AIRcable Host XR Long-range Bluetooth Dongle

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A typical Bluetooth device (mobile phone, headphones, keyboard, etc.) is supposed to have a range of approximately 10 meters between it and the computer that it is paired with. For those of us that aren’t into the joys of metric measurements, that’s around 30 feet. The thing is that I’m lucky if I can separate my Treo 680 from my iMac by as much as 15 feet before it is unable to connect. What if you could walk around your entire home with a pair of Bluetooth headphones and not have annoying static and lost connections? What if your Bluetooth range could be boosted from 10 meters to 1 kilometers? That’s 30 feet to .6 miles! Sound crazy? Well the folks at AIRcable claim that their Host XR Bluetooth USB transmitter dongle can do just that. Let’s find out.

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Hardware Specifications

Bluetooth 2.0 compatible with 802.11b tolerance
Radio : Raw output power: 19.5dBm
Input sensitivity: -92dBm
Omni directional antennas: up to 9dBi
Directional: up to 18dBi
antenna connector: RP-SMA
Power: Via USB, 5V, max 200mA
Size: 83 x 63 x 23mm

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Package Contents

Host XR module
6ft USB cable
Small antenna (1 km)
Quickstart info sheet

The AIRcable Host XR is a small Blue Aluminum box about the size of a deck of cards.

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Rubber grommets on the sides allow you to attach this module to wall or other surface.

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A magnet on the bottom of the module gives you another mounting method.

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One side of the Host XR has the USB connector and…

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… the other end has the connector for the antenna. A small Blue status LED is located next to the antenna port. This LED will blink when the module is powered on and working.

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The Host XR comes with a small 1 km (.6 miles) 3.5 inch long antenna. AIRcable also sent me a 15.5 inch long 9dBi antenna (I’m not sure of the range for this one). Both antennas have the ability to rotate and swivel forward and backwards.

To connect the AIRCable Host XR to your computer, you just use the included USB cable. Plug one end into the module and the other end into an open USB port on your computer. That’s it. No AC adapter is needed. All power comes from your computer. No software is needed either as long as your computer already has a Bluetooth stack installed. If it doesn’t, it’s your task to find / purchase the drivers. This product does not include any software. It also does not include much in the way of instructions. Basically all you get is a one sided sheet of paper that tells you to connect the Host XR to your computer and away you go.

To review this product I decided to do two tests. One with my Treo 680 and another with a pair of stereo Bluetooth headphones. First of all I tried pairing the Treo with my iMac’s built in Bluetooth to sync it. Sitting right next to the computer, I had no problem pairing and syncing. My office is in the basement, so the next step was to see how far away from my iMac I could go with the Treo and still connect / sync. I was not surprised that I started getting sporadic connection problems as soon as I climbed the stairs to the main floor in my home. Walking out the front door (which is directly above the location of my iMac), I was unable to connect at all. Next up the stereo Bluetooth headphones. Results turned out to be exactly the same as with the Treo. Blah! Bluetooth is lame. But if the Host XR can fix the range issue, it might be less lame. Let’s try it.

I quickly connected the Host XR to my iMac and then pressed of the onscreen Palm hotsync button… and then… nothing. No connection. Grrrr. So I deleted all pairings on both the iMac and the Treo and tried the Bluetooth hotsync wizard on the Treo. Hmmm, it was finding two Bluetooth computers with the same name. No matter which one I picked, it wouldn’t connect to either. So I rebooted the iMac, which got rid of one of the dupes. But it didn’t get rid of the connection issue. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the Treo to connect. Then my Treo started spontaneously rebooting after every time I would try to pair with the the iMac / Host XR combo. Not sure what the problem was, but I gave up and decided to go the stereo Bluetooth headphone test.

The headphones paired just fine with the iMac / Host XR combo and within a couple of seconds, I was up the stairs, out the front door, down the drive way and walking down the road, with music playing perfectly through the headphones. Was I able to walk half a mile before the connection dropped? Nope, not even close… I was able to get approximately 75 – 80 feet from the computer located in the basement. I tested the 15.5 inch long antenna thinking I’d see some amazing results with it. I mean it is bigger right? I was disappointed that I only gained around 5 feet of additional distance.

The AIRcable Host XR Bluetooth USB Transmitter does increase the range between your computer and paired device. That claim is true. But the claim of 1 km is a bit misleading. To get this range, you need to be outdoors had have a perfect line of site between the two devices. It also depends on the device that you’re paring with the Host XR. So a lot of factors come into play… That said, if you have a large house, on multiple floors, this device will definitely help and works great for headphones.


