iPod + ?? = :)
May 13, 2010 6:52 PM   Subscribe

I feel stupid for wasting a question on this, but what's the best way to get my iPod to connect to the speakers in my 2005 Toyota Corolla?

I would like to play music/podcasts from my iPod in my car, but I'm having trouble figuring out what the best option is. Since my car is older, it doesn't have a USB port. I saw someone that had an adapter that connected through their cassette slot, but my car has a CD player, and I'm not sure what products would work with it. I'd really rather not have to rig any wires or anything complicated, and I'm not sure if the sound quality if I connected to my radio would be very good.

Is an iTrip the best solution? A Neo Prolink? An Icelink? The range of options and products is confusing me, and I can't seem to find a comprehensive guide anywhere. I've looked at previous AskMe questions, but please point in the right direction if I missed any.

I promise I'm not usually this technology inept. Thanks in advance for any advice and suggestions!
posted by pecknpah to Technology (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You're going to be stuck with an iTrip or other FM Transmitter. I've had good experience with the ones created by DLO which tend to be cheaper but also more powerful, but for every good thing you'll hear about an FM transmitter, you'll find someone who hates it because, frankly, they're totally dodgy and not at all a great listening experience even under the best of conditions.

Your other option is to have them pull your CD player and put in an aftermarket deck with an auxiliary port. This will accept any MP3 player, since it's just a straight headphone jack in, and can reasonably be done for around $100-$200 including the deck, cheaper if you're not on the OEM stereo.
posted by disillusioned at 7:10 PM on May 13, 2010

If you don't want to wire in an aux input through the head unit, get one of those itrip things that allows you to lock into a non-often-used radio band (e.g. 87.9). The sound quality is a step below tape-deck but it seems to be the solution that fits your hassle requirements.
posted by Hurst at 7:11 PM on May 13, 2010

Does your CD player or stereo have an auxiliary jack? If you do, you can buy a cheap auxiliary cable (less than $5) and connect it straight to your ipod's headphone jack.
posted by ttyn at 7:13 PM on May 13, 2010

I use an iTrip with my iPhone. Wiring up my car properly is apparently more effort than I'm willing to go through. If you can position the thing properly to minimize static and can find a clear channel, it's relatively decent. More decent than any crappy $10 cassette adapter I tried, anyway. Works great with podcasts, where the audio quality doesn't matter quite as much. At best, the music is no better than a local FM station, but definitely listenable.
posted by cgg at 7:14 PM on May 13, 2010

If you'll consider a wired solution, this kit from Crutchfield installed in my Scion xB in a matter of 20 minutes. I kicked myself for not doing it sooner (esp. because all of the radio-based solutions were awful wastes of money). This assumes the stereo is stock. I think the kit works with all Toyotas, save a very few.

I have never taken the dash off my car before and am not particularly handy with cars.
posted by another zebra at 7:17 PM on May 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

I installed a very similar kit to what another zebra linked to in both my and my girlfriend's 2003 Corollas. It was super easy. Basically you just need to open the dashboard (very easy, I just googled for instructions and I had it apart in 10 minutes). The stock Toyota radio has a plug in the back to interface with a CD changer, and this kit just plugs right into that. Sound quality is great and it will charge the iPod while it's plugged in. Don't hesitate to get one of these.
posted by Aznable at 7:26 PM on May 13, 2010

This is the kit I installed, for reference. I double checked the manufacturer's website and confirmed that it works with the 2005 model of Corolla too.
posted by Aznable at 7:40 PM on May 13, 2010

We got an FM modulator like this one and installed it in the dash. It works wonderfully; you set it to one of two frequencies and it comes in MUCH clearer than the iTrips or whatever those external ones are. (I could never, ever get any of those to work.)

I agree that it's a very easy install for those who aren't used to car or audio stuff. We've now done them in two 2000 Honda Accords.
posted by Madamina at 7:52 PM on May 13, 2010

If end up choosing to use one of the FM transmitters, get one that plugs into your lighter for power. In my experience (my friends have had similar experiences) these work a LOT better than the ones that run off of your iPod's power, plus you don't have to worry about keeping your iPod charged. I had this one that and it absolutely sucked and wouldn't work with my iPod mini. Got this one as a gift and feared it would be just as bad, but it is much more powerful and I almost never have to fiddle with the transmitter station.
Definitely check for an aux input though---by far the best/cheapest/easiest option and some newer car stereos seem to have them. This article is a good summary of your options if you aren't familiar with them already.
posted by supernaturelle at 8:15 PM on May 13, 2010

I hate the FM transmitters with a passion. Just when you find a decent channel, it gets static-y again. Rinse and repeat during your entire drive. Even when you do find a decent channel, the audio is still degraded.

