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Exclusive: XtremeMac’s AirPlay Transmitter Takes on iTrip

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Monday, January 10, 2005
News Categories: iPod Accessories

pic In an iLounge exclusive pre-Macworld Expo tease, iPod accessory maker XtremeMac has delivered to us a new FM transmitter designed to compete directly against Griffin Technology’s popular iTrip: AirPlay ($39.95), a considerably smaller-than-iTrip transmitter that boasts a built-in LCD tuning screen and the slogan “Smaller. Simpler. Better.” As shown in the attached pictures (click Read More to see them), AirPlay’s black on bluelit screen is easy to read, and lights up only when you’re tuning. XtremeMac stresses that the built-in screen overcomes the single biggest issue - realtime tuning - that people have reported with the iTrip.

Despite its small size, AirPlay features a surprisingly robust broadcasting range and, under the right circumstances, impressively clear audio. One channel where it was tested - 88.3 - sounded superb, even at a considerable distance. (Like other FM transmitters, it struggles on channels with interference, but we haven’t run it through our regular tests yet to determine its usability in the most challenging radio market we’ve seen - Southern California.) Using a coiled antenna to compensate for its tiny packaging, AirPlay fits neatly on the tops of full-sized iPods and iPod minis, leaving either unit’s Hold switch exposed. Expect a full iLounge review soon.

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Comments

1

Looks ok. Smaller, but more expensive than the iTrip. But you get to choose the station on the acceserie, not the Pod, so I guess that’s better.

Posted by maxman on January 10, 2005 at 7:36 PM (PDT)

2

i still prefer ipod though. its more compact. this one is not bad though, its just not a solid upgrade. if you already have an itrip, keep it.

Posted by frankthetank on January 10, 2005 at 8:31 PM (PDT)

3

oops. i mean itrip.

Posted by frankthetank on January 10, 2005 at 8:32 PM (PDT)

4

I like the iTrip’s iPod-wheel control of the frequencies—and in practice, my iTrip rarely if ever needs to be on anything but 87.7, even driving across three states and a major city. I also like how the iTrip fits neatly across the top of any iPod.

But I like THIS control method almost as well, and I like smaller! It’s nice that it shows what it’s set on—something you can forget if you change your iTrip a lot (I don’t). If I were buying today, it would be a tough choice to make.

Posted by Nagromme on January 10, 2005 at 9:47 PM (PDT)

5

Nice. But now I am undecided. I probably decide on sound quality. But competition is always good.

Posted by Wuddel on January 11, 2005 at 2:16 AM (PDT)

6

its still an FM transmitter… (sigh)  but I like the function… it makes more sense than using ipod for that… must be great for traveling.  I still want the smart deck though. and I bet that LCD drains the battery even more than the LED on the iTrip!

Posted by apple juice in USA on January 11, 2005 at 6:17 AM (PDT)

7

Bought one at MacWorld05, plugged it in at home and it sounded pretty good over the living room stereo. In the car, though (96 Ford Explorer), it definitely was inferior to a tape deck’s 1/8” input. I could hear a low hum in both venues(something I didn’t hear on the Expo floor!), but in the car I was hearing a lot of distortion on “s-words” in the vocals, most notably during the quieter points in the songs. This was variable with the iPod volume, but it clears up only on low volume - not acceptable.

Posted by haoleboy on January 14, 2005 at 4:01 PM (PDT)

8

Did some more testing on the inside stereo, and I’m getting the same distortion on the “s-words” as I heard in the car.

Posted by haoleboy on January 15, 2005 at 6:14 PM (PDT)

9

Bought one today.  I love it!  What sold me was that it leaves the hoold switch exposed.

Posted by NeoSe7en in Illinois on January 16, 2005 at 3:55 AM (PDT)

10

The quality seems to be ok, but I haven’t had any other FM transmitters before so its hard to compare. I def like how it uses the ipod power source and is nice and small. Setting the station is ez. The one thing is that the Airplay seems to drain my ipod’s battery very fast. But that could just be my ipod battery slowly dying. I haven’t used my ipod in a couple months because the only time i really wanted to use it was in my car but i needed a decent way to get the audio into my cd player. So i can’t really say how the airplay drains the battery. All i know is that I got about an hour of playtime on a full charge. The other oddity with the airplay is that when i use my cellphone by it, the airplay’s display mysteriously turns on and shows the station.

The other thing is that there is a whine in the signal if you turn up the receiver volume. I think somehow the whine of the ipods harddrive is transmitted through the airplay. Probly electrical noise from the power supply. Xtrememac needs to properly filter the power supply it gets from the ipod. Thats just what i suspect the problem is though.

Anyway i cant acurately rate the Airplay because I havent heard any other FM transmitters yet. If you have a casette player in your car the best option is an audio-to-tape transfer thing. If money is no object the best is to get a module for your receiver that interfaces to the ipod and acts as if it were a cd changer attached to your reciever. Some even show the artist and song name on the recivers display. They also charge the ipod while its plugged in. So you can route the cable to your glovebox and keep the ipod in there. You can get a module like this for most reievers that work with external cd-changers. THe best option is to look into Clarion receivers. A couple models have ipod support built in and display the song name etc. on the display. One clarion model is one of those in-dash dvd players, with a whole on-screen ipod interface that emulates the ipods method of selecting songs.

For a high school student like me with limited funds, an FM transmitter is the best option at this time and the AirPlay works decent enough for me. Plus my reciever and speakers in my car suck so u can’t really notice how bad the quality is. Oh well.

Posted by bmw5002 on February 19, 2005 at 4:37 PM (PDT)

11

I bought the AirPlay and tried it out.  It’s not strong enough to give me a clear signal without static, after trying all frequencies and all sorts of positions in the car.  The Belkin one is the same way.  Is there any FM transmitter out there that is really clear (I don’t care how bulky)?  I’d rather listen to nothing than even the slightest amount of static.

Posted by googoomuck in Richmond, VA on March 31, 2005 at 5:12 AM (PDT)

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