MP3 Players and Cars: How to Stream Music Through Your Car Stereo to Your iPod FM Transmitters

When it comes to playing your iPod through your car speakers, you often run into some common problems. Generally, there is no dock installed on your stereo that will accept your iPod or MP3 player. Fortunately, you have a few options for solving this problem, each with its own limitations. Solutions include FM transmitters, cassette adapters, wired FM modulators, stereos with in-line ports or RCA ports. Some will have much better sound quality, while others will sound static and choppy. It is the intention of this author to discuss the benefits and limitations of all these possible options.

Your simplest and cheapest option is to use an FM transmitter. There are two types of FM transmitters: wired and wireless. Basically a wired one connects to your car, while a wireless one uses radio frequency to play through the car stereo. The basic function of these devices is that you connect your iPod and pick up a signal from the radio stations in your car. The assigned frequency is very low and will only work for stations between 88.1 FM and 107.9FM. Any other station will not pick up the sound from the FM transmitter.

It is possible to increase the available stations, but the FCC rules and regulations for radio do not allow this. The FCC will not allow FM transmitters to transmit more than 18.75 nanowatts, ensuring that they will not perform well. Basically you are creating your own low power radio station. Unfortunately, it is competing with the major radio stations that are producing over 6000 watts of music. This can cause the MP3 player and the radio station to get mixed up in a distorted mess. One of the most popular types of FM transmitters is the Belkin TuneCast II.

It is strong, versatile, and can pick up many radio frequencies clearly. FM transmitters, while providing clean and audible sound, may not come close to the standard acclaimed by music purists. As such, it may not be the ideal solution for audiophiles. FM radio stations will never sound the same as a CD or your MP3 player. Fortunately, these cost around $ 30 a piece, making it a popular option.

When you buy your FM transmitter, you will want to see if it is battery powered or connects to your car’s cigarette adapter. They both work fine, but plugging it into your car’s cigarette adapter allows your iPod to charge while playing music. Cigarette lighter adapters sometimes come with a base. A stand is a good way to hold your MP3 player and charge it simultaneously. Accessory Genie manufactures a Flex Pod FM Transmitter that has a base with a flexible neck that allows for further customization.

Newer transmitters have PSL technology; The positive station offers quality sound and reduces drift while traveling from city to city. Most, if not all, newer versions have LCD screens that show which station to tune in. Others, like Road Master Corp, include a remote for maximum ease and control.

Another option is to buy an audio cassette adapter for your iPod. Basically, there is a cable that connects to the headphone jack of your MP3 player and leads to a cassette. Insert the cassette into your car’s cassette player (if you have one) and you’re done. The downside is that there aren’t many cars with cassette players anymore. The sound quality is much better than that of a wired FM transmitter because there is no interference from the other radio stations. Sony cassette adapters are also very cheap and cost as little as $ 10 from Philips or another major brand.

A wired FM modulator eliminates pass-through of messy radio waves when playing music from your iPod. They intercept radio waves from your antenna and radio. It only requires minimal installation, replacing a wire on the back of your car stereo antenna. You can then run the cable into the headphone jack of your MP3 player. It is much simpler than it sounds and takes about 5 minutes to install.

The modulator is versatile and works on any FM frequency. It is best to choose a station near the beginning or end of the FM station’s frequency range. Crutchfield has a great selection of hardwired FM modulators. There is much less noise and zero interference from radio stations using the FM modulator. They’re inexpensive, usually around $ 15 for a decent model from Crutchfield or some other electronics stores.

The simplest and easiest to install would be the car stereo with an inline port included. Most of the newer car models have this feature. It is a small connector found on your car radio. Simply insert the cable into the iPod’s headphone jack and the other end of the cable will connect to the stereo’s line-in jack. Set your stereo to Auxiliary and you are ready to hear quality MP3 sound. If your car doesn’t have the line-in port, you can buy a new stereo with this jack for $ 100. Buying a new radio just for the input jack is wasteful and not the optimal solution for people on a budget.

Newer car stereos, especially those with a CD player, have an RCA port on the rear. You can run a cable through the MP3 player’s headphone jack directly to the RCA port. You can buy an RCA plug-to-headphone cable for a few dollars at any electronics store. These cables come in different sizes and lengths, depending on your car stereo and how far it is from you.

Ask your local electronics store what size and length are suitable for your car stereo. To install this, you must remove your radio and locate the red and white inputs on the rear. Connect the cables to the RCA port and your car will play music in perfect sound through your iPod or MP3 player. All you need to do now is tune your radio to “CD” or “Auxiliary” and you are done.

Remember that there are many options for your iPod or MP3 player and knowing what your budget is and what features your car stereo has can help you make an informed decision. You should also make sure that your MP3 player is compatible with your product. The new iPhone 3G is not compatible with older model FM transmitters. There may be more than one optimal option, so it is up to you to go to your electronics store and make sure you are getting what you need.

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