Satechi Sound-Fly View Bluetooth FM transmitter review:

Satechi Sound-Fly View Bluetooth FM transmitter

Tapping the call answer button when not actively on a call brings up a redial menu on which you can select and redial the last few calls dialed or missed.

When Bluetooth audio streaming works, you'll be able to view metadata on the View's screen and control playback with its buttons.

In addition to hands-free calling, the Sound-Fly supports A2DP audio streaming and AVRCP controls for compatible players. However, here's where things started to get wonky for me. Normally, I'm elated to see that a Bluetooth device supports the display of audio metadata, but in the Sound-Fly's case, this functionality is a bit of a mixed blessing. During my testing, I noticed that when paired with my Android smartphone, the Sound-Fly View would occasionally refuse to stream audio. With a bit of trial and error, I realized that the device was using the presence of metadata to trigger audio-streaming mode. This meant applications that don't report metadata can't stream to the Sound-Fly View. In my case, that meant I was restricted to the stock Android music player--no Pandora, no Spotify, no DoggCatcher podcast player, and no Google Maps turn-by-turn directions. As we say on the Internet, epic fail.

When the audio-streaming function did work properly, I could skip forward, skip backward, and pause playback.

Probably the best and most unexpected feature in the Sound-Fly View's bag of tricks is its ability to play back WMA and MP3 audio from an SD card. I was able to quickly browse the contents of an inserted SD card by either entering the SD MP3 Navi menu or quickly spinning the control knob. Double-tapping the control knob during playback toggles the Pause function.

When playing MP3s or WMA files from the SD card reader, yo ucan browse quickly using the Sound-Fly View's menus.

The USB port, as I stated earlier, is only used for charging. I'd have liked to see that port accept MP3 playback from USB storage keys or even an iPod Classic or Nano.

I did encounter quite a few control issues during my testing. For example, the control knob pretty much duplicates the function of the dedicated skip buttons when you're listening to Bluetooth audio or an SD card. And I'd have liked to see an easier way to change the FM transmission frequency--as is, you have to enter a menu. In areas with crowded airwaves, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, being able to quickly twist a knob to find a new free channel would be a boon. An automatic tuning function would be a godsend, but the Sound-Fly View doesn't support that feature either.

In sum
About the only thing that keeps me from wholeheartedly recommending the Sound-Fly View is my experience with the Bluetooth audio-streaming wonkiness. The device seemingly outsmarts itself by relying on metadata to automatically switch sources, when Bluetooth A2DP streaming is notoriously inconsistent with metadata transmission. A way to manually lock in the source would be nice.

Since I'm making a wish list, I'd like to see the control scheme tweaked to be easier to use, an automatic FM tuning function, and a voice-activated dialer.

However, in every other way the Sound-Fly View exceeded my expectations. The presence of SD audio playback is a pleasant surprise and makes the unit useful for feature phone owners who still want audio playback. The built-in USB charger makes up for the fact that the unit will basically be semipermanently blocking your car's charging port. And the analog audio input and output allow users to still connect unsupported devices with a cable or, in vehicles with an aux-input, get better sound quality out of the Sound-Fly than is possible over FM transmission.

The Sound-Fly View has features we don't necessarily need, such as this A-B loop function, but misses the mark with more basic ones, like an automatic FM tuner.

In fact, with the number of inputs and outputs available, you can go from Bluetooth to FM, Bluetooth to aux-input, SD to FM or aux-input, aux-output to FM, or--if you're feeling goofy--aux-output to aux-input with your audio.

My first impression of the Sound-Fly View was of a lack of attention to detail, but at the end of my testing I was left thinking differently. There's a clear engineer's attention to detail present here; why else would there be an extra fuse included in the packaging? Because an engineer thought it would be a good idea. However, what the Sound-Fly View needs is a bit more of a designer's or user interface specialist's perspective as well to help put it over the top.

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