iPodding in a Penske Truck
July 14, 2005 5:53 PM   Subscribe

I own a 4G iPod. I'm renting a Penske truck to move from Memphis to Boston. What are the options for playing my iPod in the truck? I of course don't want to spend a ton of money because I will only use the setup for a few days, but I'm still interested in hearing all the options you can think of.
posted by abbyladybug to Technology (21 answers total)
I'd recommend a fm converter you can get for about twenty dollars at Radio Shack. You plug it into the headphone jack and it turns the signal into one you can pick up on the nearby radio.
posted by princelyfox at 6:07 PM on July 14, 2005

If the truck has a cassette deck (doubtful, I'd guess) the cassette adapter is cheaper and better. From presonal experience, there is nowhere on the fm dial to get decent reception on an fm transmitter in the greater Boston area, though I do like my FM adapter for use outside the city.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:26 PM on July 14, 2005

If the truck will have a tape player - many rentals don't, these days - you can get a thingy shaped like a cassette tape that plugs into the iPod's headphone jack and delivers signal to the head of the tape player. These are cheaper than the thing princelyfox recommended and don't require batteries.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:27 PM on July 14, 2005

ikkyu - great minds think alike, but I'd add that my FM transmitter (from Monster) plugs into the cigarette lighter and does not even have a battery option.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:30 PM on July 14, 2005

The FM converter option is about the only thing you can do since I don't think the trucks will have cassette decks or a line in.

I have a Griffin iTrip that set me back $40. It doesn't sound great but beats the crap on radio these days. The $20 radio shack one probably sounds the same.

Another option would be to get some portable speakers [that run on batteries] and you can set those in the truck's cab and leave the truck's stereo out of the equation. This might be an option for about $50 if you might think you'd use them again -- either for the iPod or other device like a notebook PC or discman. i was thinking about getting a pair for my office so I didn't have to have the headphones in all damn day.
posted by birdherder at 6:39 PM on July 14, 2005

Rock Steady is right, FM transmitters suck in Boston. I use the tape adapter and it works great. It is the cheapest, highest quality (besides wiring your ipod directly into the rental trucks stereo), and most consistant. No brainer.
posted by pwally at 6:45 PM on July 14, 2005

birdherder writes "since I don't think the trucks will have cassette decks or a line in. "

Check with the rental company, lots of the one way rental trucks now have stereos with line in. It's a big selling feature that costs them ~$100 (I didn't say it was a good stereo). One of the companies around here even puts it in their print ads.
posted by Mitheral at 7:26 PM on July 14, 2005

Response by poster: But I'm driving from Memphis to Boston. The Greater Boston area won't be part of the trip until the last few hours. I have considered the speaker option, i.e. speakers that I would likely use again. Any recommendations for speakers? The ones I've seen seem awfully expensive.
posted by abbyladybug at 7:27 PM on July 14, 2005

I drive a good chunk of that route fairly reguarly, and use the Radio Shack-cheapo brand FM transmitter without any problems at all for 95% of the route- as long as you're not right smack in the middle of Boston or New York, you'll find some piece of the FM band that you can use. You may have to switch around a couple of times a day, but really, never seemed to be a big deal. And you certainly can't beat the simplicity of the setup-
posted by bemis at 7:59 PM on July 14, 2005

Probably more than you want to spend ($70) but I got one of those Monster FM transmitters for my iPod mini.

I'm in the Boston area and I've found that the lower frequencies work the best (per the advice of the microcenter salesman). I rarely ever need to change the frequency on the thing.

Only when I leave Boston, heading towards MD or DC that I run into maybe 2 strong signals, but otherwise it works fine. Of course not as well as it would sound if it was connected through a line level input like the cassette adapter or auxiliary input but it's good enough for a noisy honda civic.

I've been in the DC/MD area on and off for about 6 months and it works fine.
posted by eatcake at 8:06 PM on July 14, 2005

YMMV, but I had terrible luck with the radio broadcast type converters - always problems with interference. Maybe the area I lived in. Obviously other people here have had better luck.

If you go the route of getting external speakers, make sure to buy ones that have amplification provided by battery power. You can get a decent pair for $20-50.
posted by nanojath at 9:20 PM on July 14, 2005

Some articles on portable speakers for MP3 players



I think that it might be worth going with a balance between cost and quality with something like the Altec Lansing InMotion system - highly praised and at $130 it's not such a bad deal to turn your iPod into a boom box. It's been a while but I recall my Radio Shack cheapies (this was 5+ years ago) were a little low-strength for auto noise.

Some other less expensive brands of speakers (in 20-50 dollar range):

Sony 2-Watt Powered Speaker System SRS-A27 or A202.

Sonic Impact 5006

Gemini PM100

Any big box electronics place should be able to supply these.

Of course, if you're willing to flout the law there's always the, well, headphones.
posted by nanojath at 9:42 PM on July 14, 2005

Portable speakers? In a truck?
They'll have to be pretty damn loud (i.e. expensive, battery-draining) if you want to hear anything much!

