Save Me From CDs
August 11, 2009 6:33 AM   Subscribe

iPhoneFilter: Can anyone recommend an inexpensive, iPhone-compatible FM transmitter I can use to listen to MP3s in the car?

The el cheapo iRiver unit--traded for a beer from a friend who got a twofer--I have been using has died. The quality of it was always fairly low, so I would like something a bit better, but preferably still under $50. I know there were some iPod-related posts on this topic in the past, but prices fluctuate all the time, and I figure things may have changed in the iPhone era.
posted by PunkSoTawny to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
All that I can tell you is that I bought this Belkin TuneBase to use with my iPod and it was very poor quality audio. The audio would cut in and out, and even when it was at its best, it was far from CD quality. I returned it the next day. I don't even live near a big city with lots of competing FM signals. I finally decided to spring for a new CD player in my car with an AUX input. I couldn't be happier.
posted by TurkishGolds at 6:46 AM on August 11, 2009

I use a four or five-year old iTrip which my wife got to use with her iPod. It works fine, although it tells me 'Not designed for iPhone' every time I plug it in.

They have a range of iPhone specific ones though here.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:35 AM on August 11, 2009

I have one of these bargain-priced Monster iCarPlay charger/FM transmitter things. It's no match for having an aux input, but it gets the job done. One caveat with any transmitter is that it'll need to be pretty close to the antenna to work well. They seem to work best when the antenna is on the top of the car, near the driver. They work worst when the antenna is in the back of the car.
posted by mullingitover at 7:36 AM on August 11, 2009

I have a Griffin iTrip which I like, but it seems to have been discontinued. In my experience, all of these devices are more or less identical and you are going to have a hard time with interference in some areas. It would be more expensive, but you are better off installing a stereo with an AUX Input, or one of those old-school tape adapters if you have a tape deck.
posted by soy_renfield at 7:38 AM on August 11, 2009

Yeah, we had bad luck with an FM transmitter one sold (for $80!!!) at the Apple we returned it for the much cheaper tape deck version and it works fine.
posted by the foreground at 7:46 AM on August 11, 2009

I'm confused. Why an FM transmitter? I have an AUX function in my car and play songs directly from the iPod with just a simple cord. Is your problem a lack of AUX?
posted by Xurando at 8:07 AM on August 11, 2009

The quality of any wireless FM transmitter is going to be pretty low, because they are limited by the FCC in terms of the amount of power they can transmit. If you live out in the country, that may not be a problem, but near most major cities it can be hard to escape interference with actual FM broadcast stations.

Another option if you lack an AUX input is to buy a wired FM modulator. This functions similarly to one of the FM transmitters, except you connect it directly to the antenna input jack in the back of your car radio. The antenna's cable then plugs into this add-on modulator, which acts as a passthrough when you want to listen to broadcast stations, but cuts off the antenna when you want to listen to your iPod and injects its own FM-modulated signal directly to your radio instead. I use one of these in my car, and it works great.
posted by Nothlit at 8:17 AM on August 11, 2009

I found an FM transmitter on ebay for about 8 dollars shipped. I'm sure you can find one there now. I've seen quite a few FM transmitters, from expensive to cheap, and they all seem to be about the same. Mine plugs directly into a car's cigarette lighter for power and has a standard headphone plug to connecting to the MP3 player. I don't have an iPod, but have used iPods with it with no problem. And, while it won't work perfectly in areas with saturated radio markets, it worked well enough in Chicagoland.
posted by msbrauer at 8:41 AM on August 11, 2009

Many cars, especially older ones, don't have an AUX jack.

I use a J Crane radio transmitter and it's awesome. Very good quality for one of these types of devices. I wish that it had the memory presets and could auto-find the most clear stations like some of the newer devices from other manufacturers does.
posted by reddot at 9:05 AM on August 11, 2009

If you live anywhere near civilization, I would just bite the bullet and have an aux jack installed. The frustration of staticky mp3s will drive you insane; you may as well just listen to the regular radio. This comment from my similar question may be helpful.
posted by desjardins at 10:13 AM on August 11, 2009

if the car is old enough not to have an AUX input, might it be so old that it still has a tape deck? I use one similar to this Sony adapter for my MP3 player and have been pretty happy with it.
posted by bl1nk at 3:00 PM on August 11, 2009

I bought one from Radioshack recently and it worked surprisingly well. It was Gigaware branded (I think that's their new 'house' brand) and was about $40. Came with a cigarette adapter as well so you didn't have to go through batteries.
posted by CwgrlUp at 7:56 PM on August 11, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks to all who posted! A lot of good recommendations.
posted by PunkSoTawny at 5:50 AM on August 12, 2009

« Older When should I disclose my low sex drive to a...   |   All Comics Big And Small And Dangly. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.