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GoGroove BlueGate Bluetooth audio receiver review: Cables are this audio adapter's weak link

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The Good The GoGroove BlueGate is tiny and unobtrusive in design. The unit is easy to operate, even without instructions, and offers Play and Pause controls.

The Bad The device uses a nonstandard USB power cable that can be difficult to replace. The unit also pairs for hands-free calling despite lacking a microphone.

The Bottom Line The GoGroove BlueGate is a good option if you want to add Bluetooth audio streaming to a car or home audio system, but portable-headphone users will want to look for a more flexible unit.

5.7 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6

The Gogroove BlueGate performs one very simple function that can be split into two parts. It receives a digital Bluetooth audio signal from a smartphone (or other Bluetooth capable device) and outputs an analog audio signal that can be listened to through headphones, a car stereo, or home audio system. It basically takes a wireless signal and makes a wired one.

The wireless portion of the BlueGate's functionality was performed almost flawlessly. It's the wired half of the equation that frustrated me.

The trouble with wires
The BlueGate device itself is remarkably compact and unobtrusive. The tiny matte-black box measures 1.8 inches by 1.3 inches by 0.3 inch, or about the size of a book of matches, and has the Gogroove BlueGate logo printed in glossy black on one of its flat sides. Along one edge are a small black power button and a round power input. Along another edge are a small LED indicator and a 4-inch pigtail that ends with a male 3.5mm analog auxiliary plug.

It's from the audio and power that my biggest complaints about the Gogroove BlueGate stem.

For starters, although the device charges via USB, the cable has a proprietary rounded tip rather than the more conventional Micro- or Mini-USB connections. So, if you lose the included cable, you can no longer charge the device.

Also, the audio output terminates in a male 3.5mm connection, which is fine if you're plugging into a car or home stereo, which often present their inputs as female ports. However, if you want to plug headphones into your BlueGate, you'll have to use the included male-to-male adapter cable, which is of fairly low quality.

Gogroove BlueGate
I found the included 3.5mm adapter cable to be one of the BlueGate's weakest links. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

When I plugged my headphones into that adapter to perform the first tests on the BlueGate, I was repulsed by how poor the audio sounded. Later, when testing in a car, I was surprised by how much different and better the resulting audio sounded. Later, I went back to retest the headphones and was again met with poor audio; I surmised that the weak link was the adapter cable. After a bit of connection wiggling, I was able to clean the audio up by only partially inserting the headphone plug, but you'll probably want to supply your own adapter.

Power, pairing, and pausing
The first thing that you'll want to do when you unbox the BlueGate is charge its internal battery. The device charged for me in about an hour and a half and, according to GoGroove's documentation, will stream for about 12 hours on a full charge. We're still working on battery life testing and will update the review later with our results.

To power the unit on or off, hold the power button for a few seconds until the LED starts flashing blue. To enter pairing mode, continue to hold the power button after the unit activates until the LED's color starts alternating between red and blue. The instructions indicate that the unit pairs with a four-digit PIN, but my Samsung Galaxy Nexus didn't even require that much.

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