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BlackBerry Music Gateway review: BlackBerry Music Gateway

Stream audio from phones to legacy home theater gear with the BlackBerry Music Gateway.

Brian Bennett Former Senior writer
Brian Bennett is a former senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET.
Brian Bennett
4 min read

Pushing audio content, whether it's music, podcasts, or Internet radio, from mobile phones to devices in the living room has never been easy. This is especially true if you're saddled with old audiovisual equipment that lacks Bluetooth or even HDMI ports. Research In Motion has created an elegant solution to the problem in its $49.99 BlackBerry Music Gateway.

BlackBerry Music Gateway

BlackBerry Music Gateway

The Good

The <b>RIM BlackBerry Music Gateway</b> offers a simple and affordable way to push smartphone audio to older home entertainment products. Setting up the device is a snap and even easier with an NFC-enabled BlackBerry. It's also compatible with other Bluetooth phones and tablets.

The Bad

Streaming video to the Music Gateway is not an option. NFC compatibility with non-RIM handsets isn't guaranteed.

The Bottom Line

RIM's BlackBerry Music Gateway makes it dead simple to enjoy smartphone audio in the living room.

This compact gizmo serves one simple purpose but does it well. It connects to legacy home theater gear and streams audio wirelessly from not only BlackBerrys but practically any product with a Bluetooth radio.

The BlackBerry Music Gateway for easy audio streaming (pictures)

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Tiny and lightweight, the miniscule BlackBerry Music Gateway is crafted to be inconspicuous. The black, rectangular device gives no outward clue of its purpose or capabilities. Only the recessed Pairing button sporting a BlackBerry logo indicates this is a RIM product. Measuring just 0.4 inch tall by 2.4 inches wide by 1.5 inches deep and barely tipping the scales at 0.8 ounce, the Music Gateway is dwarfed by standard-size home entertainment gear such as Blu-ray players, AV receivers, and cable boxes.

On the back of the BlackBerry Music Gateway are a 3.5mm audio jack and Micro-USB port. Sarah Tew/CNET

Aside from the Pairing button, a minute LED on front along with a 3.5mm audio jack and Micro-USB charging port (placed on back) are the Music Gateway's sole connections, indicators, and controls. The gadget's top and bottom surfaces are coated in a soft-touch material that lends it a quality feel.

True to its name, the BlackBerry Music Gateway is primarily built to do one thing: stream audio from BlackBerry devices wirelessly to your home entertainment system. Thankfully the product accomplishes this using universal Bluetooth (version 1) technology, enabling it to link to virtually any Bluetooth-equipped smartphone, be it an Android, iOS, or BlackBerry.

The idea here is to unleash the music, podcasts, Internet radio, and other audio content living on your handset and enjoy it using a set of non-Bluetooth speakers, an iPod dock, an AV receiver, or even a car stereo you already own. Since the Music Gateway lacks a display, you need to use your phone's screen to control all media playback.

One trick I wish the Music Gateway could pull off, however, is transmitting audio via Bluetooth from a corded device to another wireless product. That way, I could conceivably transform any piece of living-room hardware into hands-free tech and listen to tunes or TV sound over a set of cordless headphones.

Additionally, you can't use the Music Gateway to make phone calls since it lacks an internal microphone. That's a function you do get from modern wireless speakers such as the Jawbone Big Jambox.

Photo and video streaming is beyond the Music Gateway's capabilities, as well. Other gadgets such as the HTC Media Link promise to do this but for higher asking price ($99.99).

One interesting twist, though, is the Music Gateway's integrated Near-Field Communication (NFC) circuitry. An NFC chip sits under the BlackBerry logo on the device's Pairing button. Similar to how it's used in the Motorola Elite Sliver, another NFC-enabled accessory, the purpose of NFC here is to let you link compatible phones to the Music Gateway's Bluetooth radio just by physically tapping both products together.

A Pairing button sits on top of the BlackBerry Music Gateway. It also houses an NFC chip for instant pairing with compatible gadgets. Sarah Tew/CNET

Because the BlackBerry Music Gateway is built to perform just one function, it's dead simple to set up. I made sure the device was connected to AC power, then held the Pairing button down for a few moments to put the Gateway in pairing mode -- the device's LED flashes between red and blue to let you know it's ready. Next, I navigated to my phone's Bluetooth settings, selected Music Gateway in a list of detected devices, tapped the option to pair, and was linked to the Music Gateway in seconds.

In fact, I connected the Music Gateway with two Android devices over Bluetooth, specifically a Samsung Galaxy Nexus and a HTC One X, and it was the same swift and painless procedure. I can say the same for a BlackBerry Bold 9930.

My attempts to use NFC for Bluetooth linking, though, were not as smooth, at least for my Android devices. After putting the Music Gateway into pairing mode, I placed my BlackBerry Bold 9930 (Verizon) test unit on the Gateway's top surface. Instantly the handset displayed a "connecting" notification and in less than a second told me the device was linked to the Music Gateway. That certainly beats having to flip through phone menus. By contrast, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and HTC One X failed this task completely and couldn't recognize the Gateway's NFC tag when I tried the same procedure.

When any of the phones was connected to the Music Gateway, however, I could stream audio from it to a set of external speakers quite easily.

The idea of linking mobile phones and other mobile devices to home entertainment equipment isn't new. But it's something that most smartphones can't manage right out of the box. Sure, you can opt to buy one of the legion of wireless speakers on the market, like the $299 Jawbone Big Jambox or even original $199 Jawbone Jambox. But if you crave a way to enjoy the music that's trapped inside your handset or other Bluetooth gadget but would rather use your existing home audio setup, the $49.99 RIM BlackBerry Music Gateway is a simple and affordable choice. Its effortless NFC pairing with compatible phones is icing on the cake.

BlackBerry Music Gateway

BlackBerry Music Gateway

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 7