Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Road music: tech suggestions?

I'm getting antsy about my upcoming road trips, most of all about how to keep good tunes flowing.  I will spare you all my long and repetitive rant about how terrible FM radio is nowadays.  I shall content myself by saying that I mostly hate radio, and prefer to listen to my own music on the road.  I've got huge and varied playlists of all sorts on my iTunes, but I do not, as yet, have a device that lets me listen to my iPod in the car.  (Leaving aside the obvious and awful idea of wearing my headphones in the car.  I'm just not going to do that.) 

I can't do the best thing, which would be to buy a cable that plugs the iPod directly into the auxiliary input jack of my stereo, because my aged little car has no such jack.  So I have to figure out what the next-best thing would be.  As far as I can see, my only options are to buy a device that uses one of those cassette-player inserts – yes, my car stereo actually has a tape deck in it – or an FM transmitter that takes over the stereo's radio to transmit the iPod's music.  As I recall, those cassette devices always sucked.  That pushes me toward the transmitter, but I have no idea which ones work well.  Do any of my readers have something like this?  Can anyone recommend one brand over another?  When I look at product reviews online, it looks like plenty of people hate everything on the market.  Hard to gauge without trying it out myself.


  1. I have a transmitter made by Monster, and it works very well. It charges the iPod, too.

  2. I rely on the cassette one, although I can't at the moment look at it to see what brand it is. It is not superb, but it is better than the radio. The FM radio one is annoying for travel because you set it to a station that doesn't come in well, and obviously this changes a lot when you are traveling so you will constantly have to change the station it is set too, unless they have improved in recent years. For really long drives, I actually recommend listening to books, rather than music, or interspersing them.

  3. I have a transmitter (can't think who makes it, but it's white and looks mac-y) AND a cassette device, because the transmitter is deeply annoying when you're passing through places that don't get good reception. But maybe better transmitters don't to that.

    In short, this is a useless comment. Good luck!

  4. I have a VW Beetle, which was not made with a CD player (!!!!), and I bought the tape-deck adapter thingy directly from Apple. I haven't had any problems with it, and this thing is now probably almost 10 years old.

    Dang, I got old when I wasn't looking! Wait, where was I?

    I have a thing that plugs into the cigarette lighter and charges the ipod too. I would go with this --- you can make a playlist that lasts a couple hours and not have to pick albums while driving.

  5. I have a Belkin transmitter; it's four years old, so they don't make the exact one anymore, but they still look basically the same.

    My audio-geek brother tells me that the cassette ones get better audio quality, because there's no interference in the spectrum. Unless you are going to be driving through multiple highly saturated FM markets, you should be OK with a transmitter.

    Do you have a CD player, though? I find that burning physical CD mixes is even more fun.