12.2 Connecting to a Car Stereo
Since the glorious days of crackly AM radio, music and driving have gone hand in hand. These days, a stereo system with AM/FM radio and a cassette deck is the bare minimum for most
, and late-model vehicles now cruise around with all sorts of high-end equipment tucked inside, from MP3-compatible CD players to satellite radio. (Whether the music you can play on them has improved over the
is the subject of debate.)
If having your playlists with you is your idea of
by the dashboard light, there are several inexpensive ways to get your iPod nestled right in with your car's stereo system.
You have to consider two factors when taking the iPod along to play in the car:
How to wire it to your existing auto audio system
. You have your pick of using either a cable or wireless connection.
How to power it
. Of course, your iPod can run fine on its battery for short trips. If you're retracing historic Route 66 or barreling down I-95 from Maine to Mi-ami, however, you'll probably want to invest in an adapter that can power your iPod from the car's electrical system.
12.2.1 The Wireless Way
Gadgets that transmit a personal signal over an existing FM frequency have been around for decades. Today, you can hook up an FM transmitter that connects to an MP3 player's
port and broadcasts its sound through an unoccupied FM channel on the car radio ”and out through the
This method offers several advantages. For one thing, you don't have to deal with cables or cords snaking around the dashboard. Also, most FM transmitters are inexpensive, often costing less than $30.
But there are disadvantages, too. The sound quality isn't so great ”it depends on the strength of the signal ”and radio is frustratingly prone to interference (static). Furthermore, you'll need to keep the iPod physically close to the radio. Some FM transmitters offer a few preset frequencies down on the lower half of the FM
to use for broadcasting your own music, but you might have trouble finding an unused frequency if you live in an area with lots of radio
at the lower end of the dial.
Still, if you think an FM transmitter is your ticket to ride, you have several choices:
. This eye-catching gadget is a gleaming white cylinder that plugs into the iPod and rests across the top of the player to transmit the FM signal (Figure 12-4). The iTrip can use any FM frequency, and it uses the iPod's battery for its
. You can order iTrips for any iPod model for about $35 at http://www.griffintechnology.com/products/itrip.
Figure 12-4. The iTrip by Griffin Technology has a stereo miniplug that
right into the top of the iPod. The iTrip even turns itself off after 30 seconds of silence.
Check out Griffin Technology's Web site (http://www.griffintechnology.com) for helpful iTrip downloads. They include the iTrip Station Finder Software for both Windows and Macintosh systems, which lets you look up available FM radio frequencies in 240 American cities and 15
. If you're traveling abroad with your iPod, you can also download a file of European radio frequencies to use on the road.
Unfortunately, thanks to a 1949 law that regulates broadcasts on FM airwaves, the iTrip has been banned in the United Kingdom and, for similar reasons, in Austria and Iceland.
The DLO TransPod
. This transmitter also serves as a secure dashboard mount for the iPod (Figure 12-5). For power, it plugs into the car's cigarette lighter, so you don't have to worry about your batteries. For these reasons, this $100 unit may be your best bet if you frequently use your iPod while driving. The TransPod is available at http://www.everythingipod.com.
Figure 12-5. DLO TransPod both powers and cradles your iPod, and the built-in FM transmitter takes care of broadcasting your playlists through the radio. TransPod models are available in both wireless and wired connections, with models available for all three generations of iPod.
TuneCast Mobile FM Transmitter
. Here's a gadget on a budget: Belkin sells it for under $40. This small white
plugs into the iPod's headphone jack and plays through one of four frequencies on the low end of the FM dial. You can find it at http://www.belkin.com. The company also makes the Belkin Digital FM Transmitter, which can transmit on any frequency from 88.1 to 107.9. It sells for $40 in the iPod accessories area at http://store.apple.com.
. These less expensive FM transmitters, made by http://www.myirock.com and http://www.arkon.com, respectively, consist of a small FM
connected to a cable that plugs into the top of the iPod. Each is available for under $30 from various online music
. The iRock 400FM (Figure 12-6) can run on two AAA batteries or on the included 12-volt charger. The SoundFeeder SF121, available in black or ivory plastic, runs on two AAA batteries. Arkon's SoundFeeder SF100 model comes with a built-in car charger.
Figure 12-6. The iRock 400FM wireless FM transmitter runs on two AAAbatteries or its own 12-volt adapter that plugs into the car's cigarette lighter. The transmitter gives you the choice of four FM radio frequencies (88.1 to 88.7) to tap into to broadcast your favorite iPod playlists.
12.2.2 The Wired Way
You may prefer to stick with cables, either because the sound quality is better or because you can't get a consistently clear signal in your part of FM Land.
One solution is an adapter that resembles an audiocassette. An attached cable and stereo miniplug link the iPod to the car's stereo ”if your stereo is equipped with a cassette player, that is. You just plug the cable into the iPod, slip the cassette end into the dashboard, and press Play.
