Today we’re taking a casual look at the new Accessport Air from Advanced.
Way back in January of this year (2019) Advanced dropped a new Kickstarter campaign for their wireless Bluetooth module, the Accessport Air. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know I’ve covered a lot of their products and am a big fan of the brand. To show my continued support I made my pledge and crossed my fingers that this particular product would receive the funds necessary to go forward with production. In about the time it took to cross my fingers (okay, small exaggeration), the Accessport Air was funded 250%. One day. That’s all it took. That is bonkers…
Fast forward to June 21st, 2019 and my Accessport Air arrived safe and sound thanks to the tag team shipping duo that is USPS and Canada Post. I’ve been using the Accessport Air on the daily and am ready to write about some of my experiences. This isn’t going to be one of my usual reviews so don’t expect neatly laid out sections and extensive testing. I bought the Accessport Air to replace my bricked ES100 and will be writing from the perspective of a traditional customer, not a reviewer. Still gotta talk about packaging though because I love me an attractive box.
When I went down to the mailbox to pick up the Air I was surprised to see such a small parcel awaiting me. I don’t know why, but I was expecting the Air’s packaging to be much more exuberant and flamboyant. Instead, it’s just a simple matte black cardboard box about the size of my palm, and about as deep as my finger is wide. It’s pretty compact overall. It does look nice though with a white sticker wrapping around front to back that also acts as a security seal. In terms of conveying information, there’s not a lot the package has to say beyond showing some images, branding, and listing a few specifications on the back. If you want to know the specs, they are as follows:
- BT Version: 5.0 + aptX / aptX low-latency / AAC
- Talk/Music Time: up to 9 hours
- Range: 10m (33ft)
- Charge Port: USB-C
- Charge Time: 2 hours
- Multipoint: Connects to two devices
- Current Consumption: Max 14mA (talk) / 18mA (music)
- Charging Current: 80mW
Considering you can buy the Accessport Air for 34.99 USD, those are not bad specs at all. They are right in line with FiiO’s similarly priced µBTR that has been my go-to wireless module, but unlike that model which is all plastic, Advanced’s Accessport Air is not.
The build here is a mix of aluminum and soft touch plastic (aluminum body with plastic end caps) and feels very study, though I question the longevity of the shirt clip on the back. The clip is a fixed piece of plastic unlike the pivoting clips found on the µBTR and ES100. On the plus side, fewer moving parts means less chances of failure. On the negative side, you have to bend the arm of the clip to get it around the thing you’re attaching it to. Bend something enough and it will give out. I’m also curious to see how it will handle cold Canadian winters since plastic tends to get brittle, but we shall see in another 6 or 7 months. Going back to the rest of the build, it’s all good.
On the top of the Air is the headphone jack and on the bottom the usb-C port. The sides are blank minus + and – symbols on the right side denoting functions of the three face buttons. The buttons are all made of metal with the top and bottom painted black to keep them all from blending into each other. They stick out prominently and are easy to find though I do wish there was a lock to prevent input. I found myself pressing them by accident every once in a while, especially when I opted to toss the Air into my pocket. Above the three buttons are three pinholes containing the indicator LED and the inbuilt microphone. Overall I am really impressed with the build considering how inexpensive this product is. Fit and finish of the component parts is good (buttons are a bit wiggly but whatever) and it feels quite durable. The Air is also way smaller than it looks in pictures and has quite a low profile hindered only by that clip on the back.
Connecting the Air to my LG G6 was about as easy as any other modern Bluetooth device. Press and hold the centre silver button to turn on the Air, and keep holding it to activate pairing mode. If you have headphones on at the time, you’ll hear convenient voice prompts telling you that the device is on and when it is pairing. Searching for the Air on my G6 took a couple seconds with it showing up as ADV. AP AIR. in the device list. Once selected it connected almost immediately. The devices remember each other too, so I haven’t had to re-pair them at any point. The only ‘glitch’ that I’ve run across is that the voice prompt will always announce twice when the Air has connected to another device. I would also prefer quieter voice prompts, but I’ve got sensitive hearing and almost every device is too loud in this regard. Of course there is an easy solution to this issue; stop wearing headphones/iems when turning the device on. When it comes to maintaining a connection, the Air is merely alright. That 33ft rating can only be applicable in an open air setting free of obstacles, because once you starting putting stuff in the way the Air’s otherwise reliable connection starts to falter.
