Kensington Digital FM Transmitter/Auto Charger for iPod | iLounge



Attention FM transmitter manufacturers: If you can't broadcast at 87.9 FM, then I won't consider buying your product.

If my iTrip works near-perfectly at 87.9, why would I even consider a different transmitter and pray it works at other frequencies.

Posted by Likelife on July 11, 2005 at 4:16 PM (PDT)


I have the older, screenless version and it is great. with all the noise from driving, the sound is indistinguishable from a cd. it may even be a little better because the ipod as an eq and my car stereo doesn't. I've listened to people using other things (itrip, airplay) and every so often there will be a some static—I have never heard static with this. I got it for $40 from a few months ago and am very satisfied with my purchase.

Posted by jmaurand on July 11, 2005 at 6:37 PM (PDT)



I heard 87.9 can be achieved. I read in another forum that if you hold down the two right pre-sets, you can tune the transmitter to 87.9!! A little easter egg from Kensington.

I can't wait to pick one up and try it out in my car.

Posted by cellphonejunkie on July 12, 2005 at 12:57 AM (PDT)


That's funny.I was thinking about the possibility of an "easter egg" 87.9 just tonight after reading the first comment. I hope you're right and thanks for posting.I have one in the mail along with my first ipod, agent 18 case, nyko universal car holder and itop, and griffin italk. I'm an over the road trucker who drives 5 to 700 miles every day so I figured I deserve the best. I wanted a charger and transmitter together for the dock connector so I would have the top available for the itop and italk. I ordered it last night before this review hoping it would be OK. What a pleasant surprise to read the glowing comments. This site has been a lot of fun and very helpful.

Posted by galavanter on July 12, 2005 at 2:20 AM (PDT)


As for this device sounding appreciably better than any of the other plugin transmitters, this may well be down to it using the line level output from the iPod's dock connector.

I have a Belkin Tunecast 2 that I have been using via the iPod's headphone socket and it wasn't all that good. Very quiet (or distorted when I turned the iPod's volume up) and the reception frequently breaking up.

I recently bought a Sik Imp though (line out and built in car charger for the iPod) and the difference is immense.

The volume is now comparable with broadcast FM or the CD player and the sound quality is MUCH improved (loads more bottom end for example).

Before stating that this device as reviewed above is so much better than the others, you should compare like with like (ie: a line level feed into the FM transmitters).

I must admit though that a self powered FM transmitter that charges the iPod and uses a line level ticks most of MY boxes.....

Posted by PugRallye on July 12, 2005 at 9:08 AM (PDT)


I too have used the no-screen version of the Kensington FM tuner/auto charger. I was wondering if the better performance was due to the fact that it pulls power from the car. Most of the other FM tuners draw power from the iPod/batteries, so maybe they were designed to be less powerful. The kensington, being able to draw juice directly from the car, maybe was able to be made more powerful without have to worry about power constraints?

Posted by malau in Singapore on July 12, 2005 at 3:18 PM (PDT)


I have a relatively new Griffin iTrip which I've tried to use with my iPod Photo (4G), but with sub-standard results. No matter what station I tune to, and no matter how hard I attempt to balance the volume on the iPod and the car's head unit, I still hear a high frequency whine in the background, especially when accelerating.

Will this new Kensington unit fix my problem, or do I need to go direct into the aux, and forget FM transmitting?

Posted by scottstudio on July 12, 2005 at 7:22 PM (PDT)


The reason why the Kensington works better than the iTrip most of the time is probably this simple: because the Kensington is always plugged into the car electrical system, it properly grounds the transmitter to the chassis, thereby greatly increasing the efficiency.

Don't believe it? Try this: use an iTrip + iPod running on batteries only. Now plug the iPod into a car power adaptor and try again - you have grounded the iPod and the reception is improved several fold.

The same stunt works in the house. If you plug your iPod into an AC adapter than then use the iTrip, the signal will be much stronger due to the HF coupling of the iPod ground with the house wiring.

I used to do RF noise reduction work for audio gear and am an EE - I am pretty sure that is what is happening.