The Sony CPA-9C Car Connecting Cassette
. The Sony unit is designed for connecting Sony's own portable Discmen and MiniDisc players to the car's stereo, but it also works with the iPod and costs less than $20.
XtremeMac iPod Cassette Adapter
. This white cassette adapter matches the iPod and comes with a gold-tipped miniplug (see Figure 12-7). It's about $20 from http://www.xtrememac.com.
This type of adapter
your iPod's music through the car's speakers by way of the cassette deck. XtremeMac's iPod Cassette Adapter is available, along with many other iPod accessories, at
DLO TransPod II
. This gizmo is quite similar to the TransPod described above, except that it connects through the car's cassette player instead of zapping tunes through the radio. Like the original, the TransPod II can be found at http://www.everythingipod.com and costs about $60. It works with 2001 and 2002 iPod models.
Incidentally, if your car's stereo console has a 3.5mm jack on the front as an auxiliary input, you can use a simple male-to-male miniplug audio cable to connect your iPod (under $10 at Radio Shack or audio stores).
Your car's cigarette lighter can provide a far healthier use than its original
, because it can accommodate an iPod battery charger. You'll live a long,
life without ever having to worry about the iPod conking out in the middle of your favorite song. Several companies make these car chargers, including three well-known iPod accessory mavens:
. Sporting a black, silver, and white
scheme, this $25 doodad from Griffin Technology satisfies the Mac fan's
with sleek looks (Figure 12-8). It comes with a 4-
cable and has a fuse and filter to protect the iPod from any nasty electrical spikes it may encounter while plugged in. It works with iPod 2001 and 2002 models (by connecting to the FireWire port on top), and you can buy it at http://www.griffintechnology.com/products. (If you have a 2003 iPod, you can also use this charger, but you need to use the FireWire cable from the iPod dock.)
Figure 12-8. When connected, the PowerPod by Griffin Technology transforms power from the car's cigarette lighter into battery charge for the iPod.
AutoPod FireWire AutoCharger
. If you're the proud owner of a 2003 iPod, this appliance powers the iPod and recharges it through the car's cigarette lighter as you travel. The $25 charger comes in either black or white and has a coiled cord that can stretch out to about three feet. A version of the DLO AutoPod FireWire Charger for iPod 2001 and 2002 models is also available for about $18. You can get them at http://www.everythingipod.com.
Premium iPod Car Charger
. Like its rivals, this charging cable connects the cigarette lighter socket to the iPod's FireWire connection. It sells for $20 at http://www.xtrememac.com/foripod and features a
fuse and an LED power indicator that lets you keep tabs on your charging situation. Versions are available for all iPod models.
Belkin Auto Kit
. Designed for dock-connecting models, the Belkin Auto Kit includes a cable for charging your iPod from the car's power port, plus an audio-out jack and adjustable
that works with Belkin's Tunecast or cassette adapter (
of which is included) for blasting iPod tunes through the car radio. The kit sells for $40 in the iPod accessories area at http://store.apple.com.
12.2.4 All-in-One Kits
If you don't have time to track down all the
individually, you can buy it all in one box. Several companies have come forth with iPod connection
containing everything you need. Before you click that Buy Now button, make sure the kit you'
is designed to fit your particular iPod model.
Dr. Bott's iPod Universal Connection Kit
is available with either an FM transmitter or a car cassette adapter, and it works with all iPod models. The kit also includes an auto charger, an adapter for using 2003 iPods with standard FireWire cables, a stereo miniplug-to-RCA cable, a male-to-male miniplug-to-miniplug cable, and a miniplug extension cable with a male connector on one end and a
connector on the other. The good doctor provides an iPod carrying pouch as well. The FM transmitter version sells for $50, and the cassette adapter edition costs $48 at http://www.drbott.com.
DLO's iPod Auto Connection Kit
at http://www.everythingipod.com skips the cables and focuses on the automotive needs of the iPod. You can choose between a kit with a cassette adapter or one with a wireless FM transmitter. You also get the AutoPod FireWire Auto Charger, hardware to mount the iPod on the dashboard, and one of the company's sturdy, weather-resistant NeoPod iPod cases. Versions for all iPod models are available for under $50.
XtremeMac's Get Connected Audio Kit
gathers the three most needed types of miniplug connections (RCA, male-to-male miniplug, and male-to-female miniplug). The bundle also includes an auto charger, a cassette adapter, and the iShare Earbud Splitter for connecting two sets of headphones to one iPod. The kit, available for all iPod models, sells for $50 at http://www.xtrememac.com/foripod.
If all of this sounds like a lot of hunting around the Web, keep in mind that the Apple Store sells compatible cables and other iPod-friendly
from a variety of manufacturers at http://store.apple.com ”all in one place.