Only a few days left before Father’s Day descends upon us, so in the spirit of “giving to Dad” (heck, it should be a WEEK of giving and not a day), here is another gadget review. Today I found out that the Netflix Player (reviewed here) is currently out of stock and back-ordered for 4-6 weeks. So, you could give Dad a printout of the product (or my review) with a nice bow on it, or you could take a look at this new product released by DLO (Digital Lifestyle Outfitters), the TransDock Micro with IntelliTune.
I have now tested several FM Transmitters for the iPod, and each have their advantages and disadvantages. Earlier this year, I reviewed another DLO product, the TransDock Deluxe and while I thought it was a great product, I personally couldn’t use it. I have a 10 year old Honda Accord that has the cigarette adapter located near the center console/shifter. For the life of me, I couldn’t get the TransDock Deluxe properly configured to work well, even with all of the extension arms fully extended and twisted.
I had a different FM transmitter from Griffin Technologies (one of their iTrip products) that my wife manage to acquire (despite my best efforts). The reason I liked it was because of its design: a plug, a cord and the connector. It really worked well, but my wife got to keep it (worked better in the Odyssey which has the power jack on the bottom near the floor).
Then along came the TransDock Micro which this time I got to keep (from my wife, that is). And frankly, I couldn’t be happier. Sorry, I only have stock photos here, my car just wouldn’t do the TransDock Micro any justice.
Now this device is probably only good for cars that have visible lighter/power outlets because the brains of the device are in the plug. While this could be a limitation for many car owners (like with my wife’s where the power jack is close to the floor making the display impossible to read), it wasn’t for me and I’m glad about that fact. The iTrip solutions, for example, put the controller mid-way on the cord, the TransDock Micro, as I said, has it as part of the power plug.
Before I go into the details, here are some high-level facts about the Micro:
- It uses an FM transmitter to play your iPod audio over your car’s stereo
- Never get caught with a low battery – it charges while you are connected
- Automatically finds the clearest station to broadcast to your car stereo
- Use it with one hand
- Easy to read digital display makes configuring and tuning a snap
- Nice long 4 foot cord
But what I really liked about it, was the Micro’s configurability that was built in to its tiny little brain. Note, it does take some practice to figure out how to work with the settings and controls, after all, you can only dial right, dial left, push and push & hold the display (which acts as a button). Before I go into the configurability, these newer generation FM transmitters all seem to be coming out with a feature that automatically selects the station that is the clearest. DLO calls it “IntelliTune” (Griffin calls it “Smart Scan”). This is a must have feature. Don’t settle for an iPod FM transmitter solution that does NOT have this capability; if you do, you will be kicking yourself later. To use this feature on the DLO TransDock Micro, simply push the display (the OLED will show “IntelliTune Searching” and will finally stop at the best/clearest station). Just change your car’s stereo to that station after that.
The other nice thing that DLO does right about this, is the manual station tuning. The device looks like and functions like a dial so if you want to manually select a station, just dial left or right and then tune your car stereo appropriately. You have the full frequency range at your disposal (88.1 to 107.9).
I found the actual transmission to be almost stronger than other FM transmitters that I have tested. There seemed to be less station bleed-thru, even when I used a station that wasn’t completely clear. I was actually pleasantly surprised about that. So, with little effort, you can be listening to audio on your iPod within seconds. Just plug in, push the dial, set the station and away you go.
Let’s go a bit deeper now into the settings. The Micro is highly configurable (which gives it a leg up on some of its competitors). Before you start diving in and changing everything, I recommend that you read the manual. (Note: as of this writing, the online version of the manual had not been updated.) You can change:
- your saved presets
- the audio level (low, medium, high – watch out for high as you might get distortion)
- listening mode (mono or stereo – I chose stereo but you run the risk of having potentially more static. I haven’t found that yet.)
- brightness time (various time selections including always on – these is for the OLED readout on the device)
- dim level (determines how bright you want the display to be when it is active)
Some other recommendations:
- Turn off your device’s Equalizer as it could cause unwanted distortion, you can always tweak it later
- Take advantage of the IntelliTune, it will save you (or your DAD) some grey hairs finding a free station
- Start with Mono for the listening mode as it will give you the best performance
- The iPhone is not officially supported with ANY FM transmitter device due to the TDMA noise that comes from the iPhone transmitter. However, you can use it by either putting you iPhone in Airplane mode or just dealing with the noise (often you can position your iPhone to minimize this)
This is a device that any iPod user would LOVE to have, and, being priced at $60.00, it is well within that $100 Father’s Day budget. Its ease of use and performance definitely set it apart from predecessors as well as competitors.
HTD says: If I didn’t already have one, this is one gadget I would definitely add to my wish list!