The Bluetooth standard may have moved us a long way from the compatibility problems of yesterday, when wireless devices interfered with one another and rarely ever worked together, but devices from that era still live on and must be dealt with on a day-to-day basis. Example: the humble car radio. Unless you want to rip out that trusty Delco and replace it with a $250 Bluetooth-enabled model that looks like someone yanked it from an alien spaceship, none of your precious 21st century Bluetooth devices are going to function with it natively.
The Venturi Mini is a device designed to solve that problem. It’s essentially a bridge between this century and the last, making your FM radio, Bluetooth cell phone, and Bluetooth MP3 player all play nice together. It will pipe music from an MP3 player through your car speakers, act as a speakerphone for calls, and automatically switch between the two, pausing music when calls come through.
Image Courtesy of Venturi
An FM transmitter forms the core of the device, allowing it to put out audio through pretty much any car radio ever made, via four preset FM broadcasting frequencies. For newer radios, the Venturi also supports Radio Data Service (RDS), the broadcasting format that makes it possible to show artist and track information from a live broadcast on the face of a radio. This allows the Venturi to pull the same information off your MP3 player and display it on the radio, or even show the name of a caller when your phone rings.
On the input side, audio can come from either a traditional 3.5mm mini jack, or, if wires aren’t your thing and you don’t mind a little setup, Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity. Besides allowing the Venturi to relay audio through to the radio, Bluetooth also offers the more advanced option of controlling connected devices from the Venturi unit, making it as much a remote control as an audio adapter. For MP3 players that support the A2DP profile, this means tracks can be selected and played from the unit. Phonebook data can also be downloaded, allowing calls to be made directly from a list on the Venturi instead of resorting to voice dialing, or dialing manually from the phone.
All of these features come in a fairly compact unit that has been designed to move from car to car easily. Installation involves sliding the Venturi into a free cigarette lighter and twisting a ring to lock it in place. Afterwards, the face of the unit can be pivoted 135 degrees to adjust for the driver’s position. This angled faced features a white OLED display, scroll wheel, and a handful of function buttons like pause, play and stop. Since it makes its home in a cigarette lighter, the Venturi needs no batteries and can actually charge other devices that use a standard 5V USB connector, like many cell phones.
The Venturi Mini is available now for $129, a price more or less competitive with other devices that offer the same sort of functionality. For anyone still dealing with an old-school car radio and devices that just won’t speak its language, the Venturi Mini might make an ideal way to bump the old tune box up to modern standards. You can find out more from the company’s website.