Go Wireless While Driving
Don't have a high-tech infotainment system in your car? With Bluetooth car adapters, you can enjoy hands-free audio on the cheap and make hands-free calls (in some cases). By simply plugging one of these adapters — most are under $30 — into the audio port in your vehicle, you can connect wirelessly to your phone and stream everything from music to podcasts over your car's speakers.
To find out which option is best, we tested 12 Bluetooth car adapters and evaluated them on three core features: design, wireless audio quality and ease of use. We also awarded extra points for any special features. Here are the Bluetooth car adapters on the market right now.
Mpow Bluetooth 4.1 Receiver 2-in-1
The Mpow Bluetooth 4.1 Receiver 2-in-1 is simply the best Bluetooth car adapter you can buy. The device is small and exceedingly easy to plug in and start using, and it comes in a compact design
The 2-in-1 plugs in to your car's audio port (or, if you want to use the adapter on other devices, you can plug it into a headphone jack). My phone immediately recognized the handset, and within seconds, I was wirelessly streaming audio through my car's speakers.
The Mpow 2-in-1 has a built-in microphone that allows for hands-free calling. It wasn't the best microphone I've ever used, but it gets the job done. On the device, you'll find some buttons that allow you to quickly pause and play music, end a call, increase or decrease volume, and more. All of the buttons are easy to access, well-designed and responsive.
Overall, Mpow's 2-in-1 is a winner.
TaoTronics Bluetooth Receiver
TaoTronics makes one of the best Bluetooth car adapters on the market. And at its affordable price, it's a stellar value.
The TaoTronics Bluetooth Receiver is similar to Mpow's in that it plugs in to your car's audio port for wireless streaming. The device was easy to set up, and it connected to my phone in a flash. Several buttons on the side made it easy for me to switch between songs, pause and play audio, and pump up the volume. There's also a button on the side that helps you quickly activate voice assistants like Apple's Siri.
The TaoTronics comes with two microphones. One of them listens to your audio, while the other helps to drown out ambient noise. That resulted in outstanding call quality even when I had the window open.
Mpow Bluetooth Receiver Streambot Mini
The Mpow Bluetooth Receiver Streambot Mini was a treat to use. The diminutive device plugs in to the audio jack on your car speaker and runs on a long-lasting battery that can keep a connection to your phone all day. Connecting the Streambot Mini to my phone was a cinch, and I like that it comes with a longer cord to use when the shorter connector made for too tight a fit between the radio and my car.
Using the Streambot Mini was pretty simple. I connected it to my phone and could immediately wirelessly stream music to my car's speakers. The Play/Pause button is perfectly placed for easy, no-look access, and buttons on the side let you quickly increase or decrease volume.
I used the Streambot Mini for wireless calling. It worked pretty well, but the microphone quality wasn't the best.
Anker SoundSync Drive
While many car Bluetooth adapters are small and plug in to your car's audio port, where they'll remain, the Anker SoundSync Drive is designed for a bit more flexibility. But there's one problem.
I don't like putting adhesive on my dashboard, but that's how the SoundSync Drive works. You take the circular unit and place it anywhere on the dash. However, because the unit has a strong adhesive, you'll find that it won't come off your dash so easily after prolonged use.
The device itself has a nice design and worked well over a wireless connection to my phone. One of the benefits of the SoundSync Drive's design is that you can place the adapter closer to where you are, which improves call quality. However, the Drive's buttons are flush with the case, so if you want to change your volume without looking, you might find yourself fumbling to find the button or even hit the wrong buttons entirely. That was a problem for me on a few occasions.
Mpow Bluetooth 4.1 Receiver with One Key
The Mpow Bluetooth 4.1 Receiver with One Key is a simple Bluetooth audio adapter that plugs in to your car's audio port and wirelessly connects to your phone. I found that the wireless connection was stable, though at times during music playback, there was some interference in the signal. I'm not sure whether this was because of the device or my phone.
Like other Mpow devices, this one is small and easy to use. And its big button on the side makes it easy to quickly play and pause audio without taking your eyes off the road. This Mpow device had solid battery life, and its call quality wasn't bad. But if you don't mind spending a few extra bucks, you should get the Mpow Bluetooth 4.1 Receiver 2-in-1, which is a better option.
