Review: SiK imp in-car charger/line out
Pros: Cheap, clean audio for current-model iPods.
Cons: Do older iPod users need another car charger?
Boredom used to be an inevitable part of long drives, but iPod users have recently had their choice of methods to spice up their in-car audio. Some car options are cheap and have cheap-sounding results, while other solutions such as Dension’s ICELink Auto Integration Kit sound great - but at a premium price ($149.99-$199). Many people would like an in-car adapter kit that both works well and is available for a low price. SiK’s new imp Car Kit does just that.
SiK’s imp comes in two pieces. Like Belkin’s Auto Kit for iPod, SiK’s imp includes an adapter that connects into your car’s cigarette lighter and contains a power cable. But unlike Belkin’s product, the cable on SiK’s imp ends with a female Firewire port that can be adapted for two types of iPods. Plug your older iPod in with a 6-pin Firewire cable, or use SiK’s second and separate cable, which consists of a Dock Connector split off into a male Firewire jack and a 3.5mm female stereo output port. The second cable connects to (1) the aforementioned adapter’s Firewire port, (2) a current-generation iPod (or iPod mini), and (3) a male stereo cable for a device such as a cassette tape adapter or FM transmitter.
Dock Connector users get better functionality from the imp. When using the Dock Connector jack, the imp simultaneously provides power and outputs line-quality stereo audio through the adapter cable’s 3.5mm output. Prior generation iPods using the 6-pin Firewire port will find that the imp only works as a power source, and does not provide line-quality audio output.
The only thing we didn’t like about the 3.5mm jack was that it was a bit too short; however, opinions on the length of cable will vary from user to user and car to car. SiK made certain design compromises which will suit most users, but tiny issues like this may warrant purchase of the device from a store with a return policy - just in case.
Power that comes from the adapter is for all intents and purposes the same as normal power from the AC adapter, and iPod charging time is still around three hours. Just like using an AC power connection, the iPod charges while it is plugged in and playing music, so the imp won’t drain your iPod’s battery.
Clean Sound, but Unamplified
By comparison with similarly inexpensive iPod audio solutions, the sound quality coming out from the iPod with the imp is great: there isn’t any distortion on the line, and the audio sounds crystal clear. For better of worse, unlike Belkin’s Auto Kit, there’s no amplifier with a second volume control in SiK’s product, and since the audio comes out from the dock connection, you’ll have to use your car’s amplifier to turn the volume up/down. Neither the iPod’s on-screen volume controls, nor your remote control’s volume controls will work.
For its low price, SiK’s imp is a great in car solution for charging iPods, recommended for iPod 3G and mini users who are looking for high quality sound at a low cost. But it’s a bit of a toss-up for older iPod users, who won’t be able to take advantage of its full benefits.