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Bluetooth Transmitter vs Receiver: What Are The Differences?

Whether it’s hands-free calling, streaming music from your phone, or just wanting to get the audio from your TV onto a set of wireless headphones, Bluetooth has become an incredibly popular way to connect audio devices wirelessly. And even if your device doesn’t support Bluetooth, it’s possible to add it, thanks to Bluetooth transmitters and receivers. That said, let’s walk through how these devices differ!

Bluetooth transmitters wirelessly spread audio signals to the receiver, which is plugged into an audio system. The receiver and transmitter are 2 parts of a whole system that achieves audio streaming from one device to another. They’re used anywhere from in cars to home-audio systems.

Any audio device with a 3.5mm audio jack or an RCA audio input can be made wireless with a Bluetooth receiver or transmitter. For example, you can use a transmitter to wirelessly stream audio from an old TV that doesn’t have Bluetooth or plug a receiver into an old stereo system to stream audio from your phone. Let’s take a closer look at both devices to see how they work and what the differences are.

Are Bluetooth Adapters and Bluetooth Receivers the Same Thing?

A Bluetooth adapter works on the same short-range radio frequencies as Bluetooth receivers, but it is a different device. They are USB-based and have both receiver and transmitter to enable two-way communication.

Adaptors are usually used to connect a Bluetooth device with a computer and enable wireless connection between the two. And in most cases, this connection is limited to the specific device the adaptor is designed for.

For example, a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse adapter will only work with that particular keyboard or mouse. Some universal Bluetooth adapters are also available, but they need specific drivers to work with different devices.

On the other hand, Bluetooth receivers connect to any non-Bluetooth device to enable it to receive Bluetooth audio signals. Receivers plug into the device’s aux input (speaker or car stereo) or RCA input (older television) and don’t need any additional drivers to work.

Here’s a quick summary of the key differences between Bluetooth adapters and receivers:

  • Bluetooth adapters both receive and send signals, while receivers can only receive signals.
  • Bluetooth receivers only support wireless audio streaming, while adapters can be used for different purposes such as data transfer, file sharing, multimedia, etc.
  • For the same reasons, Bluetooth receivers are limited to sound systems, like stereos and speakers. Bluetooth adapters, on the other hand, have a lot more applications. For example, Bluetooth printer dongles enable you to print wirelessly from your smartphone or computer.
  • Some adapters are also WiFi compatible; they can send and receive WiFi data, so your Bluetooth device connects to a WiFi network over Bluetooth. They can transmit pictures, files, and other data at high speeds.

There are bluetooth adapters for use in cars that use old cassette ports, like the Arsvita Car Audio Bluetooth Cassette Receiver (on Amazon). And there are also Bluetooth adapters for use in any home-audio situation, like the Esinkin Wireless Audio Receiver (also on Amazon). Note these are both “receivers.”

The point with these 2 examples is that you understand: bluetooth adapters come in many shapes/sizes to suit their purpose, but the tactic of using Bluetooth conversion in general is a flexible way to approach wireless audio needs in a variety of settings.

What Is the Difference Between a Bluetooth Transmitter and a Bluetooth Receiver?

Any Bluetooth device is based on a transmitter and a receiver. These are two important pieces of hardware for Bluetooth technology.

A Bluetooth transmitter takes audio signals, encodes them into Bluetooth transmission, and spreads them through the air. A Bluetooth receiver in another device in range picks up these signals and decodes them so they can be sent to an amplifier or speakers.

These devices are also used as stand-alone devices. They come as small, plug-and-play gadgets that add Bluetooth support to just about any audio device.

So, for example, if you plug a Bluetooth transmitter into an old TV, you can wirelessly stream the audio to a set of Bluetooth headphones. Or, if you plug a Bluetooth receiver into an old stereo system, you can wirelessly stream audio from your phone to the stereo.

From a technical standpoint, both devices are similar. They both have a chipset that intercepts and encodes/decodes signals, and an antenna to transmit and receive these signals wirelessly.

But that’s where the similarities stop. In practice, a transmitter only transmits, and a receiver only receives. In other words, you can’t use a Bluetooth transmitter to receive audio signals in a speaker. The same goes for a Bluetooth receiver; you can’t use it to transmit audio signals from your laptop.

So, it’s important to know which device you need for your purpose. Let’s look over each device in more detail.

