Mobile FM Transmitter for iPod
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of the following - Apple iPod, Sony MiniDisc player or any
portable music device with a standard 1/8" miniplug
like my iPod. I mean I really like it. The device
is well-designed, easy to operate, has enormous
storage capacity and best of all, provides excellent,
high fidelity stereo output to headphones and
other plug-in and add-on peripherals. There is
nothing wrong with the iPod. The only issue I
have with the iPod concept (and the literal premise
on which the design for similar devices has been
based) is the fact that you can't jack an iPod
directly into your car stereo. No mini-plugs,
1/4" plugs or any others for that matter
are available in car stereos. So if you want
to listen to your iPod in the car, you've got
to use a tape deck adapter which injects the
iPod audio signal into the heads of the car's
cassette player (too much extra wire floating
around the car along with the cassette adapter),
or a pair of unobtrusive headphones (which is
illegal almost everywhere so it's not an option),
or simply wait until you get home (a lousy solution
for a mobile audio device). It's a dilemma.
Technology solutions abound however, so it came as no surprise
to find the Belkin TuneCast, a compact little FM transmitter
which has a short cable that plugs into the iPod's headphone
jack. Set the slider on top of the TuneCast to a frequency
of your choice - one of four FM frequencies: 88.1, 88.3,
88.5, 88.7 - turn on the TuneCast, then turn on your iPod.
Select some music, press play and away you go. Anything playing
will be transmitted by the TuneCast and received by a correctly
tuned FM radio.
We discovered one little trick for improved reception: Switch
on the TuneCast, then start your portable music device, then
switch on the radio. It appears as though most FM tuners
(in car or home systems) will lock onto a nearby signal and
give it priority over other signals on the same frequency.
Whatever the actual reason, follow the sequence and you should
get decent results.
We discovered another little trick for improved fidelity:
Do not raise the iPod volume above 50%. If you do, it's possible
for loud or complex music passages with lots of treble to
overload the input of the TuneCast resulting in distortion.
The third little trick performed by the TuneCast is not
so much a trick as it is a hidden feature. This little darling
works with darn near any portable music player. As long as
the music device has a headphone jack, you can plug in the
TuneCast and play music through any nearby FM radio. Very
nice. We tried the TuneCast with a Sony MD player a Rio MP3
player and the iPod - the TuneCast worked well.
Cons: Limited transmission range (an FCC and CRTC issue
in the U.S. and Canada). Does not work at all in some cars
due to some windows tinted with metallized film. Only four
frequency selections. Sensitive input - too much device volume
will distort the output. The frequency switch is a bit fiddly
and it's hard to tell whether you've selected 88.3 or 88.5.
Urban environments with strong radio signals in TuneCast's
frequency range will make it difficult to use the device.
Pros: Battery life was good - surprisingly so. After about
20 hours of testing, the two AAA batteries (Energizer Max)
were still going strong. Fidelity was good; only the slightest
degradation from the recorded source was noticed on a Bose
setup in a 2000 Cadillac STS. On standard FM car radios,
quality is limited by average electronics and average speakers
- no fault of the TuneCast.
to the Editor are welcome and occasionally abused in public.
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