With Bluetooth advancing and products like the iPhone 7 pushing you into thinking outside the box when trying to listen to music through your ‘basic’ earphones that have a 3.5mm jack, going wireless is no longer the taboo it once was to us ‘audiophile’ folk. I have admittedly been impressed by some of the wireless IEM offerings I have recently reviewed and the logical next step from that would be making my absolute favourite custom in-ear monitors wireless. There are of course a few ways to do it. One would be to get a Bluetooth receiver such as the Astell & Kern XB10 that Josh is reviewing and the second would be to get a cable with its receiver built inline. I am going to be experimenting with the latter method via lear’s BTC-01 cable. You can get this built for whatever IEMs you personally use although some connectors will set you back a little more cash. I got the standard 2 pin option that along with MMCX is only £50 while you will be paying £60 for UE TF series, IE8/80 or Audio Technica IM/LS connectors. FitEar is a touch more at £70 as would any bizarre custom connectors you may desire.

I will be honest and say that Lear are not the only guys doing this. I know for a fact they weren’t even the first. Now, I won’t be doing a shoot out of these and probably won’t review any of the competitors. I decided the Lear would be the Bluetooth cable to showcase and it will probably stay like that. Why Lear you ask? There are no shady deals in place, I just appreciate that they have the biggest range of connectors available and also go that little bit further when it comes to the products playback capabilities. You will see what I mean when I take you through the competitors.

Penon MMCX Bluetooth Earphone Cable ($19.90)
Just available in MMCX
8-10 hours battery life

Trinity Bluetooth Lanyard (£49.00)
MMCX and an out of stock 2 pin option
6 hours playback

Odoyo Purdio ($69.99)
Just available in MMCX
5 hours playback
aptX

Schmiit Detachable Bluetooth Cable (£60.74)
Just available in MMCX
Zero further information

Westone Bluetooth Cable (£129.00)
Just available in MMCX
8 hours battery life
IPX4 Sweat and Water resistant
aptX

Sony MUC-M2BT1 (£185)
Just available in MMCX
7.5 hours battery life

The most notable difference throughout all these products was the price. In fact, in my research, I found an MMCX version of this for £7.89 via eBay. The scariest thing was the model under ten quid and the one approaching two hundred, beyond some better build quality there was not a huge amount of differences. Sadly all but the Trinity are limited strictly to MMCX and depending on what IEMs you use, you may have a range of options or be locked into Lear to make your earphones operate without cables. That being said while I admittedly like the design of the Sony and aptX functionality of the Westone and Odoyo, it was the level of detail that Lear put into the sound quality domain of the BTC-01 that truly won me over.

BTL Balanced

While it is kinda cool that you can make any MMCX earphone wireless for £7, I wouldn’t want to know what is going on inside. What you can’t forget is that after the Bluetooth audio receiver, the digital signal still goes through a DAC and amplifier like it would in your phone, DAP, or triple stack portable rig. That means that every one of these cables would sound different. Lear may well have the upper hand in this regard as they actually have a background of making some great portable amps. They have actually opted to make the amplifier within this cable balanced, which can only be a good thing going forward. They go into further detail as well, we have 35mW (into 15 ohms) of Class AB amplification and an output impedance of 0.9 ohms. It doesn’t stop there either, the cable is oxygen free pure copper and capacitors come from Murata Japan. This is a device built to sound good, not for the tech junkie. It has no aptX but I am not sure how heavy a factor that really is.

Here are some measurements they have provided….

More Battery & Range Please

The cable is thick and of what seems like high quality. It is 80cm long which perhaps is a tad long, especially as it just flops down the back of your neck and the remote and mic unit can fall over your shoulder. The mic unit is situated nearer the left ear piece and features 3 buttons for volume, pausing music and answering calls. This little console is also where the charging port is and how we turn the cable on and off. Holding the middle button will turn it on but for a few seconds extra it will smoothly roll into pairing mode. Depending on the mode it flashes differently but weirdly just from nowhere in particular under the buttons.

I have already mentioned that I have the two pin version of this product and I did want to talk a little but about how I have found the pins. They seem to be a little thick and therefore don’t want to go too deep into my earphones, leaving a flash of metal. While the cable works as you would hope, I think it would put minds at rest if they were a little easier to insert. The right angled connectors are very nice beyond that.

This has two notable flaws as far as I am concerned. The first and biggest bar far is battery life. Lear claimed to get 3 hours and I have met that (perhaps even just over) but it is still miles off of the competition. If you aren’t going to be accompanied through the day without running out of charge I see that being a problem. It does charge quickly (thankfully) and Lear also sells a power pack to use while listening but I think that takes away from the point of this product being wireless. The second caveat is as soon as walls get between your player/phone and earphones the connection gets very patchy. I am used to a much better range and connection strength with the likes of Fiil’s Bluetooth earphones.

Beyond these issues, I have loved using this cable. It is very lightweight, comfy and actually has led me to love Bluetooth more than ever. I guess that is what happens when your wireless IEM is the InEar ProPhile 8!

That Sounds Good to Me

What wowed me so much with this device is how listening to my favourite IEMs with digital audio flying through thin air resulted in no degradation of my music. Let that sink in for a moment. There are not huge amounts to report about its sound quality. It displayed no signs of colouration, not changing the sound signature of whatever earphone I plugged in at said moment. Traits I did find displayed would be a very clear presentation and also a great level of dynamics. I was really enjoying what I was hearing. When used with cheaper DAPs like the Hidizs AP60 or my OnePlus Two phone I was actually getting a better signal as well as better usability with the BTC-01.

Even areas such as noise floor weren’t too bad, something that is very much the norm for pre-made wireless products. Yes, it was not dead black as I am used to with the best DAPs or portable amps like the ALO RX but was not a prominent issue I picked up on when my music was in full swing. I think they could still make small improvements in that regard though.

I do want to disclaim the sound quality will depend on your base line. No, using this cable wasn’t getting me near the level of our AK240SS or even a better mid tier DAP like Cayin’s i5 or HiSoundAudio’s S6. But I think thats like comparing chalk and cheese anyway. 

It Is What It Is

I think if you have made it this far you are interested in this sort of product and if that is the case, then you should buy one. Even if you are just here out of curiosity this is hardly going to be breaking the bank and I think you will be surprised at how capable it sounds and that you actually find yourself using it.

Worth noting with this product is that they have put audio quality at the forefront, ahead of actual Bluetooth capabilities, so it isn’t going to have the signal stability or range of your latest wireless Beats nor will it have the battery life of the units with less demanding amplification. But we care about sound quality right, so if you can deal with subpar battery life, this is the Bluetooth cable for you.

Sonny Trigg