Pros / It has good signal clarity.
Cons / It had issues pairing in our tests.
Verdict / The SoundBot SB360 is one of the best Bluetooth car kits, in both price and function. The audio performance is good, though not elite.
The SoundBot SB360 is very similar to the best Bluetooth car kit overall, the Anker SoundSync Drive, in both price and function. Both are AUX-in Bluetooth adapters of similar size and shape. However, while the audio performance of the SB360 was among the best in my tests, it wasn't elite. It beats out the SoundSync Drive in hands-free call quality, but since every phone call you take behind the wheel is a distraction, I've deemphasized this aspect of performance.
At less than $20, the SoundBot SB360 is the same price as the Anker SoundSync Drive. Both are $25 less than the average Bluetooth car kit. Though not as affordable as the TaoTronics TT-BR05 ($13), there's really no reason to spend more than $20 on a Bluetooth car adapter, especially considering the SB360 is among the most reviewed and highest rated Bluetooth car kits on Amazon.
I tested the audio performance with two tests – signal clarity and signal strength. I created a playlist of familiar songs and evaluated the audio clarity, noting any peculiarities with the mix, such as minor distortion blips, unbalanced frequencies and background noise. With the volume setting on the car stereo and phone set at the same level for each Bluetooth adapter, I could isolate the signal strength by measuring the volume.
The signal clarity of the SB360 received a B grade. Like the TT-BR05, it had subtle distortion blips, particularly prominent in the low end. These blips are common with Bluetooth streaming and most people don't notice them. As such, the difference between the A and B grades is subtle. However, the difference between the B grade and the C and D grades is distinct. If streaming audio is your priority, as it should be, then the SB360 is a good choice.
The signal strength also received a B grade. It had the second strongest signal overall, tied with two other Bluetooth adapters. On average, it was 3 dB quieter than the SoundSync Drive (the strongest signal) but was significantly stronger than the other kits. The visor-style kits were 14 dB quieter, for example. When you consider the signal strength and clarity, the audio performance wasn't the best I reviewed, but it's good enough to be among the best Bluetooth adapters.
While I have reservations with hands-free calling, because it's a distraction, I performed simple call quality tests. As with most Bluetooth car kits, the SB360 isn’t designed for high-end hands-free calling, though it does feature a microphone with noise cancellation. Still, it received a B grade for call quality. This made it significantly better than the other AUX-in Bluetooth adapters and far better than the FM transmitters. However, since phone calls are a distraction, this performance feature isn't a significant advantage over other kits.
I had a lot of trouble pairing the SB360 to my phone and my music player. This is why it received a C grade. I didn’t have these issues the last time I reviewed the SB360. In fact, in the previous year, it was the quickest and easiest Bluetooth car kit to pair. This time though, it took over five minutes just for my music player to recognize it, and three minutes for my phone. And even after both devices finally recognized the Bluetooth signal, they had multiple failed pairings before it finally stuck. These issues could be related to my personal devices, but I didn't have as much trouble with most of the other kits.
The SB360 is the same size as the other two circular devices I reviewed, receiving a B+ for unobtrusiveness. However, it was the only one with an A grade for the controls and mounting. The controls are clearly labeled and easy to see. It comes with a magnetic mounting plate with an adhesive back you stick anywhere inside your interior. This makes it easy to remove without ruining the adhesive backing – a common complaint among similar kits.
The car charger has a USB port you can use to charge your phone while you drive. If your car stereo doesn’t have Bluetooth, it likely doesn’t have a USB port for charging your phone either.
The SoundBot SB360 is among the best Bluetooth car kits because it provides good audio clarity, good signal strength and unobtrusive design, all at an affordable price. That said, it doesn't beat out the Anker SoundSync, except for call quality and ease of controls. Still, it's a good option for streaming your favorite music.