Bluetooth. It's everywhere.
Or is it?...
There's certainly a massive selection of bluetooth headphones available. In fact, it's increasingly common for your earwear to be bluetooth only, especially when it comes to in-ear options like true-wireless earbuds.
Great for running. No use at all for in-flight entertainment systems.
Good for watching your smart TV in private. For a less smart TV, you're out of luck.
The Twelve South AirFly Pro is my favourite kind of gadget; brilliant for its simplicity.
Here's the concept; plug this into anything to make it bluetooth enabled.
That's exactly what the AirFly Pro does, with a minimum of fuss but with maximum reliability and sound quality.
Shortest review ever.
Oh, alright. I'll give you a bit more.
For a start, the AirFly Pro is an elegant sort of thing, if a device so small can be considered elegant. In fact, one of the biggest problems you're likely to encounter with it is losing it. Luckily it includes a key-ring attachment to plug it into when you're not using it, although, given my experience with 3.5mm sockets over the years, they often get loose over time and I worry eventually this might not be a very secure way to carry the AirFly Pro around.
There are only three controls to worry about; the main on/off/pairing button, a tiny reset button and one quite magical switch we'll get to shortly.
At first I was confused about how you can pair two devices, neither of which have any kind of display. So I just tried it.
I put my headphones into pairing mode, switched on the AirFly Pro and it was done. That's literally how easy it was to make anything with a 3.5mm jack bluetooth-capable. The primary use for this ingenious magic trick is of course, in-flight entertainment systems. For years air travelers have had the inconvenience of having to pack a pair of wired earbuds or headphones or be restricted to the disgusting (and usually terrible) default sets provided by the airline. For anyone who's had to face the prospect of a long-haul flight with a cheap pair of cans only working in one ear, this is obviously no option at all.
Frustratingly, given the rise and rise of true-wireless earbuds like AirPods, bluetooth listening just hasn't been an option on planes till now. The AirFly Pro changes that instantly, eliminating the horrendous tangle of cords and armrests that usually happens when someone has to get up to use the loo.
While this is fantastic news for frequent fliers, there's another major advantage to using the AirFly Pro in your everyday life; you can plug it into anything - your laptop, your smart speaker at home, your TV - and you're instantly bluetooth-enabled. You don't have to go through a separate pairing process for each device because you're already paired. Just plug in, turn on and you're good to go.
Once I saw how well this worked, I got a bit excited and tried it to monitor the breakfast radio show I work on every morning. Let's just say, while the latest bluetooth codecs have come a long way towards reducing lag, there's still just enough of a delay to make monitoring your own voice too uncomfortable to use in a live radio environment. Damn it.
But you can pair the AirFly Pro with two devices at once - very handy for silent two-player gaming.
Now, about that magic switch. Mysteriously, it's labeled TX-RX. Less mysteriously, that just means Transmit or Receive. That's right, the AirFly Pro works both ways, transforming from a transmitter to a receiver with the flick of a switch.
One place this kind of instant connectivity comes in handy is in the car. If you travel a lot or frequently use car pool business vehicles, it's usually too much hassle to pair and then unpair your phone, just so you can keep listening to your favourite podcasts. Most cars (even pre-bluetooth models) have an AUX input so once again, just plug in the AirFly Pro and you're good to go.
Battery life seems very good, as much as 16 hours on a single charge, according to the Twelve South website. This happens conveniently enough via the USB-C port.
Perhaps the only little niggle is the sole LED indicator, which might be the tiniest light I've seen on any device ever. Now, as I'm always saying, I'm no fan of unnecessary flashing lights but in the case of the AirFly Pro, Twelve South has gone completely the other way. If you need strong reading glasses, there's a chance you might not be able to see the pin-prick sized light at all. It changes colour to show you when the device is fully charged, when it's on, when it's pairing and when it's connected. The little white light also turns orange when battery gets low, but there's no other way to know how much charge is or isn't left. Thankfully, you can still use the AirFly Pro while you charge it, so you shouldn't be caught short.
Other than that, the AirFly Pro could well be the perfect solution to a problem you didn't even know you had... until next time you're stuck with in a plane with faulty headphones that is.