Posted by BradPDX in Portland, OR USA on July 12, 2005 at 9:49 PM (PDT)


Oh cool, they're giving away a free $20 silicon case with the purchase of the transmitter. It's posted on the kensington website.

It also seems like grounding the iPod isn't the only reason why the sound may be better than the iTrip. Their features state that they have patented fm transmission technology with a company called Aerielle.

Posted by cellphonejunkie on July 12, 2005 at 11:39 PM (PDT)



The typical consumer won't make the distinction on HOW the signal gets from the iPod to the speakers, only on how GOOD that signal sounds. Horwitz's comparison, as I see it, is fully justified because it's really coming down to comparing the final product: the quality of the audio signal any given FM transmitter is capable of delivering. Besides, it's not like any of these devices typically give the consumer the choice of using line out or headphone jack out.

Moreover, there's been an ongoing debate on whether there really is any sonic benefit of using the dock port line out over the headphone jack as the feed. I, like you seem to indicate, feel there is but others who I greatly respect dispute that claim.

Posted by flatline response on July 13, 2005 at 10:58 AM (PDT)



Thanks for the tip. I'll plug the iPod into the car charger and listen for the difference. I've already shelled out $30 plus on the iTrip, so I'd like to get some satisfaction out of it before I go and spend another $80. Thanks again, your comments are appreciated.

Posted by scottstudio on July 13, 2005 at 7:38 PM (PDT)


What's a "typical consumer"?

Someone who goes into their local electrical store and buys whatever's cheapest, there, the nicest colour etc?

If so then they won't be reading this review anyway. And you're right they probably won't notice or care about any difference in sound quality.

If these consumers are reading this review then I'd guess they ARE interested in sound quality etc and that's why I was making the point about the line out sound better with a given FM transmitter than the headphone out - in case anyone reading this thread might be interested to know.

All I know is that the Tunecast sounds markedly better when using the line level output from the dock connector via the Sik Imp adapter. With or without the Sik Imp being connected to the car charger.....

Posted by PugRallye on July 14, 2005 at 2:03 AM (PDT)


This one was a thumbs down for me. My car antenna is in the back so I have gone through many FM transmitters, and have had zero luck in finding one without static. I read many reviews and comments about this transmitter and decided to try it. The "s" sound they are talking about in the review was a clencher for me. I tried 10 stations and they all sounded very staticy when it came to any word with a "s" or "th" sound. 80$ is not worth that to me.

though there was light in the tunnel...

I decided to try the Monster icarplay, as a last resort. Low and behold this one works like a dream. Its the same money, and worked ( seriously ) 100 times better!!! If this one doesn't sound really good, try the Monster one, because it will.

Posted by tmkc on July 16, 2005 at 5:20 PM (PDT)


I just bought one of these the other day. I hope mine is defective, and this is not some kind of 'feature'. When I pause the iPod, after about 30 seconds the Kensington transitter seems to stop transmitting. First, I hear an annoying whine over my car stereo, getting stronger and stronger. Then the transmission stops completely. Is it supposed to do this? If so, why? What's the advantage?

It's really annoying when you get a phone call, or you just need to pause the music temporarily, and then the transmitter shuts off and your stereo starts blaring static or whatever. Then, to get the music going again, you un-pause the iPod, but it takes the transmitter about 10 seconds before it starts transmitting again.

If this is really the way this unit is designed to work, I'm surprised it wasn't mentioned in the review. So far, the sound is great, but the pause issue is a major drag for me.

As for the 87.9 Easter Egg, I've tried it a number of times, but mine won't do it. I think it's BS.

Posted by b0sco on July 19, 2005 at 11:37 PM (PDT)


The following is cut and paste from a forum thread I started. Thanks for replying over there b0sco. So for the benefit of others:

