Have iPod. Will travel?
January 25, 2008 9:19 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to start listening to my podcasts in m'car.

So, I have a lot of options, but I'm just not sure on which option I should pull the trigger.

FM Transmitter: When I subscribed to Sirius, I used the FM transmitter in the tuner and it was just OK. At the time I lived in Boston, I never found a clear channel that let me roam around the entire metro area without running into some serious interference. I live in Houston now, but, more to the point, the one transmitter for iPod I have used was either terrible or there ain't no free channels on my dial. Perhaps there's a better product?

Manual AUX hookup: Unfortunately, the stock Scion xB radio doesn't have a front-facing AUX port. In the back there is an AUX port and there is a way to hook up a device that would allow me to run a headphone jack to the front. I'd have to pull apart more stuff than I am comfortable with pulling apart. What's more, to make it look neat, I'd have to drill a hole in the back of a small compartment so I could run the cable to the front. I am not handy and am nervous I'd break something.

New radio: I could purchase a new radio with a front aux jack, have it installed. I just don't know what to buy and who to trust for installation. Plus, well, wouldn't this route cost hundreds of dollars?

My limited mental faculties lead me to believe I have the following options:

1. A better FM transmitter for the iPod.

2. Paying for a cheap radio, having it installed by Big Box and hoping for the best.

3. Getting out the drill (rrrrr, rrrrr). (I'd also have to hunt down the old instructions I put SOMEWHERE on that old Scion forum...)
posted by tcv to Technology (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wait, does it have a cassette deck? I use one of those cassette adapters that has a jack attached.
posted by sugarfish at 9:22 PM on January 25, 2008

I won't give you an opinion about which to choose, but here's my experience.

My previous car had rear AUX jacks, and I connected a cord with a plug. It just came out under the dash. I could tuck it out of the way unseen when not needed, and yet pull it out for convenience when in use. This is not a seamless and clean solution, BUT the cord was several feet long, which made it very convenient for passengers to pass around the iPod and choose songs, which was kinda cool.

My new (used) car has no AUX, so I am just going to have Big Box, Inc. put in an inexpensive head unit with an AUX in the front. I will use a long cord again, though, for the passing-around-ability.

Agreed, the FM transmitters are only marginally useful.
posted by The Deej at 9:30 PM on January 25, 2008

Best answer: Where I am, I get by with a no-brand FM transmitter. Occasionally there's a (pirate?) station that gets in the way, but it's quick to select another frequency. That said, I gather the is one other option you haven't listed, which is a kind of direct-injection system you plug into your aerial.

Okay, almost gave up, but finally found one. Something like this.

So anyway, don't know if it's worth the dosh, but there is an option 4.
posted by pompomtom at 9:53 PM on January 25, 2008

The first cable I ever bought for my line-in jack was probably about eight feet long, more than enough length, I should think, to plug your iPod in the back and still have it up front with you. Check Radio Shack.
posted by padraigin at 10:13 PM on January 25, 2008

Best answer:

i have something very similar to this for my pioneer car stereo, and it's the best thing since sliced bread. my ipod sits locked away in my glovebox, and i control everything through the car stereo controls - theres only about 10 led characters displayable on my stereo but it's enough to show playlist titles, song titles etc as i scroll through them . the sound quality is excellent (i don't think it's physically possible to get better, the sound goes straight into the stereo through a digital interface cable out of the bottom of the ipod) theres never any interference whatsoever and it charges the ipod constantly. the clarity is pretty much perfect, as good or better than cd quality, beats the pants off of the radio transmitter (i had one and hated it) or cassette adaptors (my friend has one, it's ok but not really crystal clear). i could never go back to listening to music in my car any other way!

what kind of capabilities does your car stereo have? does it display text? does it have, like, a left/right/up/down controller on the volume dial, or maybe a pletora of buttons that control various functions on the stereo? if so, you may be surprised at how much control you have over your ipod with an interface cable - but if not, just having the ipod plug in directly to the back of the stereo will at least give you the best possible sound quality, and it doesn't cost a fortune either.

i had the folks i bought the cable from instal it for me, so it was pretty painess.
posted by messiahwannabe at 10:18 PM on January 25, 2008

If you have a cassette player, the line to cassette adapters work well. Much better than the FM transceivers.

