My iPod is channeling the spirit of Bruce Haack
April 28, 2006 7:34 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday, I decided to purchase an iTrip nano to use on my commute to the office I'm contracting at. I'm aware of the fact that, as an FM transmitter, there is going to be some static -- especially in a city such as Dallas. This, however, seems insane!

Not only do I have an absolutely inordinate amount of static, but I pick up other people's radio (and XM, I think), the iTrip crackles angrily every time I pick it up or it jostles in the car...even regular vibration seems to make it crackle and pop.

Additionally, I can play the damn thing like a theremin! I wave my hand mystically around it like I'm trying to summon the spirits and the pitch, tone, and amount of static changes. If I touch it, there's almost no static, and the static increases the further I move my hand from it. If I hold it, though... *crackle!* *pop!* At first, it was sort of amusing that I could play the static this way...but my amusement with this feature of my iTrip nano wore off in nanoseconds.

My question, then, is this: Is my iTrip possessed? Is it faulty...a dud? Or is the iTrip nano just a craptastic product in general. When I return it, should I just get my money back, or get a replacement?

I know tips, tricks and suggestions have been asked about iTrips before, but what I specifically want to know is how many chances I should give the damn thing...
posted by kaseijin to Technology (26 answers total)
I gave mine up after two days, in a much smaller city than Dallas (Greensboro, NC). Not only was static a constant irritant, but I couldn't drive more than five miles in any direction without having to find another free station.

I don't think iTrips are practical yet.

A standard issue earphone-jack-to-cassette-deck adaptor will work much better for your needs. It did for mine.
posted by BackwardsCity at 7:40 AM on April 28, 2006

I found the iTrip nano to be markedly inferior to the original iTrip used with regular iPods. My guess was that the port on the bottom of the iPod + nano does not provide as much power as the port on the top of regular iPod, and so the iTrip can't put out a strong enough signal.
posted by skwm at 7:41 AM on April 28, 2006

I've had good luck with the iTrip Auto. I've used it in both Seattle and the Washington, DC area.
posted by amarynth at 7:43 AM on April 28, 2006

I second Backwardscity. The Cassette adaptor is far superior to the iTrip
posted by webtom at 7:44 AM on April 28, 2006

Are you also using a power source? Our Itrip (on a regular Ipod) works better if we have it plugged into the lighter.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:44 AM on April 28, 2006

Sadly, it acts the same with and without a power source connected. I think that's because the iTrip nano draws its power from the iPod itself, and the connected power source just keeps the iPod charged...or something like that.

posted by kaseijin at 7:49 AM on April 28, 2006

The Cassette adaptor is far superior to the iTrip

If only cars still came standard with cassette...
posted by smackfu at 8:12 AM on April 28, 2006

Ditch the iTrip and wire an "audio-in" jack to your car stereo, then just use a $2 male-to-male 1/8 mini stereo cable. The sound will be exquisite.

See for advice on wiring the plug to your car stereo.
posted by dafair at 8:12 AM on April 28, 2006

If you have a tape deck, that works really well.
posted by k8t at 8:17 AM on April 28, 2006

I've not had too much luck with FM Transmitters. But I've seen a few hacks for boosting the signal that may be worth the nominal fee and trip to Radio Shack.
posted by ktrey at 8:19 AM on April 28, 2006

Here's a slightly scarier one that pertains to the iTrip. I couldn't dig it up right away.
posted by ktrey at 8:27 AM on April 28, 2006

If you're going to use this every day, I'd say it's worth your time to either get a FM modulator that plugs inline with your antenna, or an AUX->Line In converter that will use a CD changer input, etc., for a regular line in jack. Install cost for either is < $100. a href="">Here's what I used for XM in my last car.
posted by kcm at 8:28 AM on April 28, 2006

If you don't have an aux-in or a cassette, you might want to invest in a hardwired FM modulator. Unlike the iTrip, which has to broadcast FM to be picked up by the antenna, an FM modulator works like the RF switches that used to come with Nintendos: it connects to your head unit's antenna input, and your antenna connects to the modulator.

In normal operations it just passes the signal through, but when you want to listen to your iPod, you plug it into the aux-in on the modulator, flip a switch, and the modulator disconnects the car's antenna and instead only provides the signal from the iPod, modulated into an FM signal, directly to the head unit.

