Using Your Ipod With Your Car Stereo

Hear your iPod tunes coming right out through the speaker of the car stereo by hooking an adapter to your iPod.

One good thing about an iPod is that it's such a successful product there are scads of add-ons for all sorts of things. So you have a lot to choose from to connect your iPod to your car stereo.

Since the iPod is standardized to a few different types, manufacturers have been able to build customized adapters that do some neat things.

Most of them send the audio from the iPod to the car's FM stereo by means of a tiny FM transmitter in a docking adaptor. You plug the iPod into the dock, and the audio goes to the transmitter, which feeds a short antenna, usually a metal rod. This radiates an FM signal just like a real radio station so you then tune it in on your car stereo.

Some of the mobile docking systems have extra features, including the ability to program the frequency into the iPod to which the FM transmitter should be tuned, so by just selecting the frequency as you would a song, the frequency changes. Some have digital displays of the frequency, and some allow you to sync the iPod with iTunes or charge its batteries while still in the dock.

While all these make using the system easier, there are a few inherent problems with any system that uses a transmitter radiating through the air for pickup on an in-dash stereo FM receiver. One of them is that you're supposed to tune the transmitter and the receiver to an unused FM frequency. Where most people live, there are few unused frequencies. As you drive around, you'll come into range of other stations and one of them is apt to be on or near the frequency you've chosen. The result is that you'll hear the station, usually with a lot of distortion so it sounds more like noise than a radio station, but it means you'll have to be tinkering with both the transmitter and the receiver as you drive.

The other main limitation is that FM broadcasting even under the best of circumstances won't sound as good as your iPod does into headphones. The frequency response is less, the noise is greater, and there are other forms of distortion that always from the added processing.



But using an FM transmitter is a very simple solution for most people and there's no professional installation needed. You can also use the FM transmitters made for any MP3 recorder with your iPod, except that since they're not built for the iPod they're apt to be a bit messier in terms of having extra little boxes and wires around.

The neatest way to connect your iPod to your car stereo is exactly the way you'd connect it to your home stereo - with a patch cord - a wire with a plug at either end - one going into the iPod, the other into the stereo.

Why don't people do this all the time? Because most car stereos don't have an auxiliary input. Some of them do, and you might find it on the front or rear of the stereo. If you're thinking of buying another car stereo, or a separate preamplifier/amplifier, you'll be able to get one that has an auxiliary input for the iPod and have a neat installation that sounds as good, and in some cases better, than using the iPod with headphones, and only the one wire to deal with. It'll be a higher-end stereo as well, so the chances are it will sound better with everything you listen to.

Some car stereos don't have an auxiliary input but do have an input for a CD changer, usually on their rear panel. It's possible to connect the iPod to that and it will work just as well as the auxiliary input, and you'll be able to use your CD's as well. Auxiliary input adapters for CD inputs are available from auto stereo installers and companies that supply auto sound accessories.

In fact there's one unit on the market that promises not only to put the iPod's audio into the car stereo, but the CD buttons on the car stereo control the iPod to change tracks and such, and the iPod gets charged at the same time.

One other technique used to send iPod audio, or any device's audio for that matter, to a car stereo, is the cassette adapter. It looks like a standard cassette, except it has a wire that plugs into the iPod. You "play" the adapter just like a cassette. If it works in your car, the sound quality is fairly good, and there's none of the fiddling needed with a transmitter system. It's simple and usually the cheapest possible solution.

However not all cars have cassette players to use this with, some cassette players simply eject the adapter, while others continuously reverse since the adapter isn't enough like a real cassette for them. Even if it does work, you still have to contend with the constant noise and wear to the cassette mechanism, which will be continuously running while you're listening.

Before you get an adapter of any kind, make sure you know exactly which iPod you have. Many of the more sophisticated units only work with the 3rd and 4th generation iPods, some with the Mini, and a few with the Shuffle. They differ in hookups and whether or not there's a docking port. So know what you've got or take it to the store to make sure, so you'll have many miles of companionship from your iPod.

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