Apple Inc.'s iPod mobile media device is everywhere you are―plugged into your computer, the audio receiver at that party, the headphones on the airplane, and now into your car stereo. Some prefer their hard disks to be hard wired, but if portable media is your thing, it's time to take your iPod for a ride.
But how do you connect the iPod to your car stereo? One cheap-and-clever solution is Belkin's $50 TuneFM for iPod, a tiny radio transmitter that plugs into your iPod. Tune your stereo to an unused frequency, and with no installation and no wires, your stereo picks up the music your iPod is transmitting. Spend an extra $30 for the TuneBase FM for iPod, which adds charging capability and a secure dashboard mount.
This is a little reminiscent of connecting early portable CD players to your car stereo via a cassette tape―kind of clunky. But for $50 and no installation hassle, who cares? Griffin Technology offers a similar device for the same price called the iTrip; a $70 version, the iTrip Auto, comes with a charger.
If you don't mind wires and paying someone for installation (or doing it yourself), PIE Precision Interface Electronics offers several adapters for $30 to $40, as well as universal auxiliary adapters (while universal auxiliary-jack connections are inexpensive, you can control the iPod only from the iPod―not from the stereo itself―so don't iPod and drive).
Adapters wired directly to your stereo have the best sound, but are pricier―up to $180. There's the benefit of charging your iPod when it's connected.
Catering to those who can tinker with stereo wiring themselves, PAC Pacific Accessory Corporation offers the parts for direct audio input from your iPod to various types of stereos, including factory Ford and BMW sound systems. Like the PIE devices, these adapters also control and charge the iPod.
Dension Audio Systems offers an exciting array of cool gadgets. Adapters, docking cables, and form-fitting "Active Cradles" connect your iPod to your stereo and keep the device in place and easily controllable while you drive (the cradle contains the docking interface). With cradles that mount on your dashboard or in your center console and transmit via FM frequency or auxiliary input cable, you've got a lot of choices.
Of course, iPods aren't only for audio anymore. For just $90, drivers with an Alpine rear-seat entertainment system can transform their iPod into a video shuttle; plug it in and play movies from it like it's a stack of DVDs. The iPod charges while your passengers are enjoying the picture, so you don't have to worry about the battery running down. A few of Alpine's higher-end stereo receivers come with iPod connectivity built-in so you can have your music, too.
If you're buying a new stereo or a new car, look for new stereos that offer iPod or other MP3 player connector kits for $200. Some auto manufacturers are installing adapters for iPods. These units provide the best sound quality, most elegant installation, and most seamless stereo-interface controls. Higher-end aftermarket solutions might also provide this capability at a similar price for the stereo you already have.
Whether you choose a simple, inexpensive gadget, or spring for a top-of-line high-tech solution, the best part is that when you reach your destination, you can simply pop the iPod out and take your tunes with you.
- What's the Coolest Way to Accessorize an iPod? Buy It a Car: This New York Times article explores the future of iPods on wheels.
- Crutchfield Advisor summarizes the different types of adaptors for connecting your iPod.
- Crutchfield's Digital Drive-Thru tool will match your car stereo and your iPod model with an appropriate adaptor.
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