They cost about $20-50 and require permanent installation (and usually a hole in the dash for the aux-in port and the switch, unless you want to have to reach under the dash) but you'll get sound quality as good or better than the strongest FM station in your area.

They were hard to find for a while but they're all over the place again because of satellite radio. There's a bunch on Amazon (look for the bundle of cables in the pictures, because that search turns up a bunch of transmitters too) and a couple on Crutchfield but there's something to be said for swinging by a local car audio shop for the install.
posted by mendel at 8:34 AM on April 28, 2006

(Right, what kcm said. Blame live preview.)
posted by mendel at 8:34 AM on April 28, 2006

I returned the iTrip I got with my video iPod after a week and got one of these. The guy at the Apple Store told me that the iTrips are really flaky (for example, mine worked perfectly fine in my parents' car and my wife's car, but wouldn't work in my car at all). The Monster transmitter has worked great, and as a bonus lets you store three station presets.
posted by sbrollins at 8:38 AM on April 28, 2006

I'll second that the iTrips are generally regarded as the crappier FM transmitters as well.. the FM wasn't too bad but I can't say you wouldn't have better luck just staying away from them and/or finding a brand that works with your city (which may not be the same as for someone elsewhere).
posted by kcm at 8:43 AM on April 28, 2006

(er, I meant LCD in place of FM)
posted by kcm at 8:43 AM on April 28, 2006

I'm not a 100% sure having neither iPod Nano or an iTrip but if it gets the sig from the headphone jack make sure the volume on the ipod is cranked all the way up. This gives it a stronger signal to send.
posted by zeoslap at 9:30 AM on April 28, 2006

I live in L.A. and I have a DLO Trasnspod. It's great. I drove from LA to Phoenix a couple weeks ago and listened to my ipod the whole way on the same frequency with NO static.
The DLO was recommended to me by a friend who works in an Apple store.
posted by clh at 9:39 AM on April 28, 2006

I use the Monster iCarPlay wireless transmitter because my car doesn't have aux-in or a tape deck. It is powered by the cig-lighter, and the radio transmitter can be kept away from the iPod itself. I think this is important, because when the transmitter gets close to the iPod, I get lots of static.

This setup works without static in suburban D.C., as well as in the city (occasional static). Interestingly, everytime my cellphone switches the cell tower it is communicating with, I can hear the data transfer.

However, there is a noticable sound quality degradation when compared to cds, even in the best of conditions.
posted by jsonic at 9:51 AM on April 28, 2006

Cassette adaptors never worked well for us. The auto-reverse feature on the car stereo kept on auto-reversing, no matter which brand we tried.
posted by amarynth at 10:04 AM on April 28, 2006

The Monster one ROCKS. Every single FM doohickey that I've tested here in the SF Bay Area gets clobbered by all of the low-power FM stations. Except the Monster iCarPlay. I know a couple people that have them (including an EMT who's in an ambulance all day) and they love them to death.
posted by drstein at 10:20 AM on April 28, 2006

We do pretty well with the Monster iCarplay in Dallas. My husband is the primary user, and he has noticed that it works much better on my 4G and his new 5G than it did on his old 3G.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:06 PM on April 28, 2006

[...]an AUX->Line In converter that will use a CD changer input
Seconded. It's a little more pain setting up than the iTrip, but gives you much nicer sound. Better than cassette adapters too. What model of Stereo do you have?
posted by pantsrobot at 6:59 PM on April 28, 2006

Oh yeah, there's always another option: Buy a newer car stereo. Many of the Alpine head units are listed as 'iPod Ready' and can control the iPod.
If you're spending any regular amount of time in the car, you might appreciate the improved sound quality and by the time you get to the office, your iPod oughta be charged up.

You could spend $100 on an FM gizmo for the iPod, or maybe $200 on a new head unit. It just depends on how much you like your music. ;-)
posted by drstein at 7:43 PM on April 28, 2006

In my experience, the itrips work much, much better when the ipod is connected to the cars electrical system. I am not an electrical engineer and really don't understand antenna theory, but my itrip works much better when my nano is attached to the mini-usb connector plugged into a USB power adapter in the cigarette lighter. This is true near my work in a major urban area as well as near my mostly suburban home.
posted by oxonium at 9:33 PM on April 28, 2006

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