Putting wheels on your iPod
If there’s one limitation to having an iPod or other brand of MP3 player, it’s that hooking it up to work in the car has been something of a crap-shoot.
In one corner, there are these things that come out of the cassette player and then plug into the iPod. I found these devices to be sketchy on the sound quality, then discarded the one I had altogether when I got a 2004 Honda and realized it didn’t even have a cassette player.
Next, I turned to an FM radio interface. In theory, it looked pretty cool: Plug the gizmo into the iPod, then dial it to correspond with an empty radio frequency. While I found this device to be somewhat successful in the deserts of Utah, anywhere near a population center (including the Vail Valley) meant picking up static. Why, I asked myself, should I listen to static on this thoroughly modern device for playing music digitally?
Apparently, I’m not alone in posing this question. Lots of companies are coming out with iPod-to-car interfaces, ranging from a full line of after-market stereos (like Alpine and Pioneer) that work with iPods to simpler, less-expensive solutions. This last group appealed to me. After all, if one already has the iPod with its gloriously elegant interface, why bother buying a whole new deck?
So, simple became the keyword when I started trolling the Web for something that wouldn’t require an advanced degree in electrical engineering to install. As I said, there are plenty of them out there, but the one I found took me less than 20 minutes to install – and it works just great.
Unsure about the electrical system on my hybrid, I turned first to my wife’s Toyota minivan. I popped off the cover on the stereo console, unscrewed four bolts and pulled the unit out. I unplugged the wire harness running to the CD changer (the van doesn’t have one) and plugged in Peripheral Electronics’ “Aux2Car” device.
Simply put, this is a small box with wires coming out either end that allows your deck to communicate with your iPod (or, in my wife’s case, her Zen Vison MP3 player). After plugging it into the deck, I just ran the 3.5mm cable (which fits most audio jacks) out the bottom, put the deck back in and voila ” it worked just fine.
The Aux2Car device is only $79 (at infinitecaraudio.com). It won’t allow you to control the MP3 player from the stereo, so if that’s important, you’ll need to go up a few notches. The aforementioned after-market decks are one solution, as is Peripherals’ “iPod2Car” device, which runs $149 at infinitecaraudio.com. The install is about the same as the “Aux2Car” with the added bonus of being able to have some control from the CD controls on your deck.
Want to get even fancier? Check out the slick Harmon Kardon Drive+Play ($200). This neat little gizmo combines the connection to your iPod with a small screen and a control knob that looks like a little gear shift. I didn’t install this one, but it looks a bit more complicated to do so, if you’re not particularly handy with electronics, a pro job might be the way to go.
At this point, you can toss that silly tape-deck thing out the window and give the FM receiver to your brother-in-law. You’re in the MP3 fast lane now …
Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14625, or email@example.com.
Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado