Help me find a clear frequency for my Ipod.
February 20, 2007 6:23 AM   Subscribe

I hook my Ipod to my car stereo using an FM transmitter. Before setting out I'd like to choose a frequency that's not going to compete with local radio stations en-route. Is there a simple list of frequencies likely to be safe from interference? Alternatively has anybody done yet built some kind mash-up website that would give me a frequency for a given journey? I am in the UK but would be interested if this has been done anywhere.

This existing thread is related but does not cover the issue of frequency choice.
posted by rongorongo to Technology (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
save yourself the frusteration and buy the tape cassette adapter for the ipod instead.
posted by brinkzilla at 6:30 AM on February 20, 2007

What is this "cassette" you talk of?
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:31 AM on February 20, 2007

I've not had a car with tape cassette playback for about ten years.

It doesn't really answer your question, but my FM transmitter has a slidy switch on the side for 88.1 and 88.4 (I think) tuned those two in as presets on the radio and I've never been somewhere that hasn't been great for one or the other.
posted by twine42 at 6:39 AM on February 20, 2007

Sorry to preface advice with a dumb question, but is there satellite radio in the UK? Herein the US, I use Sirius Radio's frequency finder: Perhaps there's something comparable on your side of the pond?
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:41 AM on February 20, 2007

I'm in the U.S. southwest and radio waves are odd out here in such low humidity, so YMMV -- I find that there's no "single" frequency that works well. Sometimes 88.1 works; other times it bleeds into a Tejano station, so I switch to 88.5. Luckily, my transmitter has the 106 frequency, too, so if the 88s fail me, I can always check higher in the band.

Anyway, I found that I just needed to drive around with it so I could get a sense of where each frequency worked the best.
posted by parilous at 6:45 AM on February 20, 2007

I'm oldschool, or at least my car is.

(I still think the casette adapter worked way better then the transmitters though- if you have an antique car that is)
posted by brinkzilla at 6:47 AM on February 20, 2007

Best answer: Vacant frequency locator

Just type in your zip code and it will give you a list. For a trek type in a few zips along the journey and find the common vacant frequency manually. Brought to you by the helpful geeks at MIT.
posted by caddis at 6:51 AM on February 20, 2007 [3 favorites]

The minimum (87.5) and maximum frequencies are your best bet.
posted by matthewr at 6:58 AM on February 20, 2007

If the choice is going to be around 88MHz then you're in Radio 2's range. In that case look here.

This will let you do similar things in the ballpark of other BBC stations, but when you throw others, particularly local ones into the mix, it's going to get tougher.
posted by edd at 7:53 AM on February 20, 2007

I use 87.9 on my itrip, which I believe is right near the minimum. I found that even if I found something in the middle of the dial that was vacant on one side of town, it would get crappy as I drove around. The frustration was just not worth it, so I stick with 87.9.

(Though now I do use a cassette adapter when I can, because its far less frustrating and the sound quality is better.)

They really need to make line-in standard on all car stereos, like, 3 years ago.
posted by rsanheim at 7:55 AM on February 20, 2007

i have occasionally entertained myself by listening to what comes up when i tune into one of these low stations while driving.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 8:26 AM on February 20, 2007

There are a few websites that have lists of frequency allocations for UK stations, but I have not found any that have 'routefinder' type interfaces that you would need.

The major stations are largely restricted to 88-107, with higher and lower frequencies reserved for things like community, hospital or campus radio stations. I've used 87.5 driving around the UK for the last couple of years with no problems.

As some of the others have mentioned, your best bet is to stick to the minimum or maximum frequency that both your car radio and iTrip/whatever can reach.
posted by Jakey at 8:33 AM on February 20, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far - brinkzilla - I would rather use a cassette adaptor but have only a CD player. If I were really concerned then I would change either the player or even the car for something that worked better..

Sweetie Darling :In the UK we do have satellite radio but not, as I understand it in the same sense as in the US: it is expected to be delivered to set top boxes via a dish rather than to an in-car player.

Caddis: That is the closest to what I had in mind - they even seem to have a database for UK stations - but no area mapping function.
posted by rongorongo at 8:33 AM on February 20, 2007

Response by poster: ...and it looks like Ofcom (uk equivalent of FCC) publish all the technical data necessary to make a transmission map for the UK here.
posted by rongorongo at 8:52 AM on February 20, 2007

Radio 2 is a big PITA when it comes to my gizmo, which does 88.1, 88.3, 88.5 and 88.7. There are parts of the M25 where it seems to sit on all of those frequencies (around Woking). I'm just resigned to periodic changes of frequency, but I find 88.3 the clearest of the four for my journeys (East Anglia and London), so I keep an FM preset there.

Then again, there's always Radio 2.
posted by sagwalla at 9:10 AM on February 20, 2007

Radio 2 is a big PITA

Any Britons who complain about their radio system within earshot of this American will be forced to come to the States and listen to Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura, and "Dan and Stephanie in the Morning" for 24 hours.

rongorongo - there exist here in the US FM modulators, which are attached directly to the antenna cable and provide excellent reception. I know FM transmitters were only recently approved in the UK, so I'm not sure if this is an option for you.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:19 AM on February 20, 2007

find something lower in the FM band, and put down or remove the antenna from your car.

Probably your best bet.

I dunno about the UK but here in the Bay Area, we have a lot of stupid little low power religious & wannabe NPR type stations cluttering up pretty much every blip on the dial.

Removing the car antenna helped out the best.
posted by drstein at 10:52 AM on February 20, 2007

I'm not sure about the UK but if you're handy with car work (or know someone who is) you can get a new car radio that'll have a line in jack for your iPod for not much more than a direct-into-iPod style FM transmitter (one with a built-in car charger). then, you can just plug a cable between the two, and you'd get better sound quality than even the cassette adapter. if you're not handy with installing stuff in your car, or if you've got a really good stereo system already, then it'd probably be less economical. you might also try an adapter that scans for radio stations (like the Monster iCarPlay Wireless 200 - link to apple store so it may not work). you'll still have to hit the button a lot but it'd be a bit less fiddling.
posted by mrg at 12:22 PM on February 20, 2007

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