Will an FM transmitter from the US work in the UK?
September 22, 2008 6:55 PM   Subscribe

Will an FM transmitter (to listen to an MP3 player in the car) bought in the US work in the UK? What about the cigarette lighter adapter?

A friend in the UK drives a delivery truck all day. As a gift, I'd like to send him a means to listen to his iPod while driving around. I don't know if he has a cassette deck in the truck, and since he doesn't own the truck he can't hard-wire anything into the stereo.

The only option I can think of is an FM transmitter. I'm just not sure if UK radios use the same frequencies or "rules" as they do in the US.
posted by steeb2er to Technology (10 answers total)
Should work fine. Never tried it myself with my UK/EUR one in a car in the US, however these things should be international.
posted by arcticseal at 7:13 PM on September 22, 2008

US and UK FM radios use the same frequencies.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:14 PM on September 22, 2008

It'll work absolutely perfectly (having tried mine there when I went back recently). He'll love it, but it will be (strictly speaking) illegal - certainly to sell there. It is illegal to transmit on the FM band without a license, in the UK, regardless of the power of the transmitter.

However, I really can't see him being prosecuted for it, it just means he can't buy one there. I very much recommend the programmable ones (rather than with a series of pre-set frequencies) as finding a suitable hole in frequencies can be tricky, especially when travelling across country.
posted by Brockles at 7:30 PM on September 22, 2008

As noted, they're not legal (though they work just fine); if you're sending it, when the package passes through customs there could be a problem depending on what you claim the contents to be and whether they check. I've never had a problem bringing one with me.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 7:35 PM on September 22, 2008

Ooops. My mistake. Looks like they legalised them just after I left in general, in December 2006 (Bastards). However, one from the US will still be illegal (nominally): To be legal, it must carry a CE mark which indicates their approval for sale in the European Union. Some FM transmitters have been manufactured for sale and use specifically in the US. These devices do not carry a CE mark and will remain illegal to use in the UK.

i seem to recall that the US ones transmit at a higher power (or some do) than the allowable UK limit of 8 metres, which is why they were illegal. But hey, send it anyway. No-one will know...
posted by Brockles at 7:36 PM on September 22, 2008

I have plenty of electronics (in the US) that also carry the CE mark. You should be able to find an FM transmitter that has the mark within the US.
posted by papayaninja at 8:03 PM on September 22, 2008

it works fine as others have said. I bought the Griffin iTrip in the US for use in the UK years ago, had no problems at all (I vaguely remember downloading a wider range of frequencies or something, but that's about it)
posted by nunoidia at 12:09 AM on September 23, 2008

Strange that consensus says it should work fine as my experience has been different. Brought a US car with stock radio over to the UK and had to have something fitted to the stereo to allow it to tune in UK radio stations. Even with that fitted, it still doesn't get many stations.

For my iTrip, I had to track down a list of UK frequencies and upload those on to my iPod before it would work. I was told it was something about the US tuning in only odd number frequencies and the UK tuning in only even multiples.

A quick check of Wikipedia says the following:

The frequency of an FM broadcast station (more strictly its assigned nominal centre frequency) is usually an exact multiple of 100 kHz. In most of the Americas and the Caribbean, only odd multiples are used. In some parts of Europe, Greenland and Africa, only even multiples are used. In Italy, multiples of 50 kHz are used. There are other unusual and obsolete standards in some countries, including 0.001, 0.01, 0.03, 0.074, 0.5, and 0.3 MHz.
posted by gfrobe at 1:34 AM on September 23, 2008

Response by poster: Gfrobe - Theoretically, if I used a programmable (rather than a pre-set) tuner, I might be able to select those even numbered UK stations. I appreciate your caveat.

Thanks everyone else for the recommends and tips. Should be a successful gift!
posted by steeb2er at 5:21 AM on September 23, 2008

No problem. FYI though, my car has a programmable tuner and when I first got the car to the UK I could not tune in any stations at all. After a tuning device was fitted I was able to get a few.
posted by gfrobe at 10:08 AM on September 23, 2008

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