Product Information

  • Linux, Mac OS, Windows device with Bluetooth
  • Greatly increases Bluetooth range
  • Easy to use
  • Range claims are misleading
  • Might not work well with all devices

12 thoughts on “AIRcable Host XR Long-range Bluetooth Dongle”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. These long antennas actually are directional antennas, even though they are called omni-directional.
    They produce a donut shaped transmission around the pole of the vertical antenna. Basically, it means that they don’t transmit to the floor and to the sky and direct the energy horizontally. This is where you get the amplification. The transmission power difference between the short and the long one is around a factor of 4 (yes, 4 times, or 6dBi).
    But you get that increased range only on the horizontal plane. If you go to the second floor you have to tilt the antenna to get the “donut” pointing at you.
    Then you would probably see about twice the range with your stereo headset.
    Hope that explains it.
    AIRcable Technical Support

  3. Hi, good review, even though you had been a bit too tough with the device.

    Let me firstly tell my story. About a year ago I bought one of those HIFI headphones AIRcable sells. It has a very good sound quality, as good as my best headphones, and it doesn’t require WIRES :D, just amazing. But the dongle they were providing was not very useful. Lucky to me it was compatible with Linux (my favorite OS 🙂 ), but the connection length wasn’t very good, I was getting 3 meters maximum if I was lucky (that means 0% of humidity not very hot not very cold).

    About 2 months ago I received my Host XR with a little antenna, not the big one you bought, but an antenna of 5dBi which is about 20 cm long. And wow that was a change, now I can go all through my house and keep listening to the music my pc was streaming. The only problem was the BlueZ (Linux Bluetooth Stack) wasn’t compatible with the headphones… yet 😉 so I could only use it under Windows :'(

    About 3 weeks ago I updated my bluez version and WOW those guys made a great work, now I can use my long rage bluetooth headphones with no problem :D, now I’m only missing Skype to work and I’m complete. Which is just a matter of time. It’s amazing beeing next to the pool (which is at about 20 meters from my pc listening Music with no wires)

    About your problem of connection regarding going up a couple of flors. I’m studying electronics engenieer and I had studied antenas a bit. If you see how the antena distributes energy from above you will see a perfect circle but… as I said you see a circle, not an sphere. The only way to get an antena that generates spheres of energy is to have a dot with no wires, no nothing, just a dot transmitting…. Not very practical though (almost impossible to build). The kind of antenna you have bought (and the one that I have too) produce a kind of egg of energy if you see it from the side. You will see that the horizontal plane (from the top of the antenna) has a lot more of energy (which means longer range) than the rest of the places.

    Of course, you have another problem too. In order to really get the ranges this guys says you need to have 2 devices that can transmit that long range. AFAIK the only company that has does that is AIRcable and there are only 2 products that can do it Industrial XR and Host XR (if you haven’t noticed I’m the kind of guys that are in love with gadgets). So there’s no way you can get such a long range with your headphones, PDA, cell phone, etc. The reason is quite simple, bluetooth antennas from those devices SUCK 😡

    About the bluetooth stack problem. I called to the support guys a couple of days ago, they were gonna include BlueSoleil soon. Anyway you will only need to buy a bluetooth stack if you are running Windows. And let me tell you that if you use Windows, then you don’t know how to use a pc ;). Windows XP SP2 includes a bluetooth stack, same happens with Bad Vista, sorry I meant to say Windows Vista. If you are running Linux, Free BSD, OpenSolaris or Mac OS you all ready have a bluetooth stack.

    Wow I almoast wrote a full review :D,

  4. Manuel:

    I was actually doing the review with the AIRcable headphones 😉 I had reviewed them quite a while ago:

    Just to be clear, I didn’t have the issue with going upstairs while I was using the Host XR. I only had the problem with the stock Bluetooth that my iMac provides. The Host XR allows me to use the headphones all over my house and even 75 ft outside and down the road 😉

    Thanks for your comments.

  5. the 9db is not a directional antenna its simply a omni-directional antenna with gain, directional antennas are ones that you have to point in certain directions. put that 9db gain bluetooth antenna on in the attic or on the roof i guarantee you will have 5-10X the range

  6. Hi. Can I do advertising with this thing. I need to send messages to sell phones in range of 500 meters.And, more important, where can i buy this thing?Tnx

  7. Did you really expect the full nameplate range when you had the thing in a basement? Anytime wireless ranges are given, it’s assumed that there are very few or no obstacles between the transmitter and reciever. So in the real world, the actual range is always less than the nameplate range. That is still an impressive range. I use a cheapo BT dongle and a earpiece at work to listen to internet radio while I work. I have an extension cable attached to the wall and the BT dongle at the top, about 6 ft up, so I can help the range, and with all of that, I can barely go 25 or 30 feet, and there is static. This would be a cool thing for me, as long as it isn’t very expensive.

  8. Hey guys, wow great information right here. So I just started providing mobile advertising to local business owners here in my town in New Zealand right. So I’m looking to include bluetooth as part of the services but until I read this review, I thought the XR long range transmitter was the way to go in promoting coupons etc to local mobile phone users. Can anyone here recommend the best bluetooth system to use to promote business offers to local mobile users. I’m really confused now

  9. Can I reach to 1 km with other antennas which can be mount on the roof of a bulding? I saw some antennas (gain 18dbi-24dbi) working with bluetooth and some other devices. Is it possible to use the air cable with these kind of antennas and reach to the point in distance 1-2 km?

  10. Where can i buy the Aircable XR?

    Im on the manufactures website, but it looks like they have discontinued it. Is there used ones i can purchase?


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