Creative BT-W4 Review – One of the first Bluetooth transmitter dongles with aptX Adaptive

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Creative BT-W4 Bluetooth Transmitter Review Rating

Summary

If you have any headphones or earbuds that support aptX Adaptive, this is the best way to make the most of this new low latency codec for a wide range of devices.

Overall
90%
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  • Overall - 90%
    90%

Pros

  • The only branded aptX Adaptive Bluetooth transmitter on the market
  • Easy to set up and compatible with a wide variety of devices including consoles, PC and mobile

Cons

  • Limited selection of headphones and earbuds that support aptX Adaptive

I reviewed the Creative BT-W3 Bluetooth transmitter almost two years ago. The Creative BT-W4 is a refresh of that device, bringing the specification up to modern standards.

This new Bluetooth dongle is one of the first on the market by a big brand to support aptX Adaptive, but this means that the older aptX LL and aptX HD have been dropped. Therefore anyone with headphones that support aptX LL and aptX HD will be better off sticking with the BT-W3.

Creative BT-W4 vs BT-W3 Specification Compared

Creative BT-W4BT-W3
Bluetooth versionBluetooth 5.2Bluetooth 5.0
Connector TypeUSB Type CUSB Type C
SwitchingDevice switching (Up to 4 devices)Codec switching
Playback Resolution24 bit/48KHz16 bit/48KHz
Bundled MicYesYes
Hardware Controls:
Status IndicatorYesYes
Codec IndicatorColor Coded (purple, green, blue)Color Coded (white, yellow, green, blue)
Codec SelectorYes (auto)Yes (manual)
Bluetooth Profiles:
A2DPYesYes
HFPYesYes
AVRCPYesYes
Codec Support:
SBCYesYes
aptXYesYes
aptX-LL (low latency)NoYes
aptX-HDNoYes
aptX AdaptiveYesNo
Software Application:
Creative AppYesNo

One of the issues that some users may have is the fact that aptX-LL (low latency) and aptX-HD are no longer present, instead replaced with aptX Adaptive. This change was inevitable because the former codecs are now retired by Qualcomm in favour of aptX Adaptive.

aptX Adaptive is backwards compatible with aptX HD but not LL. This is because aptX-LL requires a dedicated, wireless antenna which is no longer included in the new Qualcomm chips.

Any aptX-LL connecting to this adaptor will fall back to aptX, which is lower quality with much higher latency.

Also, aptX Adaptive is not quite as low latency as aptX-LL with a latency of approximately 80ms vs 32ms. But In reality, I doubt many, or anyone, could tell the difference, but I have no doubt that some people will claim they can.

Not many earphones or headphones support aptX-LL, so I doubt many people will care much.

While aptX Adaptive has a lower maximum bitrate of 420 kbp than HD, Qualcomm claim their new compression method allows Adaptive to produce the same quality as aptX HD at 576 kbps

Headphones and earbuds that support aptX adaptive

The below list is not exhaustive, but just to highlight that you have a small but growing selection of headphones and TWS earbuds to use.

Headphones:

True Wireless Earbuds

Set-Up

At first, I tested these with my Windows PC, then tried the Nintendo Switch. The set-up procedure is similar for most devices.

With Windows, when you insert the BT-W4 in the USB, it should auto-detect the device and will likely switch the audio automatically to it.

Then to pair, you can press and hold the button on the BT-W4 for two seconds. It should be flashing blue to indicate it is in pairing mode. You will then need to place your headphones into pairing mode.

I found that it took me a couple of attempts to get my headphones paired up, which was mostly due to user error and impatience.

It is possible to pair up to four devices, and you can find more information on pairing here.

Your headphones are paired to the dongle rather than the device you were connected to, so I was able to move to the Nintendo Switch without needing to pair anything up again. The dongle also worked when I connected it with my Honor Magic 4 Pro.

In Use

I used the Creative BT-W4 with the Cleer Ally Plus II, which were the only earbuds that I had and could find that would work with aptX Adaptive. I also paired up the Sennheiser CX True Wireless earbuds, which are not the Plus model, so they are only compatible with normal aptX.

Unlike the Creative BT-W3, you don’t have to worry about switching between codecs. With aptX Adaptive, it does everything for you. If your headphones are compatible, the dongle will show a purple LED while normal aptX is green, and then SBC is blue.

Performance is excellent, with a noticeable improvement by using this compared to the built-in Bluetooth on my Windows PC. I am not overly sensitive to latency, I don’t play fast-paced games that much and just don’t concentrate on things enough, but you definitely can tell the difference.

The only other device I have that supports aptX Adaptive is the Redmagic 7, and there was no perceivable difference in performance when listening to audio or watching a video.

Price and Alternative Options

The Creative BT-W4 is priced at £49.99/€ 54.99/US$49.99 and is available at the Creative online store.

The older Creative BT-W3 are available for £30 on Amazon and £35 RRP.

For affordable aptX Adaptive adaptors, your only option is random brands you might find on Amazon or AliExpress. I couldn’t find any currently for sale on Amazon, but AliExpress had some options available for around £15 with a month to deliver. Personally, I’d just spend the extra on the BT-W4.

Overall

The Creative BT-W3 was already a popular and well-reviewed Bluetooth dongle. The Creative BT-W4 continues this trend, and more impressively, it is one of the only devices on the market that supports aptX Adaptive headphones. Performance has been excellent, and there is literally nothing to recommend over it.

Last update on 2022-06-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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