- Review Price: £40.00
As owners of the world’s most famous audio player will testify, it can be quite frustrating not to have access to all the thousands of songs on your iPod when you’re in your car. However, Griffin Technology, purveyors of all manner of iPod gadgetry, has the answer in the form of the iTrip. This clever device is an FM transmitter that beams your music from your iPod to your car stereo, or indeed any other tuner, without a wire in sight.
The device, which is available for both new and old style iPods, is a remarkably small and neatly formed widget. It slots neatly into the headphone socket and with its curves, looks very much in keeping with the iPod’s design. It draws power directly from the iPod battery so it makes sense to also invest in an in-car iPod charger. Usefully the iTrip will turn itself off when it detects 60 seconds of silence.
The iTrip can broadcast on any FM frequency between 87.7 and 107.9MHz. You choose the frequency you want by selecting one of a host of MP3 files that you copy over to the iTrip. Though the installation routine insists you have MusicMatch on your PC I got around this by performing the process manually – first by copying the frequency files to iTunes and then creating the playlist. The files you don’t need can be deleted.
Then simply tune your stereo to your chosen frequency, begin to play a track, and voila – you’ll hear your iPod’s output. Just add some inane DJ patter, and you’ve got your very own radio station.
In the UK there is one issue that spoils the party- the iTrip is illegal. Under the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949, broadcasting an FM signal without a licence is not permitted. However the iTrip is available in the UK from Mann Electronics. Alternatively, you can order the iTip direct from the Griffin website. Be warned though that by using the iTrip you could officially be liable for prosecution. That said it’s also illegal to rip your own CD to MP3 format but that hasn’t stopped anyone yet.
This draconian law does seem faintly ridiculous when you realise that the effective range of the iTrip is only a few feet. With the device only a metre from my car, my stereo could barely pick up a clear signal. Inside the car though, the signal was strong on my chosen frequency of 88MHz, though it was never absolutely clear. I could also tune into my radio tuner in the bedroom and control my music from the other side of the room, which was pretty cool.
Purists might balk at the sound quality which will of course never be better that of an FM radio station. This isn’t a hi-fi solution but it’s certainly practical, elegant and highly effective. Signal strength depends on the quality of your aerial and how much interference there is from other stations in your area and while driving I found the signal varied from good to poor.
It’s somewhat ironic that analogue technology is necessary to extend and improve a device that virtually defines the digital age. But for UK iPod owners who like to boogie while they drive, the iTrip is as enticing as it is illegal.
Once past the minor installation hurdles the iTrip works well, depending on the strength of your aerial, and how crowded the air waves are in your location. It’s a shame that it’s illegal in the UK but then so is ripping your own CD to MP3. Thrillingly illicit technology, it’s a must for any iPod owner.