A perfect excuse to play with a bargain basement set-up, or atleast that was the idea when we got our hands on Arcam’s Mini Blink Bluetooth DAC. That things did not go exactly the bargain way turned out to be another story, what with the Mini Blink itself not being available at a sane price but then we are getting ahead of ourselves to begin with. We none the less began our test of the Mini Blink in the intended direction.
The Arcam Mini Blink came in a nicely designed box which had all the cabling/plug adapters neatly packed in mini designated pockets in the box with the centre area being where the Mini Blink was placed as the jewel of desire. It is pretty thoughtful of Arcam to provide various types of plug pin adapters so that wherever you are in the world, you can make use of the Mini Blink as your source enhancing companion. A Micro USB to USB cable and a very tidy USB mains adapter with interchangeable heads for the UK, US, EU and Australia plug point receptacles. But the beauty of choosing Micro USB is that the odds are high that pretty much everyone you know will have a Micro USB charger in their house. Nice touch! A 3.5mm to RCA and 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cables also come with the unit. The Mini Blink’s very shape is like a flatted egg or a shiny black pebble, which actually feels like it was designed to be equally at home or carried in a pocket as it is rather small and unobtrusive. The body of the Mini Blink is plastic which while looks well made, we are not sure whether it will be able to take a couple of knocks or drops on hard floors so care has to be taken whilst carrying it around. Another irritant found was the rather close proximity of the USB power receptacle and 3.5mm output jack. Connecting the USB cable is a bit fiddly as well.
The only moving part on the Mini Blink is the pairing button, which has the Bluetooth logo, which lights up in one of three colours, depending on the status of the unit. Red is on standby, pink/purple means it is paired with a device, which then turns to blue once something is streamed through it. It takes a couple of seconds to pair, you simply turn on bluetooth on your phone or tablet, hold down the pairing button on the miniBlink and scan for it. Tap on Arcam bluetooth when it shows and you’re good to go.
We paired the Mini Blink with a variety of speakers, as listed below:
Amphion Helium 410
PMC DB1 Gold
Philips Micro Compo
Cambridge Audio Minx SL
ELAC Debut B5
For amplifiers, we paired the Mini Blink with
Naim Nait 5Si
No name chinese nude chip amps
Dared 300B Mono Blocks
Cambridge Audio AM-10
Once we had the Arcam burned-in for a while, we started doing some critical listening with various amps and speakers as mentioned above, but keeping the cost factor of the Mini Blink, we dialed in on the combo of the OEM SE420 Speakers, Dayton DTA-1 Amp and used our Android Phones to stream the digital music files in flac/wav format through the Mini Blink AptX Bluetooth Interface. We played a variety of music genres to see how the Mini Blink fares and surprisingly we rather enjoyed the appreciably detailed, warm sound, punchy bass and nice soundstage, which completely transformed the above speakers and amp set-up making them both sound like more expensive setups than they really are. The music sounds smooth and surprisingly well crafted which is not at the expense of loss of details. Notable tunes such as Led Zeppelin’s ‘when the levee breaks’ and AC/DC’s ‘back in black’ came to life as did ‘Jo bhi main’ from Rockstar OST, at which point a friend of ours who is really well accustomed to true high end remarked that the set-up played like a 2 lac rupees set-up, high praise indeed!
The house sound of Arcam’s gears, which is rhythm and musicality is intact in the Mini Blink. It is very impressive that Arcam boffins have been able to derive such a sense of refinement and quality from a device like this. At a retail price of Rs. 13500, the Arcam Mini Blick is by no means cheap given it can only stream via Bluetooth. The fact that the very modestly priced ideal speaker & amplifier combo that we zeroed in on shone like crazy is testament to the quality of the output given by the Arcam Mini Blink. That the amplifier and speaker together cost less than the Mini Blink says another telling story! Had the Mini Blink being sensibly priced, we don’t see any reason why people would not be buying it a lot lot more than what it costs at the moment. Maybe a point that the Arcam distributor can drive across to the company? Food for thought!