I use my everyday.
posted by Argyle at 10:50 PM on January 25, 2008

Best answer: Crutchfield. Still my go-to answer for just about any car-stereo questions. They'll (most likely) have a pre-made adapter to fit your factory unit, and easy to follow instructions on installing it.
posted by pupdog at 10:51 PM on January 25, 2008

I can't believe that front aux ports aren't completely standard on everything by now. I'd recommend using the rear input over a cassette adapter (cause they can get noisy). Like others have said, just run a long line and keep it neatly coiled.
posted by Camofrog at 11:14 PM on January 25, 2008

I can vouch for the fact that adding a new radio will cost hundreds of dollars (between the head unit itself and the cost of installation), but because I drive as much as I do I've found it to be money well spent. I have an Alpine similar to this one installed in my car, along with an iPod adapter and Sirius hookups. I had it installed by a reputable shop who installed the latter two parts behind the dash. Thus, I plug in my iPod into the cable in the glove box and I'm good to go. Everything (Sirius, iPod, FM/AM radio, CD) is all controlled through the Alpine head unit and since it's a direct connection I don't have to worry about any transmitter interference. Sound quality is superb. When I'm home, I just pop out the Alpine's faceplate (which is great for me since I live in an area where visible external accessories like a Sirius radio would get stolen.)

Like I said, between all the parts involved and the installation it was definitely expensive ($500 - $600) and I wouldn't have done it if I didn't think I was going to keep my car for a long time. But, you can't beat the sound quality (although satellite is sketchy even at it's best) and the ease of use. Good Luck!
posted by Rewind at 7:56 AM on January 26, 2008

I recommend an FM Modulator, which is installed by taking the antenna connector out of the back of your car radio, plugging it into the modulator, and plugging the modulator into the radio. The modulator also requires power, and includes a wired toggle switch which, in my case (2003 Cadillac CTS) dangles unobtrusively from under the dash - installation of the switch would require a small hole somewhere, I guess.

The advantage of a modulator over a cheap transmitter is that when the modulator is powered up, the car antenna is completely disconnected, allowing even the most powerful station to be easily overwhelmed by the signal the modulator produces - no fades, no background noise, etc. The modulator is set to provide a full-fidelity signal on (usually) several FM frequencies, selectable via a small switch prior to buttoning it up in its hiding place (mine rests unattached on the transmission hump under the dashboard behind the removable ashtray, should I ever need to get to it (never have had the need) or to uninstall it easily (another benefit).

The aforementioned Crutchfield probaby sells them, but any mobile audio shop would carry them and even offer to install it for you for a nominal price - installation is not a big deal, you could certainly do it yourself, if so desired. I bought mine at Circuit City a couple of years ago and have been delighted ever since.
posted by DandyRandy at 10:12 AM on January 26, 2008

I am really spoiled by the easily accessible aux-in, and the tape adapters I've used didn't sound good, so I've done the new-stereo dance 3 times now. I went to the local Best Buy and picked out a stereo for about $100 like this one. On their website it looks like $50 for the installation, and for me it's always been on the spot while I waited. So my vote goes to your #2. My only warning is that if you try to be there right as they open, you might get there too early and have to witness the pre-work-day ritual the employees go through. I have not yet recovered.
posted by olecranon at 10:28 AM on January 26, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks guys, I have some pretty good ideas now that will absolutely work. Thanks again.

(Camofrog: It's a 2003 Scion stock radio and those things just didn't come with AUX ports in the front, sorry to say.)
posted by tcv at 12:23 PM on January 27, 2008

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