Recommendations for a car FM transmitter for a Archos Jukebox Studio 20 MP3 player.
June 13, 2004 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have experience with FM transmitters?

I've just upgraded cars, from one with a tape deck to one with a CD player. Of course, this means no more books-on-mp3 for me on the way to work. I hear that FM transmitters work pretty well, but I was wondering if anyone has had good/bad experiences with them.
posted by graventy to Shopping (11 answers total)
Best answer: I'm not 100% sure what you're talking about, but I've used two separate pieces of equipment that had FM transmitters in them to listen to music on my car radio:

- CD player with transmitter. While I'm pretty sure this isn't what you need, I did have one of these. You switched a little switch to tell it which FM channel to broadcast over and then you had this stand-alone CD player that you could listen to through your radio. The bad news is that it doesn't sound that good, it sometimes skips and unless you hardwire it or run it via batteries, it's sitting on the seat next to you. As far as reception goes, it was fine. Less so on long trips where stations would come in and out.
- iTrip with my iPod. This was a more complex system where you actually load a set of station settings onto your iPod [like a playlist] that you can change to listen to whatever's playing on your iPod over your car stereo. Since the iPod has longer lasting batteries, you can keep it in your glove box or whatever. Mostly this worked flawlessly. However, when it doesn't work [as in when you drive into an area that is broadcasting something on the FM band that you are currently listening to MP3s on] there is a complicated set of maneuvers necessary to change the station which is nearly impossible to do while you're driving, if you're me. So, the transmitter part worked fine, but any long driving where you might lose the station was not the best time to use it.
posted by jessamyn at 7:04 AM on June 13, 2004

They suck

The FCC limits their transmit strength, such that they have a hard time overcoming engine interference, adjacent stations etc.

Again, They suck.

If you still have a cassette deck, use one of those CD player into your cassette thingees they sell everywhere. If you don't, go to a car stereo installer and have them install an aux input.
posted by Fupped Duck at 7:15 AM on June 13, 2004

there's a 100,000 watter i know of that makes the hair on your arms tingle as you approach it.
posted by quonsar at 7:36 AM on June 13, 2004

I agree with Jessamyn's assessment of the iTrip. I've used a much-less-fancy version called the iRock that has four channel settings--you don't want to be fiddling with something like that when you're the driver. And you have to fiddle a lot on a long car trip.

A friend of mine just got a replacement car radio with an Aux input for $90 (and free installation) at a gigantic-big-box-retailer; I don't think I would spend $30-$40 on a transmitter again knowing that a nice clean solution like that is available for not much more money.
posted by bcwinters at 8:02 AM on June 13, 2004

I didn't have much luck with mine - if all of your trips are within a really small radius, it might be okay. The really annoying thing was having to cycle through the four available channels to find the clearest one as I travelled. After about a month, I had hubby install a new car stereo that had an auxilliary out on the front of the deck. Now THAT is a beautiful thing.
posted by ferociouskitty at 8:03 AM on June 13, 2004

iTrip: suckity-suck-suck-suck.
posted by stonerose at 8:38 AM on June 13, 2004

Small FM transmitters are decent enough in rural areas, but anywhere near an urban center and you're more or less out of luck. Finding an unused frequency is nearly impossible, and even if you're successful, there's bleed from stations broadcasting on nearby frequencies.

There are, however, some higher power alternatives that you might consider. Hobbytron has several that you might consider. But as these require an external power supply, you'll have to invest in a car-lighter adapter. Which rather defeats the purpose, I suppose. But if you don't have aux-in or a cassette deck, it would work.

And if you did it right, you could "broadcast" to a caravan of cars provided you kept relatively close on the highway . . .
posted by aladfar at 9:38 AM on June 13, 2004

iTrip: suckity-suck-suck-suck.

Well, my experience has been the exact opposite.

graventy, please clarify the original post. It's really vague.
posted by anathema at 9:55 AM on June 13, 2004

Best answer: many cd players have a special adaptor that you can buy and have installed that allow an aux in. Many others can be adapted by having an FM modulator attached to the attenae input to your car. This works like the FM transmitters but since it's directly attached the sound is much better.

Talk to some folks at car audio places. Go armed with the exact model of your car stereo.
posted by RustyBrooks at 11:01 AM on June 13, 2004

I have an iTrip and I've been generally happy with it. It worked in my car and my ex's car easily enough, but didn't work in my mom's minivan (don't ask why I was driving it...) because of the way the antenna was built into the windshield--in short, the sound quality has varied IMMENSELY depending on the hardware of the car I'm using it in (and as the nursery rhyme goes: "when it was good, it was very, very good, and when it was bad, it was horrid").

It is a royal pain to try and find a good frequency to set it to, and you should consider (1) how many open frequencies there are where you'll be driving and (2) what areas you'll be driving it. Around town, I can keep it on one station, driving down the highway, I have to change it every time I get close to a city because They are using My frequency. Also funny when you drive by big radio towers and pick up their broadcast until you get past them.

It's still loads better than dragging around my CD collection in my car. I really do love my iTrip.
posted by katieinshoes at 11:23 AM on June 13, 2004

Response by poster: Sure. I have an Archos Jukebox Studio 20, which I have been using with a tape deck adapter, so that I can listen to mp3s and whatnot. The new car has no tape deck. Just a CD player.

Thanks a lot for the info guys. Sounds like I'll have to check prices on getting an aux in installed.
posted by graventy at 11:24 AM on June 13, 2004

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