iPod the air waves
The quickest and easiest way to get your iPod to play in that hot ride of yours is to purchase an FM transmitter. It's as simple as setting the attached device to the same frequency as a selected radio channel, giving you the ability to control your own radio station! Although it isn't quite like that, you be comfortable knowing that at least one more person (you) is listening to your mix than the average university radio station.
There are a few popular FM transmitters from a variety of manufacturers, and we'll take a closer look at each below.
The iTrip is by far the most popular FM transmitter on the market, making Griffin the number one benefactor from Apple's mere existence. There isn't anything overly bulky or complicated about the iTrip, but that's what makes it so cool (and perfect for the iPod). It's also wireless, which is clearly the next big wave being made in tech as a whole.
Other than a sleek and small design, the iTrip is a handy little tool full of features. A side-mounted switch gives the user easy access to broadcast frequencies, and a front display that makes it clear where the dial is pointed. The most handy feature might be the iTrip's memory, which remembers its most recent settings.
In addition, the iTrip features two selectable modes for broadcasting FM signals, including LX and DX. Griffin's sure that one or the other will provide a relatively clear frequency no matter where you're driving, but we say – it's still an FM transmitter.
Also impressive is the device's wireless strength, which can keep a fairly clear signal even when the iTrip is twenty feet away. However, unless you own a really big car – bigger than the Canyonero, even – that's more novelty than usable feat.
That means it isn't quite the same as going the whole nine yards and fully installing the iPod via audio interface. Broadcasting over a radio frequency means it simply won't sound much better than radio. Of course, this is no fault of Griffin, since every FM transmitter is subject to such quality. If anything, the DX and LX settings allow for some improvement (marginal as it may be).
Price: Griffin Technology's iTrip retails for $49.99.
built tough, like a
The first thing you'll notice about Belkin's TuneBase FM is that there's a cord. A big one at that, leading to a cigarette lighter adapter. That's much different than Griffin's popular iTrip, which is powered by the iPod itself. Otherwise, the two devices are about the same size and offer their own unique set of options.
The best part about the TuneBase FM may be its build quality. That's because it's very sturdy, and unlikely to snap in half (the feeling we got just looking at the iTrip). You might liken the TuneBase FM to the Nintendo 64, and the iTrip to the flimsy Playstation 2.
In addition, you can swivel the mount provided to have the iPod facing any desired direction. It's a simple feature that won't sell the product on its own, but we like it.
See that big thing sticking out? That's called a wire. And, in today's world that's simply no longer cool. The best part of owning an iTrip is its portability, something that isn't quite so easy via the TuneBase FM.
Other complaints surround the TuneBase FM's trouble with picking up clear signals in busy city traffic. Belkin's product doesn't do much to work around this, unlike Griffin which tries hard via the DX and LX modes. For cost about 30% more than the iTrip, these are some pretty significant problems.
Price: The Belkin TuneBase FM retails for $79.99.
into AirPlay before iTrip.
The AirPlay FM Transmitter is so extreme. That's what iPod peripheral maker XtremeMac would have you believe, but at no time in reviewing this product did a motocross biker, skate boarder, or especially spicy nacho chip ever once suddenly appear. Thus, we take exception with the name. Otherwise, the AirPlay FM Transmitter offers an alternative to Griffin's iTrip. Both are wireless.
The main advantage the AirPlay holds over the iTrip is the presence of two tuning buttons. They're small and pretty simple, but they offer an easy and quick way to change frequencies when one craps out in heavy city traffic.
In addition, the AirPlay possesses an equally strong signal and will work wirelessly from around 20-25 feet away (however useful you deem this while driving a vehicle).
Depending on where you're looking, the AirPlay is a few bucks more or less than the iTrip. Even if you wind up paying a higher price, the AirPlay doesn't really feature any major flaws. In fact, the only major difference between the iTrip and AirPlay are the two tuning buttons that make finding a clear frequency slightly easier on the latter. Some might prefer the iTrip's size, which seamlessly matches most average iPods, while others will enjoy the smaller girth of the AirPlay. Tom-A-toes, tom-AH-toes, I suppose.
Price : Depends, but you're likely to pay about $40 for the AirPlay FM Transmitter.
the PodFreq is the best
Although you may never have heard of Sonnet (or it's rather unique/odd name for its FM transmitter), this device is considered by many iPod users as the premier way to cheaply listen to MP3s while in your vehicle.
Unlike the Griffin iTrip, Sonnet's PodFreq boasts a very, very strong signal no matter the circumstance. Although the competitions' products snarl in between static and music while navigating busy city avenues, Sonnet's FM transmitter keeps a considerably strong signal. What's more, it's also considered the best in sound quality. All of this makes the PodFreq the transmitter of choice, even if it isn't marketed that way.
Other pros include a well-designed frame that allows an iPod to fit perfect within, wireless usage, FireWire and USB ports, and even an included carrying bag.
Our main beef? The PodFreq can be harder to find than a pirate's treasure chest. In many of our searches for Sonnet's device, we could only find "X" on the map by using massive online search engine Google. Neither the American nor Canadian Best Buy websites pointed us in the direction of the Sonnet PodFreq.
Still, it can be found. When it is, the PodFreq can often be had for less than the competition's inferior wares, making it worth the search.
Price: The Sonnet PodFreq retails for around $29.99 USD.