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A few weeks ago, my mini-phone-plug to cassette adaptor – that thingy you can use to connect something with a headphone jack to the cassette player in you car – died. Some wires broke away from a connector in a way that was impossible to repair. So, I went to the local Radio Shack, where the friendly person behind the counter convinced me to get a wireless FM transmitter instead. (It was a new Radio Shack item that was on sale.) The idea is you can plug that into your MP3 player (or whatever), then tune the car radio to an FM signal, and, voilà, music without wires !

Well, it didn't really work. First, there was a noticeable amount of noise when the music was quiet; fiddling with the volume controls on both the player and the radio did not help. The noise got a little more noticeable when the transmitter was used with batteries (as opposed to the included DC power adaptor). Even worse/better, if I used the windshield wipers, there was horrible interference. Cripes, what is this, AM RADIO ?

I should have known better when the nice lady behind the counter suggested that I try an alternate brand (iBeam ? I'm trying to suppress the memory now), but the results might have been only marginally better, and just not acceptable.

So now I'm back to the “primitive” cassette adaptor solution, which of course is awkward and old fashioned, but it works. It's definitely more distorting than a simple piece of wire, but at least it's not noisy and at the mercy of the ether.

Really, it would be nice if more car stereos just had a line input on the front – and some do, like the cheap Aiwa deck that I'd bought for the Neon five years ago. Until direct connections like that become more common, we'll have to suffer the indignity of these imperfect solutions.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
salaryman
Apr. 2nd, 2005 03:24 am (UTC)
iTrip v. cassette adatpor
the FM transmitter they sell at our local Mac store --iTrip -- works pretty well, but not nearly as well as the cassette adaptor.

In the car the cassette adaptor is superior technology.

However the iTrip thingy is still in the repertoire primarily because it allows broadcasting over the radio my parents got me thirtysomething years ago, a Realistic Astronaut-6. It's a bit of a conceptual hack -- using new digital technology over an old analog radio -- but, I love that old radio and it's funny to hear iPod broadcasts over it.

The iTrip is good for times when we're riding with friends who don't have a cassette player. Some newer cars don't even have cassette players as an option.

good luck in your new job!
rpkrajewski
Apr. 2nd, 2005 04:09 am (UTC)
Thanks !
It could be that the FM radio in the car just doesn't like those kind of devices. I would actually consider something like the iTrip for the home, except I've already got an Airport Express so I can play iTunes from any computer in the house on the stereo. And I definitely was thinking about cars without cassette decks – they are still surprisingly common, especially on rental cars.

I also love the idea of playing something very new through something very old.

sonofabish
Apr. 2nd, 2005 07:48 am (UTC)
It's funny you mention that. I have a cassette player in my car and have considered installing my cd player, but then I lose the option of jacking my laptop in via that cassette interface and playing my mp3s. And as inelegant as the cassette adapter is, it still works pretty well provided it is seated correctly.
mykescipark
Apr. 13th, 2005 12:49 am (UTC)
Oh, those mini FM transmitters are SUCH crap. I haven't tried the Officially Sanctioned iPod Version which attaches to the unit itself, but the weird short wires with the big unwieldy pods dangling off the end ... they're way too high-maintenance for things like, oh, I dunno, operating a motor vehicle at high velocities.

The cassette adaptors have their setbacks, but they are reliable.

Line inputs are lovely but, as you say, still scarce.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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