Pros / This Bluetooth car adapter has the best audio performance.
Cons / It only works with AUX input stereos.
Verdict / The Anker SoundSync Drive is small, discrete and affordable, but the audio performance is what sets it apart as the best Bluetooth car kit overall.
The Anker SoundSync Drive is a simple, unassuming Bluetooth car kit with exceptional audio performance. This is what makes it the best option for bridging the technology gap between your stereo and your smartphone. When I started my tests, I wasn't sure there would be much difference in audio performance, considering most of the devices I tested rely on the 12-volt power of the car charger and Bluetooth streaming. But the SoundSync Drive proved me wrong by providing the clearest and strongest signal.
At just under $20, the Anker SoundSync Drive is about $25 below the average cost for a Bluetooth car kit. In fact, only the TaoTronics TT-BR05 is more affordable, costing $12.99, but it has a weaker audio signal.
To test the audio performance of each Bluetooth car kit, I created a playlist of songs chosen specifically to gauge the low, midrange and high frequency mix. I played the songs through a car stereo and evaluated the signal clarity by listening for imbalances in the mix, distortions and noise. To measure signal strength, I measured the maximum volume reached on each song with the volume setting on the stereo maintaining the same level. One of the biggest complaints with Bluetooth car kits is the weak audio signal, requiring you to turn your stereo up.
For signal quality, the Anker SoundSync Drive earned an A grade. Even at full volume, the audio was clear and well balanced. Bluetooth tends to have audio clarity issues, even with AptX, because of compression issues. This was especially evident with the SoundBot SB360, a very similar AUX-in style Bluetooth car kit. It overemphasized the bass, leading to distorting low-end.
The signal strength was even more impressive, earning an A+ grade. It was 3 dB louder than the B graded kits and 6 dB than C graded kits. You can't even compare it to the visor-style kits, because these rely on built-in speakers and aren't capable of filling your car with as much music. By comparison, visor-style kits were 17 dB quieter than the SoundSync Drive.
This kit received a C for call quality. It's not great. It's not even good. But it's not terrible either. I'd call it "serviceable." In the past, this low grade would have been a big deal, but since studies show hands-free calling isn't safer than hands-full calls, I've deemphasized this feature. It's still a consideration, but only if you're parked.
The biggest downside to the Anker SoundSync Drive is the AUX port requirement. The AUX port isn't a downside. Far from it. It's miles ahead of the FM transmitter, in terms of audio performance. However, a significant number of older stereos don't have AUX ports. And if your stereo doesn't have an AUX port, this kit has no value to you.
The pairing process was exceptionally fast. With most of the products I tested, it took me several minutes to successfully pair with both my phone and my high-fidelity music player. In some cases, both required up to 20 refreshes of the Bluetooth to even identify the device, much less pair with it. Conversely, the SoundSync Drive was recognized on the first attempt and paired within 30 seconds.
The controls of this Bluetooth adapter received a C grade. Anker says they simplified the controls by designing just three buttons, but they didn't adequately identify the buttons. And the third button is multifunctional. Companies often include multifunction buttons because it, as I said, simplifies the interface. But they're wrong. Multifunction buttons require the user to stumble over both what the multiple functions are and how to access them. Do I press it three times to access the menu? Do I have to hold it down for four seconds to answer a call? Two seconds to end it? That said, these complaints are nitpicky, as all Bluetooth car kits are relatively easy to use when compared to most technology.
The SoundSync Drive is one of the least obtrusive Bluetooth car kits on the market. At just 1.7 inches in diameter, it's not much bigger than a half dollar coin. The adhesive backing sticks to your dash (or wherever you want it). It doesn’t draw attention to itself or get in the way. In addition, its power source includes USB ports so you can charge your phone while you drive.
When it comes to streaming music or GPS directions from your smartphone, the Anker SoundSync Drive is your best option, so long as your stereo has an AUX port. The audio outperformed other AUX-in Bluetooth adapters, and the audio clarity is far superior to FM transmitters. It's also the second smallest and second most affordable Bluetooth car adapter.