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Rockford Fosgate Bluetooth Adapter review: Simple car Bluetooth adapter does one job well

The Rockford Fosgate Bluetooth Adapter is short on features, but performs its single task of transmitting music to a car stereo.

Wayne Cunningham
Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.

3 min read

Simplicity does not rule out clever design; in fact, a simpler product almost demands it. Such seems to be the thinking behind the Rockford Fosgate Universal Bluetooth Audio Adapter, a simple device that wirelessly connects a smartphone to your car stereo.


Rockford Fosgate Bluetooth Adapter

The Good

The Rockford Fosgate Universal Bluetooth Audio Adapter is designed as a 12-volt power point plug-in for a car, and includes a USB charging port pass-through.

The Bad

This Bluetooth Adapter includes no hands-free phone features, nor the ability to skip songs.

The Bottom Line

Rockford Fosgate's Bluetooth Adapter makes a convenient fit for some cars, but the lack of phone features limits it to music.

However, it suffers a common pitfall of simplicity in being short on features.

Rockford Fosgate's Bluetooth Adapter is similar to two other devices I've reviewed, the GoGroove SmartMini Aux and the Kinivo BTC450. The device plugs into a car's auxiliary audio port and connects to a phone through Bluetooth. Play music on the phone and you can hear it through the car's stereo.

However, these devices need a power source, so usually include a USB charging cable and 12-volt adapter to plug into a car's power point. The brilliance of Rockford Fosgate's adapter is that the whole thing plugs into the power point, doing away with the need for a separate adapter.

Rockford Fosgate Universal Bluetooth Audio Adapter (pictures)

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The top end of the device holds a button that lights up in blue, a 1/8-inch audio output port, and a USB port. Plug the whole thing in, then connect the included 1/8-inch audio cable from device to the car's auxiliary audio port. The USB port is a nice addition, letting you charge your phone or other devices. It has nothing to do with the audio output.

It is a compact solution, but its neatness in a car depends largely on where the power point and auxiliary port are located. In some cars, both are at the base of the console, making it easy to plug both in. However, if the power point is midway on the console and the aux port sits on the stereo faceplate, the cable will have to stretch between passenger and driver, and will likely get knocked out of place or interfere with the shifter.

Once I had the Bluetooth Adapter installed in a car, I turned on the ignition and saw the button at the end of the device flashing blue. Opening my iPhone's Bluetooth settings menu, I found the device labeled as RFBTAUX and selected it. When the Bluetooth pairing finished, music playing from my phone came out through the car's speakers. The quality sounded as good as any other Bluetooth connection I have heard.

Pairing the Bluetooth Adapter proved quick and problem-free. There is no PIN or other security feature, but then, it's not likely someone is going to pair a phone and follow you around, making you listen to their music.

When I got back into the car and turned the ignition, the Bluetooth Adapter paired with my phone again automatically, although the iPhone's music player was paused by default. Pushing the button toggled pause/play on the iPhone's music player.

Rockford Fosgate Bluetooth Adapter
Depending on the proximity of 12-volt power point to aux input, the Bluetooth Adapter may fit well. Wayne Cunniingham/CNET

While an easy way to retro-fit a car with Bluetooth streaming audio, the Rockford Fosgate Bluetooth Adapter lacks any other features. For example, there is no ability to skip songs from the device. Likewise, there are no features for hands-free phone use. As it has no microphone, it can't activate a paired phone's voice command feature.

Since most new cars come with Bluetooth hands-free phone systems and audio streaming, the Rockford Fosgate Bluetooth Adapter will be redundant in those. Cars from about 2002 and earlier rarely came with an auxiliary audio port, so the device won't work with those. However, for a set of cars built from about 2002 to 2010, the Bluetooth Adapter makes for a quick and cheap means of adding wireless music.