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Connecting an iPod to a car sound system Print E-mail

Read about the new generation of FM transmitters

There are three types of ways to use an iPod in your car. Actually there are four ways but using headphones while driving is usually discouraged in most municipalities and considered unsafe by most people. That leaves us with using a line-in jack / iPod dock connector on the car stereo, cassette adapter and FM transmitter.

One option is to own a car that comes with an iPod dock connector. Some cars produced today allow connecting the iPod to the car’s stereo using a dock connector typically located in the glove box. Control of the iPod is through the car stereo and if the car has radio controls on the steering wheel they can control the iPod too. The LCD screen on the radio serves to show the song playing. Other cars today come with a line-in input jack that allows you to connect the iPod or any other MP3 player through its headphone jack. The major disadvantage with using the line-in jack is unlike with the dock, the cars sound system cannot control the iPod. Many aftermarket car sound systems available allow an iPod to connect to them


The second option is to use a cassette adapter if your car still has a cassette player. Cassette adapters have been around for years. Before CD players were common in cars, cassette adapters were use so people could use their Discman in their cars. They are typically available at any store selling iPod accessories and sell for $20 or less. The adapter connects to the iPod using the headphones jack. Griffen Technology makes a cassette adapter that use the iPod dock giving you some control of the iPod through the car radio controls, although the product has received mixed reviews.

Many cars do not have iPod dock connectors, input jacks or cassette players leaving the FM transmitter as the only possibility for many. FM transmitters work by plugging it into either the dock connector or the headphone jack on the iPod, the transmitter then sends out a very weak FM signal on the FM frequency the user selects for the car radio to receive. Many FM transmitters allow the user to select any FM frequency between 87.9 and 107.9. Most transmitters claim to have a range up to 30 feet however the range is typically significantly less. Another common problem is many urban areas have very few if any available FM frequencies not currently used by radio stations and FM transmitters must have a free unused FM frequency to work, any interference including signal bleed by surrounding FM frequencies will cause less than desirable results with the transmitter. A few years ago there were only a very small handful of transmitter to select from and now there are dozens on the market.