If you have a Bluetooth player you might have considered the option of going wireless at home. Freely moving around the room with your player as a very advanced music remote sure sounds good, but then there’s the issue of sound quality. With Bluetooth receivers becoming more and more popular it’s hard to keep track of what actually sounds good and whether or not to go for a cheap receiver from a no-name brand or more expensive models.
The Sony Ericsson MBR-100 falls into the latter category with a US MSRP of $79.99. Though made by a cell phone manufacturer it will work with any A2DP device and so is an option also for Bluetooth MP3 players. Is it really worth the extra money or will any $25 device do the same job? Read on for the full review.
- Quick Look
- Battery life (music): 12 Hours
- Battery life (standby): 300 Hours
- Size: 78mm x 26mm x 14mm
- Weight: 19.1g
- Supported Profiles: A2DP
In the Box
The MBR-100 comes with the basics you need to connect to a home stereo, which is what the device is originally intended for. Both a mini jack and a RCA to mini jack cable is included along with a charger and manuals.
The MBR-100 has a very smooth no-nonsense design that works very well. Since it’s an A2DP only device – no AVRCP (remote control functions) – it doesn’t have any playback controls on it other than the power button for the receiver itself. The MBR-100 isn’t overly big and the droplet like shape with the jack on top works well for hanging around your neck.
The device uses half of a normal Sony Ericsson dock connector for charging. While it does work with the latest Sony Ericsson cell phone chargers the included charger and the charge port on the device is literally cut in half compared to the normal connector as to save space. I’m sorry to say this makes the connection between charger and receiver a bit flimsy since only one of the two plastic clips from the standard connector is there to hold it in place. Since the receivers original intention is to be used on home stereos and such and will run off AC power directly, a better solution would have been to put in a full size connector on the side of the device so the charger would sit better.
The fact it’s meant to sit behind a stereo system makes the fact that it’s battery powered a nice surprise as it means you can use it on the go as well. Since it’s strictly a music device you cannot use it as a headset for your phone and there isn’t even a microphone in it (yes, i opened it). The lack of AVRCP means no playback controls on the device which means you have to use your player to control volume and track skipping. If this device wasn’t meant for stereo systems that wouldn’t have been acceptable, but in all fairness Sony Ericsson do offer AVRCP compatible receivers as well which are designed for portable use.
The one critical problem with the lack of AVRCP was with my Nokia E51 cellphone. While both my Sony A828 MP3 player and my Sony Ericsson K550i cellphone were able to control volume from the player while using the MBR-100, the E51′s volume control didn’t do anything to the volume and I actually had to use the equalizer to lower the volume. Player volume control cutoff is a feature built into most AVRCP capable devices as a way to keep the number of volume controls down to only one. If I connect a AVRCP receiver to either the K550i or the A828, they will disable their own volume control as well and let the one on the receiver do the job. The E51 is simply buggy when it comes to A2DP and AVRCP, something I’ve noticed on several occasions with other types of problems. Just make sure that this bug isn’t present on your device before buying this.
Pairing and connecting the MBR-100 is a breeze and I’ve had no trouble with it whatsoever. It doesn’t drop out of otherwise “freak out” like other devices I have sometimes do, possibly because of the fact it’s only A2DP and it has no other profiles or controls to run in the way of it’s one and only task – receive an audio signal. The rated battery life of 12 hours is fairly accurate and you can at least expect 10+ hours of music playback with the volume at decent levels.
First of all I should note that according to online sources this receiver actually supports direct streaming of MP3 and WMA. Most Bluetooth audio devices rely on the A2DP SBC Bluetooth audio format which means any audio will be converted to this format before being transmitted to the receiver and it will lose some quality in the process. Direct MP3 streams skip this and will in theory provide a cleaner signal. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to test this myself as none of my devices support MP3 streaming. It’s a little known part of Bluetooth audio technology and not very common, from what I’ve heard some music phones support it along with certain music players on Bluetooth enabled computers. It should also be noted this is a Bluetooth 1.2 device and it has some limitations when it comes to bandwidth compared to Bluetooth 2.0. Direct streaming is a nice extra feature if you’re able to make use of it, unfortunately I’m not and neither will most people.
Though stuck with the A2DP SBC sound format that my players convert the audio to and not being able to use the device to it’s full potential, I’m still extremely satisfied with the sound quality. With my Sony A828 at max audio quality setting I can’t tell much difference between wires and this receiver without really paying attention. I’ve used the receiver with both speakers and headphones and it’s by far the best sounding Bluetooth device I’ve had. One problem I’ve mentioned before is that a lot of Bluetooth gear have trouble with cymbals, overpronouncing them to death on cymbal heavy songs. Luckily the MBR-100 doesn’t do this. It also doesn’t have as much background hiss when no music is playing, which is another common problem with other Bluetooth receivers.
Among my other Bluetooth devices there’s a $25 noname receiver and even a more expensive MSI receiver and if they did anything for me it was to show why Bluetooth often gets a bad reputation when it comes to sound quality. While Bluetooth is all about sacrificing sound quality for the freedom of no wires, the MBR-100 makes this sacrifice that much smaller. Just be very aware that with Bluetooth you’re basically using the receiver as the actual output for your music and your MP3 player or phone is only feeding it music. Both the receiver and the player therefor play a big role in determining the end result and if either one of them sound bad the end result will be bad as well, as proven by my E51.
The MSRP of this device here in Norway is $110 and I was lucky to find it on sale for 1/3 that. It has been out for a couple of years now and it might be that Sony Ericsson is bringing out an update even though it’s still available in a lot of stores. Having tried a lot of receivers I wouldn’t hesitate to pay even full Norwegian MSRP for this one because despite the lack of a microphone for phone calls or playback controls it does sound better than anything else I’ve tried. The fact it can run off AC power is also a big plus if you’re looking to go wireless at home, which is after all what this device was intended for. Overall a great device if you can live with it’s natural limitations.