Pod My Ride

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Date: Saturday, February 5th, 2005, 20:03
Category: Consumer Electronics, iPod

OK, the simple solution is to buy a BMW with the iPod option. Other auto manufacturers have announced iPod compatibility too and for Apple this has been like adding hotels to Park Place and the Board Walk. Now for those of us who are not in the market for a new car just yet, I have some suggestions: read on………


OK, the simple solution is to buy a BMW with the iPod option. Other auto manufacturers have announced iPod compatibility too and for Apple this has been like adding hotels to Park Place and the Board Walk. Now for those of us who are not in the market for a new car just yet, I have some suggestions:
The simple and cheap solution is to get an FM transmitter like the iTrip or AirPlay. You can bring music to any car with no installation, but problems abound. You run down the iPod battery if you do not get a power adapter for the car. Fidelity can be poor and reception can be horrible with so many stations in urban areas. It is also distracting to use the iPod while driving. My car has the antenna in the rear and I live in a dense urban area. Just doesn?t work.
Get the new SmartDeck cassette adapter from Griffin that gives you fast forward and reverse through your cassette player, assuming you have a cassette player. Still somewhat lo-fi and no iPod charger. Ugly white wire hanging out of the slot.
An FM modulator ($20 and up) is much better than the transmitter option. You install it between your radio and antenna. It takes a line level signal and sends FM directly into your antenna jack. The fidelity is like a strong stereo FM station. You need to provide power to the modulator, so you might need to pay an installer if you are not handy. You should also consider a docking connector like the SiK Imp ($30). It connects to the docking port of your iPod and provides line level out and can recharge the iPod from the cigarette lighter.
If your head unit has an audio input on the front or the rear, you get even better fidelity, but still have driver distraction and charging issues to deal with. If your head unit has a CD changer, you can get an adapter that provides line level input ($30). Problem is that the adapter precludes using a remote CD changer.
There are several iPod specific solutions that will plug into your existing radio head unit if it has a connector for a CD changer. Some let you use the iPod to control music with minimal control from the head unit, typically volume, fast forward and rewind. They will charge your iPod and that is a big plus. Fidelity is as good as your car audio system and the compressed digital content of your tunes. The most intriguing for me is the Monster iCruze . It disables the iPod controls so you can more safely control the iPod from your head unit. Not only do you get fast forward and rewind to move forward and back, but it lets you move from playlist to playlist like the BMW system by pressing the control that normally changes CDs in the changer. It is an expensive solution and only works with m-bus compatible head units. About $275 plus installation. A display screen will soon be available as an option, but is decidedly add-on in appearance.
The best solution so far comes from Alpine . Get one of their newest compatible head units and iPod interface and you are good to go. Control the iPod from the head unit and see what is playing on the display. The most control and information available to date and it charges your iPod. If your current head unit is a cassette or even a CD player, replace it with a new Alpine head unit that can play MP3 encoded CDs with track information available and even get satellite radio compatibility. The interface is priced at $100 and MP3 capable Alpine head units starts at $300, plus installation . That price can go way up if you opt for a high end head unit, new speakers or auxiliary amplifiers.
Here?s what I did: I got an FM modulator and ran an audio cable back to a SiK Imp line level iPod connector in my console. I already have a power receptacle in the console which lets the Imp charge the iPod. What does this do? It provides output to a preselected FM station on my stereo for decent fidelity on a shoestring budget ($50). I just set my iPod playing before I go and don?t bother with it while driving. I can still change radio stations or listen to high fidelity, uncompressed CD?s without worrying about the iPod as it plays and charges in the console. It left enough money in my budget to get decent Polk Audio speakers to replace the cardboard OEM speakers in my 10 year old ride. Fifty bucks invested and I am quite pleased.
Or………….. you could rig a ten Mac mini cluster in the trunk of your Prius (you are going to need all that battery power!) and sign up for StarBand satellite internet service. Mount an iSight to the dash and each bumper. Bluetooth for your phone. War Drive with Airport. Put PowerMates everywhere. Get an Asteroid and a guitar. Fill any remaining space with amps and sub-woofers and flat screens and you are good to go! Installation by West Coast Customs of course. Help me out and POD MY RIDE Xzibit!

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