Boosting Bluetooth Range

I got a Bose SoundSport headset earlier this year, and it’s quite nice when I’m trying to do work around the office… except for when I walk out of range. Unfortunately, the range issue was happening even within my 13’x13′ office.

So I asked for a bluetooth booster for the holidays, and I received an AIRcable Host XR5. Small device, with an adjustable antenna and a mini-USB cable. The experience has been a bit mixed.

The device arrived with no instructions. The website has no instructions. We could only find a few comments on the web: turn off the Bluetooth on the computer before plugging the device in, wait 5 minutes or so, download Xcode, etc. Not that helpful.

Although there is no specific Documentation or Technical Help page on their website, I was able to find this: Even this blog post is a bit short on details, as key steps are buried in text instead of in the bullet list.

To make this work you need to:

  1. Make sure that you are using a wired keyboard and mouse.
  2. Ensure that Bluetooth shows on your menu bar at the top of your screen.
  3. Hold “shift” and “option” together and then click on the Bluetooth icon. This will bring up a variation of what you normally see, which includes the MAC address. Note down that MAC address, since you will need to see a change to verify that the device is working. The AIRcable MAC address will start with 00-25-BF-
  4. Turn off your Bluetooth.
  5. Choose DEBUG and remove all of your devices.
  6. Plug in the device to a *powered* USB port. The light will appear red.
  7. Turn Bluetooth back on. Wait about 5-10 seconds, and the icon will return and the light will change to a reddish-purple (not blue) and flickering/flashing.
  8. Pair your devices if they don’t come up automatically. Airpods and other Apple devices will not automatically appear, and will require manual re-pair.
What you see when you click on the Bluetooth icon in the toolbar as you go through the steps.

Once you get this setup, it may be unstable initially, and keep dropping. Be patient. Make sure that the antenna is upright (not flat on the table/surface). And it may drop periodically, even when sitting still at your desk. It’s unclear what makes that happen, but it will reconnect automatically.

The other issue with Bluetooth headphones is which codec is used as the default. You can check that by using “option” when clicking the Bluetooth icon. If you are sending audio to your headset, you should be able to click on it and see which codec is being used. If you’re using AAC or aptX, you will get better audio than using the SBC codec. For more details on how to optimize this, look here:

Option-click to see the details of the devices

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