Sometimes I like to relax on the couch in the living room with my Bluetooth module connected to my laptop, five or so feet away on the coffee table, and watch Youtube or Netflix. This is something the Air handles well due to it’s low latency connection. Maybe I need to get up to get a drink from the kitchen just around the corner. With most devices this isn’t an issue. I can continue to listen to my media while doing other tasks. With the Air, almost as soon as I break line of site the connection gets spotty and skips. Doesn’t drop, but it definitely falters. I can also invite inconsistencies simply by covering the device by my hand while it’s in my pocket, even if the source is only a couple feet away. Maybe that’s a sacrifice that had to be made in the decision to go with a more durable aluminum body? In general I found the connection to be stable and fine for general use, just not as strong as some competing products.
Once connected, using the Air to control your music is, again, as simple as most modern devices. Starting from the top you can short press to increase volume or long press to skip to the next track. The centre button can play/pause/answer and end calls with a single short press. Two quick presses activates your phone’s voice assistant. A long press is used to power the Air on and off. The final button uses a short press to decrease volume while a long press skips back a track. You can also hold the top and bottom buttons together for a length of time to manually enter pairing mode. Lastly, you can hold down the centre button for two seconds to call the last known number. I haven’t been able to get that last one to work. Overall I like the way this device handles. It’s simple and intuitive enough to know how to navigate functions without bothering to glance at the user guide since all these actions/functions are pretty common throughout the industry.
When it comes to sound the Accessport Air is a pretty nice Bluetooth module. It has a fairly neutral response with some added kick in low end, suitable for the audience that is most likely looking for something at this price point. While bass is a little emphasized, I wouldn’t say the overall signature is too coloured. The comparably priced µBTR has a warmer, more mid-bassy sound to it which does end up colouring the presentation somewhat. Clarity and detail out of the Air is handled well too. It’s not an analytic presentation but it doesn’t do anything to smear micro-details either. Again, it is a step ahead of the µBTR in these metrics which still sounds detailed, but misses out on the finer touches picked up by the Air. It’s really noticeable with vocals by Calyx where the µBTR smooths out the gruffness. In terms of bass quality, the Air does a fantastic job. It does nothing to hinder texture and depth. In comparison, the µBTR tends to bump mid-bass and rolls off earlier in sub-bass, as well as falls behind in texturing. Treble through the Air is nice and crisp and doesn’t introduce any graininess or splashiness into the mix. The mid-range is good too, though it tends to make headphones and earphones a touch more lean than they are when run wired or through the µBTR. One area I think the Air really excels is in staging and presentation. I don’t think the µBTR is a slouch in this area whatsoever, yet the Air does a better job with channel separation and imaging.
While I haven’t spent much time testing differences between the various codecs, I have a few observations to note. First, switching between AAC and aptX you will notice that AAC is much louder (something another backer pointed out first). Since I don’t have the option to choose the codec through my G6, I had to swap over to the Shanling M0 to experience it. Apparently this is normal, it was just odd to run into since I’ve never experienced that before. Neither the ES100 or µBTR do it, nor does my 7 CAD Tzumi Bluetooth module I snagged out of a discount bin. The differences in quality between AAC and aptX were also noticeable, but minimal. If you need to have the best possible quality you’ll appreciate the extra clarity afforded by aptX, but I suspect most will never notice a difference. I’m perfectly content listening to my headphone and iems on either codec.
