Battery Power for the Arcam miniBlink

[Arcam miniBlink]

miniBlink Upgrade?

[Italian version]

Product name: miniBlink
Manufacturer: Arcam - UK
Cost: 90 (Currency conversion)
(YMMV)

Reviewer: Mike Cox - TNT UK
Reviewed: December, 2014

We may not like it, but music, while on the move is here to stay, so we should get used to it and learn how to get the best results.
I am of the older generation so prefer to listen to my music library while stationary, preferably without interruption or carrying out other tasks.
Even so I do recognise the benefits of being able to carry some, if not all my music around with me. Now that music is mobile it would be nice to be able to stream it from the mobile device to a decent stereo system with the least amount of compromise.

If you regularly read TNT-Audio you will have already seen the review from Andy Norman on the miniBlink from Arcam. As supplied, there is not much I can add to that already written by Andy. It is a good device if a little expensive compared to the competition. This got me thinking, what if the cable was a "better quality" and the power supply was something better than the supplied wall wart device?

I looked at various cable options, many costing more than the miniblink so common sense says they were not really an option. I, therefore, ordered some Neutrik phono plugs, silver cable and quality 3.5mm plug from our favourite auction site (~20) and set to with the soldering iron.

Next up was the power supply. While pondering the solutions available, again many costing more than the miniBlink, I was lucky enough to be given a power booster for mobile devices. This power booster consists of a battery plus voltage regulator in a handy case with a USB socket for output.

The primary use of these boosters is to replenish your mobile phone when you forget to charge it. Whatever the primary use, it makes a handy power supply for the miniBlink. With no mains born or switching power supply generated noise and a "quality interconnect cable" the miniblink should be able to give its best.

[Arcam miniBlink DAC with battery]

About the time I finished assembling the upgrades we had a scheduled power outage at home, no mains power from 9am to 5pm on a Sunday! What was I going to do for entertainment? Luckily I have an Amptastic Mini-1 Class T Tripath based amplifier that needs 12v usually supplied by another of the ubiquitous wall warts. So on the Sunday morning I fetched out one of my lithium polymer 3 cell batteries from the RC model planes and used it to fire up the amplifier. With the miniBlink powered from the power booster and connected using my home made cable and an iPad to supply the music I was up and running.

In operation

The battery power audio setup was amazing. It was obvious from the first note that there was a much lower background noise. I like the Amptastic Mini-1 a lot, especially when you consider the asking price of 99. When paired with the Arcam miniBlink and a suitable Bluetooth device such as an iPad you have a great audio system.

The battery supply for both devices lifts them to higher level, well beyond the combined asking price. I have some of my music library stored on the iPad in uncompressed form and when played via the miniBlink and Mini-1 the sound was clean with excellent timing and perfectly adequate volume using my Eryk S Concept Superior speakers.

With the mains power off for the day I enjoyed a noise free and relaxing musical experience. The lack of mains, as well as airborne noise was a benefit and I enjoyed it while it lasted. When the mains power returned the battery powered system continued to perform very well with only a slight increase in noise, and this may have just been in the mind!

With power on, and the broadband back, I was now able to access the Qobuz music streaming service. I use the iPad application and this can be configured to stream in uncompressed CD quality.

Using Qobuz in CD quality mode you do need a good quality broadband connection or you will experience dropouts, which become annoying very quickly. My broadband connection is rather variable, but on a good day the sound quality via the iPad, Bluetooth, miniBlink, Mini-1 is very good. My preference for female vocals is delivered with fabulous tone and realism, Ella Fitzgerald so clean, clear and rich you would think you were listening to a much more expensive system.

Conclusions

The improved interconnect cable looked good, but the improvement was slight compared with the supplied cable in my system. The battery supply for the miniBlink was a different story.

The improved clarity of the music was well worth the effort and cost, the battery powered amplifier just adding to the improved experience. Using the battery powered miniBlink in my regular setup was a very rewarding experience, and a step up from the same setup mains powered.

As I finish this review I have Qobuz streaming the delightful Nanci Griffith via the miniBlink feeding the Pluto Speaker system (review to follow) and the quality is really very good. There is plenty of detail, a good tone and respectable timing.

The sound stage is is also well delivered, plenty of depth, an excellent performance at the price. I still prefer my regular DAC, but then it should sound better as it costs 20 times the price of the miniBlink.

If you are after a Bluetooth input for your audio system then give the miniBlink a go, adding a battery supply is simple, and gives the miniBlink a significant lift in quality..

Win an Arcam miniBlink with our contest!

(ends January 1st, 2015)

© Copyright 2014 Mike Cox - mike@tnt-audio.com - www.tnt-audio.com