Monday, July 10, 2006

FM Transmitter comparison

Quite some time ago I did a review of the iRiver FM AFT-100, stating how much I liked this transmitter. Being the kind of person that I am, I wanted to know if it was the best one out there, plus the cord on my iRiver broke.

Over the last couple of months I've tried several of the locally available FM transmitters, including the Griffin iTrip Auto, and 2 from Myron & Davis, as well as a new copy of the same old iRiver.

I'll start with the iRiver, it's exactly the same as my old one. The only difference between my previous review and this one, is that I now own an iPod. For the iPod-less this may seem like a silly thing, same goes for shuffle owners but when you can charge and play through the same cord it gets to be a pretty nice thing to have. The iRiver doesn't have a dock connector and uses the headphone jack, which really is just something to keep in mind. [acceptable deck level: Music = 20; Podcast = 20-25 (iPod set @ 75% max. Vol)]

Next is the Griffin iTrip Audio, one of those with a dock connector. Small, sleek, black, very "new" iPod like. As mentioned before having the dock connector is good for the Pod set, but unfortunately this is a downside for anyone else. The other downside of having the dock connector is that there is no volume control on the iPod itself, you can (as always) control the volume on the car deck itself, but if this just isn't enough amplification then you, like me, will probably be wondering how something that plugs into the power port (lighter socket) can be putting out such a weak signal. In an effort to make up for this a bit, you can select "DX" mode as opposed to the standard "LX". LX is stereo, and DX is mono; what this means is that in mono mode, all the power is broadcasting over a single channel rather than left and right. Most decks can do this on their end, but if both are in DX mono mode the benefit is that much bigger.
[acceptable deck level: Music = 25; Podcast = 30-35 (in DX mode, LX is even higher)]

Myron & Davis has 2 models that I looked at: The first one has a USB connector as well as a line in jack which works in the same manner as the iRiver. The USB port is kind of cool, in that it lets you play mp3 files off of just about any USB thumbdrive. I was more than a bit disappointed that the iPod shuffle doesn't work properly at all thanks to the file structure used (the headphone jack still works). That being said the fact that you can pick up a 2 gig USB drive for as little as $70 CDN these days, it's not that big of an issue. The only trouble is that you can't just pick up where you left off in a play list since it always plays the songs in the same order, and from song 1 every time.
[acceptable deck level: Music = 25; Podcast = 25-30 (via USB, line in varies)]

The second one from M&D is another dock-connector transmitter, which is virtually the same as the griffin offering, in that transmission via the dock port seems to be a bit under powered, but this one puts out a stronger stereo signal. This is good as there is no "DX" mode to output in mono. The thing that really separates this is that it also has a line in port; this means that you can have a good transmitter AND a line in for the extra volume boost too. All in all it is a good product that I would definitely recommend. The only issue with this is that I have only ever seen them at Canadian Tire stores, while in Canada it's not really an issue, but anywhere else it would be pretty tough I'd imagine.
[acceptable deck level: Music = 22-25; Podcast = 23-27]

In the end I gave the USB TX to my stepfather, the M&D dock TX to my friend Josh, and have both iTrip Audio for listening and charging at the same time, and the iRiver as my primary TX, since it has the best transmitter in both volume, and quality.

Until next time,


Living with Wires
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