Nulaxy Bluetooth Receiver
There's nothing to dislike about the Nulaxy Bluetooth Receiver. The device is small and simple to set up, and it plugs directly into your car's audio port for wireless connectivity. A button on the side gives you control over your music, and the device's built-in battery lasts all day on a charge.
Like some others in this roundup, the Nulaxy Bluetooth Receiver has noise-cancelling features that aim to improve call quality. And while the TaoTronics adapter offered better noise cancelling, the Nulaxy delivered solid performance.
There Nulaxy has volume controls, but I would have liked more options to activate voice assistants. Overall, the Nulaxy is a good option given its very low price.
Mpow Bluetooth Receiver for Car
Out of all the Mpow devices the company sells for wireless communication in the car, the Mpow Bluetooth Receiver for Car would be my last pick.
Unlike the other Mpow products we reviewed, the Mpow Bluetooth Receiver is a bulky, circular unit with an adhesive on the bottom that sticks to your dash. While that allows for better call quality, it also makes it harder to find the right buttons and controls without looking at the unit while you're driving.
The Mpow comes with one feature you might like if you want to keep your device charged on the go: a car-lighter adapter that has two USB ports on the back. Simply plug this in to your car lighter, and connect your iPhone or Android device on the other end, and you can charge your handset while you ride.
Sure, the Mpow Bluetooth Receiver has more bells and whistles than other options do, but at least in my time with it, that didn't translate to a better overall experience.
Kinivo's BTC450 is a decent option if you want to improve call quality and don't mind placing sticky adhesive on your dash.
The device is powered by an attachment that plugs in to your car lighter and comes with a USB port on the back, so you can keep your phone charging while you use the wireless connector. On the other end, you'll find a circular unit that you can stick to your dash and put close to your face for better sound quality. And, at least in my experience, the Kinivo device delivered on that.
But, like other units that come with the puck-like design of the Kinivo BTC450, I found it difficult to easily locate the buttons that control my music. And because of the company's odd decision to bundle the skip buttons on the side, I would often skip ahead when I wanted to go back, and vice versa.
The wireless audio quality was solid with Kinivo's device, but the design makes the device less appealing.
iClever Himbox HB01
The folks over at iClever offer a Bluetooth adapter called the Himbox that aims to improve call quality and make controlling your audio experience more comfortable.
The device plugs in to your car-lighter port for power and comes with two USB ports on the back, so you can power your smartphones while you're using the device. On the other end, you'll find a puck-like controlling unit that you use to control your music and perform other functions.
I dealt with the same problem in the iClever Himbox that I faced in other units that had a similar design: It's not so simple to figure out which buttons to press while driving. But at least the buttons are big and adequately spaced out.
Aukey Bluetooth Receiver
Aukey has a cheap Bluetooth receiver that looks awfully similar to Mpow's devices and comes with many of the same features.
The receiver has a simple and small design, with a matte-black finish. On the front, you'll find a Play/Pause button, and there are two volume buttons on the side. Connecting to the device was simple, and I found that its battery lasted quite a long time.
Like with some of the other simpler devices in this roundup, however, you'll need to consult the manual to figure out how to access certain features, like answering or ending a call. With so few buttons, you'll need to remember what holding the button down for a long time does (reject a call) and what it means when you double-press the Play button (redial a number).
Firik Mini Bluetooth Receiver Audio Adapter
Firik's Mini Bluetooth Receiver Audio Adapter is about as simple as these devices get. And in some respects, that's its biggest problem.
The device is the smallest adapter we tested and plugs in to your car's Aux port. Once the receiver is plugged in, you can wirelessly connect to your phone and listen to all the tracks you want. But with just 5 hours of battery life on this device, you can't expect the listening session to last long.
There's a built-in microphone in Firik's device, but the call quality was mediocre, at best. And with a general lack of buttons for controlling the audio experience, I often found myself turning to my phone.
Overall, Firik's Mini Bluetooth Receiver Audio Adapter was a disappointment.
The Tunai FireFly is simple and sleek, but it's overpriced for what you get.
On the plus side, you can pair multiple devices to the unit at the same time, so everyone can partake in the audio experience. The Firefly is also pretty versatile in that you can plug it into your car's audio port or a stereo's USB port. Its connection quality was quite good in my time with it, but it doesn't have a microphone, so if you're hoping to place calls with the unit, you're out of luck.
Unfortunately, there are no buttons on the Tunai for controlling music playback, which could prove to be a problem for many.