What is a Bluetooth Transmitter?

A Bluetooth transmitter sends out audio transmissions over Bluetooth. It is used to stream audio from a non-Bluetooth source device, like an MP3 player, to any Bluetooth-enabled receiver, like your typical stereo.

For example, you have a TV without Bluetooth and wish to listen to the audio on your Bluetooth headphones. You would need to plug a Bluetooth transmitter into the TV. The transmitter will encode TV audio into wireless Bluetooth signals and then broadcast them to receiving devices in the range.

Take a look at these features in a Bluetooth transmitter.

  • Range: The range is the maximum distance a Bluetooth transmitter can send signals. Most Bluetooth transmitters range around 100 feet, but they can be affected by obstructions like walls.
  • Bluetooth version: The latest version of Bluetooth is 5.2, but many devices do not support it yet. An older version like 4.0 or 3.2 should work with most devices, but make sure you get the transmitter compatible with your receiving devices.
  • Number of connections: Bluetooth transmitters can usually connect to multiple devices simultaneously. So on a movie night, you can plug your transmitter into the TV and set up multiple speakers, or people can listen on their own headphones.
  • Power: Most transmitters need to be plugged into a USB port or an AC outlet to work. Some, however, come with a built-in battery to use on the go.
  • Codecs Support:  Bluetooth uses a compression algorithm to encode the audio signal before it’s transmitted. If your transmitter supports aptX or LDAC codecs, you will get better sound quality. AAC is another widely used codec, but it doesn’t perform as well as aptX.
  • Latency and Distortion: Latency is the delay between the audio’s transmission and the time it’s received. Low latency is crucial if you are watching TV or movies because you don’t want the audio to be out of sync with the video. On average, Bluetooth has a latency of around 150 milliseconds. But good devices have “Low Latency” mode, reducing the latency to around 40 milliseconds.

Distortion is when the signal is not reproduced accurately, and you hear artifacts in the audio. It’s usually caused by a poor connection or interference from signals from nearby wireless devices. Both these problems are addressed by the latest Bluetooth 5.0 standard with HiFi technology and Qualcomm’s aptX technology.

What is a Bluetooth Receiver?

A Bluetooth receiver accepts Bluetooth transmissions and converts them into analog or digital audio signals for non-Bluetooth devices. It’s the opposite of a Bluetooth transmitter.

For example, your old car stereo doesn’t support Bluetooth, but you want to listen to music from your phone without that pesky aux cord. In this case, you would need a Bluetooth receiver.

Plug it into the stereo’s aux input; it will pick up the Bluetooth signal from your phone and play the audio through the car speakers. The features of a Bluetooth receiver are similar to that of a transmitter.

  • Range: The range is the maximum distance that a Bluetooth receiver can pick signals from. Like transmitters, the average range is about 30 meters.
  • Bluetooth version: Most Bluetooth receivers can work with version 4.0 and below but if your transmitting device has a higher version, make sure your receiver is compatible with it for best results.
  • Number of connections: Bluetooth receivers can be paired to multiple devices, but only one can transmit the audio signal at a time. The receiver can also jump between multiple devices quickly, so if one connection is lost, it can automatically connect to another one without you having to do anything.
  • Power: Bluetooth receivers with older versions consume more power and have to be plugged into a USB port or an AC outlet. The latest versions, however, are more power-efficient, and so manufacturers have come out with battery-powered receivers.
  • Codecs Support: Either SBC, ACC, or aptX codecs build the basis for the Bluetooth receiver’s compatibility and sync. However, the latest models support more than one codec (usually SBC and aptX), which means better sound quality and reduced latency.
  • Latency and distortion: Just like with transmitters, receivers are also affected by latency and distortion. Nearby devices and signals inside the device can interfere with sound quality. And this is countered by better shielding against electromagnetic interference and the use of multiple antennas.

It’s worth mentioning that the transmitters or receivers are not limited to non-Bluetooth devices. They are also used to expand the range and improve the signal quality of devices with built-in Bluetooth.

For example, a device with an older version of Bluetooth or low-quality hardware might not give you the best audio experience. Latency and distortion are also important issues to consider.

Audiophiles, in particular, do not favor Bluetooth because of the loss in quality that comes with compression. In this case, a good external Bluetooth with the latest technology can solve all these issues and improve your listening experience a great deal.