Spend a modicum amount of time and money and you'll be *infinitely* happier. If this is for a song once in a while, sure, go with the FM. If you actually want to listen to your iPod for a commute or trip, suck it up and get a wired solution. It's honestly worth it.
posted by barnone at 8:23 PM on May 13, 2010

Sorry, by the above I mean the 'wireless' FM transmitters like the iTrip.
posted by barnone at 8:24 PM on May 13, 2010

In terms of sound quality, Aux-in > FM transmitter every time, guaranteed.

Either go for one of those add-ons that have been linked above or get a new CD player with an Aux-in plug right on the front (it looks like a headphone jack). Stereos with aux-in jacks cost a similar amount installed as one of those doohickeys, so keep that in consideration.

Typically the aux-in port lets you use the iPod itself to control the music, whereas a lot of those add-on deals give you limited control of the iPod through the stereo's controls. FWIW I prefer the aux-in method.
posted by sleeping bear at 8:32 PM on May 13, 2010

IMO, the FM transmitters are really frustrating, especially if you live in an area with a lot of stations; it's really hard to find an open frequency that works well with them, and the sound is tinny and lacking in bass.

I've also installed a kit like zebra and Anzable linked to, and was surprised at how easy it was. I'm not a big car guy, and I was able to get it in in about a half hour with just a few tools.

If you've got a little more cash to spend, just go to your local car stereo shop and get the factory stereo replaced with something containing either an aux jack or a USB port. If you spend much time driving at all, it's well worth it.
posted by chbrooks at 8:34 PM on May 13, 2010

I hate hate hated my FM transmitter. Finally I splurged and got a stereo kit with aux input from Crutchfield, and I am so glad I did! Their pricing is much better than at the local electronics store, plus it came with a wiring kit and instructions specifically for my car. The installation was not so bad and totally worth the effort.
posted by beandip at 9:00 PM on May 13, 2010

You can get AUX input adapters that use the CD changer as an input. A quick search for your car comes up with this.
posted by wongcorgi at 1:40 AM on May 14, 2010

I am not sure if you consider this complicated, but I would just replace the current head unit with an Alpine head unit. I have them in all of my vehicles and I couldn't be happier.
posted by Silvertree at 8:00 AM on May 14, 2010

I have a stock radio in a 2000 saturn, which doesn't have a cassette player or a CD player, much less an audio in jack. Since I never listen to the radio, I just unscrewed my car's antenna, and use an FM transmitter. Works like a charm. The big issue with the transmitters is that you have to deal with interference from other stations. Without an antenna, that's no longer a problem.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:18 AM on May 14, 2010

For the best sound quality, I agree with the others that you should replace your car stereo with a unit with an AUX jack that will allow you to plug your iPod straight into the unit. Personally, I loved having a unit that played MP3 CD's, but that's just me and my idiosyncratic preferences.

If you do go the iTrip route, I have the iTrip with SmartScan and it does its job fairly well because I have set it to "International Mode" (and I live in the sticks). Static is rare and it never has to search out the "best" frequency -- I just set it to 87.9. Like others have stated, though, the sound quality is rather poor. For podcasts, this might not be an issue, but for music it's noticeably poorer than CD quality.
posted by puritycontrol at 8:50 AM on May 14, 2010

don't waste your time with FM transmitters, get an aftermarket head unit with an AUX in and if you can't install it yourself, go to Best Buy or your favorite electronics store and pay them to do it - I think Best Buy charges $50 for installations.

I paid Circuit City $60 to install my head unit years and years ago in my Civic, it was great. My brother inherited my car, and he loves it - the nice thing is that after-market head units can be popped out and replaced easily.
posted by exhilaration at 1:45 PM on May 14, 2010

When I was having a similar problem and needed an Aux-In or some other gizmo, I found that the best option was waiting until Best Buy had a free installation sale, buying the cheapest stereo they had with an Aux-In (sub $100) and having it installed. Way better than fidgeting with an iTrip or similar.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:16 PM on May 14, 2010

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