In terms of the Air’s ability to bring your headphones up to volume, I have been pretty darn impressed. Recently the TinHiFi P1 planar magnetic earphones crossed my path for a review. Those are some of the hardest to drive iems I’ve ever used. The Air has no issues bringing it up to volume, and amping it properly by avoiding the softness present when using the P1 through a phone or similarly underpowered (for the P1) device. That does bring up an issue I have with volume on the Air, and that is how large the adjustments are on various devices. Connected to my Asus FX53V it adjusts volume 8 steps at a time. When you can only go from 0 to 100, eight is way too extreme and it makes finding a comfortable volume a challenge since you have to dip into other volume settings to fine tune. My other devices all increase volume 2 steps at a time, same as the standard volume controls, and that works great. Another issue I have with the Air is it’s suitability for pairing with sensitive earphones, or more likely, a lack thereof. With very sensitive, easy to drive earphones like my BA-only KZs, the Campfire Audio Andromeda and their other models, as well as a bunch of hybrids, there is plenty of background hiss. I had the same issue with the FiiO µBTR. With most earphones the hiss is manageable as it will be mostly drown out once you’re up to listening volumes, but on others it is still present and can be intrusive, especially during quiet sections of a track. Bringing the ifi iEMatch or another similar product into the mix helps quell the hiss, but makes the setup a little more cumbersome.
In terms of battery performance the Accessport Air is rated for up to nine hours of use with a two hour charge time. The two hour charge time certainly seems accurate. When I first attempted to use it out of the box, it needed to be charged. I was working the day it arrived. My lunch and breaks are spread out in two hour increments. I picked the Air up from the mailbox during my lunch break, put it on to charge, and it was ready for use just after my final break for the day ended. Regarding usage time, I haven’t formally measured that, but even if it were to give me only seven hours I would be content. As is so far, I’ve had to charge it a couple times over the last week and it should be due for another charge very soon. Given the way I use the Air on and off throughout the day, not for marathon listening sessions, it has been performing just fine and I haven’t felt like the battery life was lacking.
To summarize my thoughts, here are some of the pros and cons of the ADVANCED Accessport Air as I’ve experienced it so far:
- nice build quality with solid materials and good fit and finish
- plenty of power on tap to drive demanding gear
- compact size and low weight
- detailed sound quality and solid codec support, though I would like to see LDAC
- intuitive and simple controls with easy to determine buttons
- connection strength could be better
- hiss with sensitive earphones requires you to either look the other way/suck it up, or incorporate an impedance adapter
- I question the longevity of the shirt clip design
- no lock for the controls had lead to unwanted button presses when tossing the Air in a pocket
- didn’t mention it above, but it cannot act as an external amp over USB
With everything said and done, does the Accessport Air replace my bricked ES100? Absolutely not, and if I’m being honest I wasn’t expecting it to, even if that’s the reason why I bought it. The ES100 is triple the price, it has a balanced out, and, Radsone has a supporting mobile app that adds a huge amount of functionality. The ES100 is one of the most feature rich devices I’ve used. The Air is a much more basic device and I knew that from the outset. I was simply hoping that it would provide me with a cheaper, clean sounding source that I could use with any earphone in my collection. Since there is still background hiss with sensitive earphones, I need to keep searching or just break down and buy another ES100.
So the Air won’t replace the ES100, but will it replace the µBTR as my current go to module for daily use? Absolutely. I trust that the Air’s more durable materials will last longer and take more abuse, and it has a more powerful output so I can use it with extra demanding headphones. I will miss the µBTR’s speedy charge time though, as it halves the Air’s two hours. And I kind of like it’s simple Apple-ish aesthetic.
Overall I am more than pleased with the Air. While it is not perfect and there are a few flaws to be found, as an everyday Bluetooth module that I can keep on me all the time it is fantastic. If you’re in the market for a budget friendly Bluetooth module, the Accessport Air is a very solid choice. You can check it out here if interested: https://www.adv-sound.com/products/accessport-air
Thanks for reading and be sure to drop any questions you have in the comments section below. I’m sure I’ll also be adding to the review as the Air sees more use over the coming months.
(If you like this style of review, please let me know. After I finish my current queue I’m going on hiatus but upon my return I want to change things up. I’m getting bored of reviewing in the same old format, so if something like this works for the readers, maybe I’ll produce more like it.)