Review: iTrip LCD FM Transmitter for the iPod
- iPods are great for carrying around tons of audio(music, audiobooks, podcasts, speeches, etc) to listen to through headphones and computer speakers, but many of us have had trouble finding the right way to listen to iPod audio in our cars.
There are 4 common ways to listen to an iPod in your car:
- FM Transmitter: The audio is low quality, especially when FM is crowded with lots of stations, but you don’t need to worry about cables. Your iPod becomes a low power FM station. The transmitters work with any FM radio, generally. The features of FM transmitters vary widely – more on that later.
- Tape Adapter: If you have a tape deck in your car, this is most likely your preferred option. The sound is much more consistent than the FM transmitter and is usually much higher quality. The iPod is connected to a replica cassette tape. The features of Tape Adapters are pretty standard across brands. Quality of each brand may differ.
- Aux Jack: Some car stereos have a jack meant for mp3 players and walkmans. The sound quality is much better than the previous 2 options, but auxiliary jacks are not standard on most cars.
- “True” iPod Integration: Soon, car and after-market stereo manufacturers will add docks for your iPod and allow you to switch playlists, albums and songs from your steering wheel. BMW started the trend 2 years ago.
- Last week, Griffin Technology release the iTrip LCD FM Transmitter. With all of its bells and whistles, it is the most feature rich FM Transmitter made for the iPod. I purchased mine on Thursday and have been using it in my Saturn(which has no tape deck).
Feature by Feature:
- Sound quality: Ron Hemphill, Keith Kerlan and I compared the iTrip LCD to an Aux Jack in Keith’s car. Both tests used the same iPod and the same song. The Aux Jack resulted in much crisper sound and no static. The iTrip LCD encountered some static and a more muffled sound. Still, we were all surprised at how good the iTrip sounded.
- Tuning: The original iTrip had a very convoluted process for choosing the station your iPod broadcasted on. The iTrip LCD has a simple knob that lets you select any station from 88.1 to 107.9. This is a huge improvement, but some other FM transmitters have this feature, too – it is not an iTrip LCD exclusive.
- DX vs LX: This is one feature unique to the iTrip LCD. It has two transmit modes. The first one, LX is for stereo audio and is what most FM transmitters use. If you are in an area with a lot of stations and need to cut through the interference, you can use DX mode, which broadcasts in mono(left and right signals are merged) and seems to be much more powerful. The iTrip LCD documentation suggests using DX mode for podcasts and audiobooks.
- Portability: Unlike a tape adapter or aux plug, the iTrip LCD can be carried around easily for use in other cars. For instance, I can use it in my Saturn on weekdays and the Minivan on weekends when the whole family is together. Also, this version of the iTrip can be used internationally by switching between tuning modes.
- Lock-In: The iTrip LCD will only work with an iPod. Some FM Transmitters and most Tape Adapters can be used with any portable media device that has a headphone jack.
- Auto-Volume: iTrip LCD has a feature for helping you choose the right volume for the iPod to reduce static. In my tests, this feature didn’t work very well.
- I’m happy with the iTrip LCD. Since I like to use my iPod regularly in 2 cars, it’s very convenient – I just leave it connected. The occasional static is minimized by keeping the iPod on a non-slip pad on the dash right over the radio.
By the way:
- If you aren’t using anything now for playing your iPod in the car and you have a tape deck, I suggest waiting until the <a href=”http://www.griffintechnology.com/products/smartdeck/index.php”Griffin SmartDeck is released. The SmartDeck is a tape adapter that watches the wheels of the cassette and advances your iPod to the next song when you press the tape player’s fast forward button. Nice.