January 12, 2006

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Techie: Radio†you

How to hear your music in your car

By John ďjaQĒ Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

Iíd like to talk to you about cars.

Your car has a perfectly good set of speakers in it. Wouldnít it be nice to hear your MP3 player loaded music through them?

Direct connection

Connecting your MP3 player right up to your car stereo system, with an actual wire, is the holy grail in terms of audio fidelity. A great many cars, of course, have no simple audio input.

You can, however, hijack the CD changer port on many factory car stereos with the iPod2Car Connection Kit (www.peripheralelectronics.com). At a mere $200 or so, iPod2Car provides not only an audio link but a control link (for navigating tracks) and power as well. The second version of iPod2Car also works with some aftermarket brands, including Alpine, Kenwood, Pioneer and Sony. Those brands and others have their own connection cables for less money as well.

To add a simple audio connection, try Peripheralís Aux2Car. It works with any audio source, not just iPods.

Cassette adapter

You want to listen to digital music and you have a cassette player in your car? Get a life.

No, actually, a cassette adapter is a good, cheap option if you can swing it. Audio quality is not quite as good as a direct line, but itís much better than a cassette. Thereís no tape inside the adapter, and the tape is what often got twisted, warped or just plain worn out in cassettes.

As far as brands go, any adapter made for a portable CD playerís headphone jack will work. If anyone tries to tell you that you need a special one for your MP3 player, make them talk to the hand. Thatís right, I went there.

FM transmitter

This option gives you only radio-quality sound, but is flexible and easy to use. Tune your stereo to the right station and it picks up your music, broadcast in a bubble about 30 feet in diameter. Wireless and convenient.

The Griffin iTrip (www.griffintechnology.com) operates off your iPodís battery. The older version was operated (kludgily) through the iPodís interface; the current versionís broadcast frequency is selected with a knob. One variant connects to the iPodís headphone jack and control port on top. Another uses the dock connector on the bottom; a mini USB port allows charging if you have the right cable.

Several other companies, from Macally to Maxell, make FM transmitters that also charge your iPod through the cigarette lighter. Literally, there are dozens of these things. Choose your poison by the number of transmission channels offered and ease of use ó thatís really, really important when youíre supposed to be driving a car.

For you losers with some other brand of MP3 player (or the iPod shuffle, which has no dock connector), there are still a bunch of FM transmitters available that connect to a headphone jack. eBay is lousy with íem. Some transmitters offer a USB charging port, but many MP3 players only charge through USB when told to do so by software, so donít count on that for power.

 

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