable to the A2DP Bluetooth audio products we've heard from iSkin and Logitech. Unlike the competition, however, the TuneStream draws its power directly from your iPod and doesn't need to charge independently. The added power drain the TuneStream places on your iPod cuts down on overall playback time, but the trade-off of having one less gadget to charge has some appeal.