Pros / This is the smallest, least obtrusive Bluetooth adapter.
Cons / The signal strength is weak.
Verdict / The TaoTronics TT-BR05 is the smallest and most affordable Bluetooth car kit available. The audio clarity is excellent, but the signal strength is weak.
The TaoTronics TT-BR05 is the simplest Bluetooth car kit I've reviewed. It's plugs into your stereo's AUX port. It has few buttons and no interface. It simply creates a bridge for your phone to stream music through the stereo. And while the signal strength didn't impress, the clarity is very good, especially considering it’s the most affordable Bluetooth car adapter on the market.
At less than $13, the TaoTronics TT-BR05 is the most affordable Bluetooth car kit available on Amazon. When you consider the average price for these products is around $45, it's easy to assume the cheap price means it's a cheap device. This is not the case at all. Sure, the signal strength doesn't match the Anker SoundSync Drive, but the signal clarity is very good. This explains why it's one of the most popular and highly rated Bluetooth adapters on Amazon, with over 5,500 reviews and a 4.3 overall rating – the highest Amazon rating for any of the kits I've reviewed. In other words, if you want to stream Pandora or Spotify, you don't need to spend a lot for a simple, but effective device.
To test the Bluetooth car kits, I started with a playlist of songs I'm intimately familiar with (an important component to evaluating the mix). As I listened to the songs, I evaluated the mix by listening for imbalances in the frequency ranges, distortions common to Bluetooth decompression and other noise. At the same time, I recorded the maximum volume of each song with the phone and stereo's volume setting at the same level for each device to measure the signal strength.
In the audio clarity test, the TT-BR05 earned a B grade. The difference between B grades and A grades in this test were down to minor distortions common with Bluetooth decompression. The average listener isn't likely to notice a difference until it's pointed out, like when something is only slightly asymmetrical. However, the difference between B grade and C grade is significant, as the latter has significant mix imbalances.
The biggest issue with the TT-BR05 is the signal strength. Unlike the other AUX-in kits and FM transmitters, this kit is battery powered like the visor-style Bluetooth car kits. This provides some value, because it only requires a cord when you're charging it. However, the downside is a weak signal. Compared to the Anker SoundSync Drive, the audio signal was an average of 7.5-dB quieter when at the same volume level on the stereo. It was 4.8-dB quieter than the SoundBot SB360. This isn't a major issue though, as it simply means you turn your stereo up more to reach the desired volume; but since this is among the most common complaints for Bluetooth car kits, it's worth noting.
The call quality received a C grade. The built-in microphone is serviceable, but the noise cancellation is not good. It had a problem with a feedback loop (common with AUX-in Bluetooth car kits). This occurs when the microphone picks up the caller's voice because as it's played over the car speakers. Most devices have tried to account for this with echo-cancellation features, but most aren't nearly as good as advertised. However, hands-free calling is considered distracted driving. Studies have proven hands-free calling isn't safer than hands-full calling, so I've deemphasized this aspect of performance. Still, if you pull over to take a call, the call quality is average.
The pairing of the TT-BR05 had some issues, receiving a C+ grade for ease of pairing. It took nearly five minutes for my high-fidelity music player to recognize it and another two minutes before it successfully paired, after repeated errors. My phone was a little faster, but still had issues recognizing it. I don't know exactly why my devices struggled to recognize it, but this issue was shared with several other devices.
The controls received a B grade. They're simple – just three buttons for pause/play, forward and reverse – and they're easily identified. The reason it didn't receive a higher grade was the location of the forward and reverse. They aren't readily visible. You have to feel for them because they're on the side and blend into the trim.
For unobtrusiveness, the TT-BR05 earned an A for being the smallest adapter. There aren't any cords to fiddle with, except when you're charging. It plugs into the AUX port with a short two-sided 3.5 mm auxiliary input. It doesn't require adhesive to stick to your dash and you don't have to worry about to getting in the way of your shift stick.
The TaoTronics TT-BR05 is the best value pick because it's the most affordable way to stream music from your phone through your stereo, so long as your stereo has an AUX input. It provides good audio clarity and a compact, unobtrusive design at a $7 cheaper cost than the second most affordable Bluetooth adapter.