I got my first ipod and had a blast all night with it. The Kensington transmitter is another story. Sounds great but the worst part is what you already discovered. What the hell were they thinking? After thirty seconds of no music to the transmitter, it shuts off, but not before emitting a shrill feedback through the radio, followed by static snow of course now that your radio is broadcasting the "empty" channel. I was hoping there was some way to get around it but I haven't found it.
Oh and the easter egg thing is real. Hold the two right preset buttons down and with your other hand (yes this takes two hands) press the tuner past 107.9. It will now go to 87.5 and 6,7,8,9 and then on to 88.1. It works the same going back from 88.1 instead of to 107.9 it goes to 89.9, then 7,6,5, and then 107.9. It broadcasts fine on these frequencies but when it shuts off during a pause, it turns back on to 107.9!!! You can't preset it while it is on 87.9. If you try it just goes back to 107.9 again! There's another easter egg, or rotten egg or something in Denmark or whatever. If you push and hold the first preset button and push tuner button up, a battery charge level icon appears in the top right corner of display. Each successive push "lowers the charge" by a notch. One more push and the icon disappears totally. What this means I haven't a clue. Maybe something to due with the rate of charge applied to the battery? I would email Kensington again but their answer to my easter egg question was a firm "NO". I was then told it only tunes to 8 frequencies total. This is the case with their cheaper transmitter of course but the person replying didn't know the difference. My question asked about holding down the preset buttons, and only this model has them. Oh well. I may trade down for the cheaper one if it doesn't have the auto shut off. Anyone know? And the cord shoud be coiled. Looks too sloppy... Too bad cause it does sound good...

Posted by galavanter on July 20, 2005 at 4:36 AM (PDT)


gee forgot to gotta thank you cellphonejunkie for starting the easter egg hunt!

Posted by galavanter on July 20, 2005 at 5:18 AM (PDT)


About the whole problem with the "s" sounds becoming staticy or slightly distorted...I found a simple way to kind of downplay it. In the review for this transmitter, it says that problem may be caused by a treble enhancement due to Aerielle. Now what I do is change the EQ settings on my iPod when I use it in my car to Treble Reducer and it seems to help the problem a bit if you are willing to change the sound of the overall music slightly. It also helps to have a really clear station, such as 87.9 (thanks to whoever discovered that easter egg). Let me know if this helps anyone else who has the "s" problem.

Posted by JMD1014 on July 21, 2005 at 10:46 PM (PDT)


What I have: 60GB iPod, 2005 Ford Mustang, and an innability to connect the two.
What I bought: After looking at the DLO Transpod (black) for several weeks, I decided on the Kensington Digital FM Transmitter.
Why I chose it: The 2005 Mustang has 2 outlets - the dash front-and-center, and inside the console. I decided to go for the "hide it" approach.
What I like: The transmission seems pretty good. I compared it to an iTrip, and they seem very comparable as far as sound quality. I did prefer that the Kensington's base connection because I ordered the RemoteRemote 2 for the top. The stations are easy to tune on the fly, and presets are easy to select and "save."
What I didn't like: Though I didn't really notice sibilance, the "easter egg" is just dumb. Put the lower tunings on there! I live in North Houston, and the easter egg tunings seem to receive the best signal... and of course, you can't set these as one of the presets either. Why? Why? Why? I also wish it came in black. Call me Batman, but I think all car accessories should come in black.
Overall: Happy with the purchase. I am still wondering how the DLO TransPod compares as far as transmission quality, though.

Posted by ScoopMichael on July 26, 2005 at 11:02 PM (PDT)


BradPDX is correct. I have an Itrip, which I had all but written off as unusual. The difference when using the car charger is striking. Line out is another serious audio upgrade.

Posted by Moltar on July 29, 2005 at 8:45 AM (PDT)


I just bought this from the Apple Store ($85). It works all right, but I'm disappointed. A "slight sibilance" of the music described by the reviewer was more of a "definite sibilance" to me. The S's on almost every song had static attached to them. Even when I tuned it to the easter egg dial of 87.9, those S's were still definitely static-filled.

Another disappointment was orchestral music sound quality. I have some 256kbps classical/soundtrack MP3s that didn't sound all that hot through the if it everything was a bit muddled.

I really wanted to use something like the TEN Flexdock (car charger, gooseneck, and a line-out port), run a 1/8" into the aux-in of a CD head unit (like the Aiwa CDCx204) for cleanest possible sound, but that solution would've cost me about $160, twice as much as thg Kensington digital transmitter. Maybe when I have some more cash.

Posted by benu35 on August 9, 2005 at 12:38 PM (PDT)

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