If it has a tape deck (or a line in) your problems are solved - check that out first, before worrying about the other options.
posted by dickasso at 4:52 AM on July 15, 2005

Response by poster: I was looking last night and found these two sets of speakers reviewed on iPod Lounge. I wonder if they have the necessary volume to overcome truck noise? I doubt we're going to be blasting it too loud. There will be two not-particularly happy cats in the cab with us!

I've touted the law before with headphones, but there will be two of us driving, and I don't think that would be too social!
posted by abbyladybug at 6:44 AM on July 15, 2005

Something else I nabbed a while back is the belkin auto adapter. It plugs into your cig lighter, then into your ipod. Then you plug whatever adapter you choose (cassette, line-in, fm transmitter) into the belkin. It then keeps the ipod charged AND has a little amplifier in it.

I wouldn't leave home without mine.
posted by glenwood at 6:55 AM on July 15, 2005

I've tried the just about every version of the broadcast things and have never had any luck. Even when driving between cities the best I could hope for was 5 minutes of intelligible audio book speaking until it became unbearable. I could never use them for music. Just yesterday someone else I know was complaining about how crappy the one they just purchased was and were returning it saying "maybe if you taped the iPod to the antenna."

Speakers are an interesting choice but with 2 cats in the cab of the truck it's going to get awfully crowded and I'm really wondering if both people would be able to hear anything being played.

The Belkin auto adapter's use of the line out seems like it might help with the power output issue but you do have to buy the transmitters and other things separately.

You know, I'm surprised more truck places don't use some sort of line in (or even a CD player). I mean, for $50-$100 one time, they'd get me for a customer.
posted by aaronh at 7:16 AM on July 15, 2005

A lot of good suggestions here already, but here's my $.02...

If you plan to use your iPod in another vehicle in the future past this trip, considering getting a PocketDock. Allows one to plug into the line-out instead of the headphone amp. Much better sound quality—less hum especially.

I had heard horror stories about people using FM transmitters with their iPods having a hard time finding a band that wouldn't be cluttered. I already had a cassette adaptor, so I bought the PocketDock and love it. Can control the volume directly from the stereo too.

Plus it comes with two 6-foot audio cables: One with 3.5 mm (1/8") stereo plugs on both ends, one with stereo RCA and 3.5 mm plugs. The latter is great for connecting the iPod to almost any stereo. I used that cable to connect the dock that came with my iPod to my main stereo. I keep the PocketDock in the car and use the cassette adaptor.

Anyway. You have lots of options, but consider buying for something other than just this move.
posted by terrapin at 7:38 AM on July 15, 2005

If this is going to be a longer term investment. (ie: you're not just going to use it in the truck) I would splurge on an FM transmitter that plugs into the cigarette adapter. I had the El Cheapo belkin one for about 6 months and was unhappy with it. The batteries last for about 8 hours before the signal begins to weaken (especially if you leave it on by accident)
I recently got the Monster adapter, It has a much stronger signal and charges the ipod while you drive.

The signal in the DC area works OK. Not perfect but as good as a medium signal FM station. The plus side of this is that you can take it into any car and have it work without much fuss.
posted by Mark5four0 at 7:45 AM on July 15, 2005

I'm fond of the iTrip. It's a little more than the ratShack/belkin stuff but the design makes it well worth it in saving irritation. The big plusses are
  • uses iPod power - no battery to change
  • turns on and off automatically - no power button to press/leave on and drain power
  • fits happily against ipod - no dangling borderling obscene thing to make holding and moving the iPod difficult.
It's also got a leg up on the cassette adaptors and things in that you can take it into your hotel room and listen through the clock radio most rooms have these days, as well as at home on your main stereo.

Yes, it's not as good a quality as a straight line-out but if you are in a vehicle that is at all noisy I don't think it's a discernable difference.

One note about the price: I see a LOT of iTrip -mini- listings on ebay for a lot less. I know you could use the regular iTrip on the mini (it would just protrude) so I would imagine you can use the one for the mini on the regular and save a few bucks. Don't know this for fact but the form factor of the plugs is the same.
posted by phearlez at 9:34 AM on July 15, 2005

I drove a Penske truck from Chicago to NYC about a year and a half ago. Their trucks don't have cassette players, unless that's changed in the interim. I used an iTrip with my iPod. There were a couple areas where it got spotty, but it was certainly more than "good enough".
posted by mkultra at 9:48 AM on July 15, 2005

I've had an iTrip since Christmas but the antenna on my Protege5 is at the back of the car and must be shielded because there was a lot of static unless I put the iPod on the dash right above the stereo.

I cracked the iTrip open, wrapped the antenna with copper wire and heatshrink then left it outside the plastic - it now works with no static from almost 20 feet away.

pic here
posted by jeffmik at 3:21 PM on July 15, 2005

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