The 10 Best Bluetooth To RCA Converters
A History Of Analog Audio
Eight-track tapes claimed a significant market share in the 1970s, which was followed by the rise of compact cassette tapes.
Long before home theater and video games, audiophiles were the original tech geeks, going to extensive lengths to craft the perfect listening experience. As the mid-20th century saw entertainment systems work their way into the average household, many fell in love with a cutting-edge, 2-channel development called "stereo," and home audio cemented itself as a significant part of life.
Of course, the latest in stereo technology is useless without music to play. In the past, the main sources of audio were recordings and broadcast media. Beginning as media for the phonograph, records ultimately evolved into the classic LP vinyl that generations know and love. These iconic beauties were originally stamped, hardened, and cut mostly by hand, and when played on a turntable, they transmitted in one or two channels, depending on the system. And lest you think the pre-digital sector was somehow less capable than today's engineers, there was even a sophisticated, 4-channel encoding method built into a select few pressings. However, Quadraphonic sound never took off, and today there are likely only a few dozen original systems on the continent that still function.
Eight-track tapes claimed a significant market share in the 1970s, which was followed by the rise of compact cassette tapes. These plastic cartridges were erasable and re-writable, and their general design would serve double duty for decades, storing consumer audio as well as corporate data in relatively large capacities, using designs similar to some still in use today.
In 1988, however, the fresh and exciting medium known as the compact disc began to outsell beloved vinyls, and by 1993, the death knell had begun to ring for cassette tapes, as well. Albums were produced almost exclusively for CD by that point, and they were created using 1s and 0s, rather than traditional analog data. It's this emergence of digital audio that began to change everything.
The Rise Of The Computers
Optical storage became mainstream throughout the 1990s, and personal computing hardware soon followed with formats like compressed MP3 files and the lossless FLAC protocol. And though digital recording itself wasn't new, the ability to keep a physical, durable, true-to-source copy of one's favorite tracks became the cornerstone of collectors everywhere. Despite the popularity of vinyl and cassettes, by their very nature, they don't have the longest lifespan or most consistent playback. They're both quite prone to static or skips, and the most cherished albums often became nigh-unlistenable after thousands of passes of the needle.
They're both quite prone to static or skips, and the most cherished albums often became nigh-unlistenable after thousands of passes of the needle.
CDs and other digital media, on the other hand, reproduce almost the exact same sound with which they were encoded. And while the natural waves of an analog signal more closely resemble natural sound, actual playback is often only as good as the player itself. Thus, a digital recording will always outperform an analog one in terms of clarity, accuracy, and longevity, although vinyl aficionados may endlessly (and quite incorrectly) argue the opposite. Contrary to this fanaticism, the limitations of vinyl technology essentially guarantee that digital reproduction is more faithful to the original audio, regardless of one's preference for nostalgic warmth.
That's not to say that analog transmission died with the advent of the CD — far from it. In fact, by the time sound emerges from speakers, it's a 100 percent analog signal. Indeed, analog audio is the only kind that biological organisms can actually hear, and so it's maintained a rightfully important place in music. But before it's converted into something we can hear, we have to move the data out of storage and to an amplifier.
More Sound, Fewer Wires
Technological advancements bring us better music in multiple ways: we have lightning-fast, digital drives that can store literally millions of tracks, and cutting-edge solid-state amplifiers and speakers that produce some of the most sublime and powerful sound ever. Naturally, a few of the classic 60s- and 70s-era loudspeakers and tube amps did make it through history unscathed, or have at least been restored to working condition. But of all the technologies past and present, few have skyrocketed in popularity over the last decade like the now-ubiquitous Bluetooth.
Naturally, a few of the classic 60s- and 70s-era loudspeakers and tube amps did make it through history unscathed, or have at least been restored to working condition.
A standard feature on all smartphones and many headsets, Bluetooth operates on the federally unlicensed 2.4gHz band, the same as Wi-Fi and microwave ovens. Incidentally, a dynamic frequency-hopping system keeps it stable and free of interference from home internet or hot pockets. As the standard moves forward and various manufacturers and consumer advocacy groups finally agree with one another, we're seeing powerful increases in this extremely convenient technology, and they will likely only continue. Bluetooth is capable of transferring any type of digital information, but its most common use among today's consumers is to ship music across a room (or across a body) to a speaker or headset, without any cumbersome wires.
And here is where all those antiquated paper cones, massive stereo receivers, and ultra-heavy drivers can still seriously shine. If a basement is already outfitted with rumbling, deep bass, it doesn't matter if that bass comes from 40-year-old boxes, as long as it booms. We equate older technology with lower performance, and that's not always true. In this case, there is absolutely no reason to replace the lush, broad-spectrum, 4-point system that you've been listening to for ages.
Even if they're a little dusty, those old tweed-covered monstrosities buried in the basement still operate like (and probably sound better than) most other speakers, and many of them are easily outfitted with the well-known RCA plug. This round and highly recognizable connector is named for the Radio Corporation of America, who introduced it in the 1940s as a means of connecting the internals of the phonograph machine. For a single electrical connector format to survive for more than seven decades basically unaltered is, quite frankly, nothing short of a miracle. That such a plug is still the backbone of many hi-fidelity systems is incredible, and with the right converter or adapter, your favorite RCA-equipped gear should be in service — wirelessly — for many years to come.