Review: Dr. Bott iPod Connection Kit w/ FM Transmitter
Pros: Bundled discount, wire connections give lots of flexibility, and directions make setup a cinch.
Cons: Static and sound loss from FM Transmitter, extended set-up time, Kit only worth it if you need every component.
At first glance, the iPod Connection Kit overwhelms with its assorted cables and small electronic devices. But true to the packaging’s word, the Connection Kit simply “provides options for connecting iPod” to various audio output devices in the car, at home, and everywhere else.
The heart of the Dr. Bott Kit is the FM Stereo Transmitter, an iPod-sized black plastic box with extendable antenna, radio-tuner dial, and audio output jack. Acting as a mini radio station, the transmitter produces a frequency which can be picked up by any radio. By attaching the iPod (or any other portable audio device) to the transmitter, you can create a wireless connection between your iPod and your car’s stereo system. The Connection Kit also includes an auto charger which utilizes a standard cigarette lighter and your iPod’s FireWire port to charge the iPod’s battery while you travel. In addition to the portable gear, the Connection Kit contains stereo cable for connecting your iPod to home stereo systems, computer speakers, clock radios, etc.
Performance - Wired Connections
Although my testing of the components of the Connection Kit centered on the FM transmitter, I did spend several minutes testing the wire connections between my iPod and various speakers. Using the cables, I connected the iPod to my home stereo system and then to my computer speakers. In both instances, the iPod performed admirably, with no noticeable diminishment of sound quality.
Performance - Wireless Connections
The FM transmitter was a different story. For a week, I used the FM transmitter to pump tunes from my iPod through my car’s stereo system. And for a week, I ended up frustrated at both the sound quality and the tedious preparation required for the transmitter/iPod set-up. After first attaching the FM transmitter to the iPod, you must then locate a frequency on your radio where no station is broadcasting. The frequency must be between three ranges, specified on the transmitter itself. The final step is to tune the transmitter to that same frequency. Unfortunately, the transmitter’s manual radio-tuner is as imprecise as you might expect, and locating the correct frequency was often a time-consuming experience.
The iPod/transmitter set-up produced a quiet, poor quality sound, much like a radio station sounds as you begin to drive out of range. With the volume on both the iPod and my car stereo turned up nearly all the way, the sound was still difficult to hear at highway speeds (with the windows up). And the static that came and went was enough to drive me crazy. I tried a dozen configurations, including placing the transmitter in the back seat, on the floor, and even in the trunk. The best results were achieved when I actually held the FM transmitter on my lap. With my body acting as an enormous antenna, the radio picked up a clear, strong signal. Needless to say, this arrangement was less than ideal, especially when operating a manual transmission.
Performance - Auto Charger
The Auto Charger was a thoughtful addition to the Connection Kit. Even with the iPod’s long battery life, you always run the risk of sapping the battery power on extended car trips. And since you can simultaneously charge while listening to music, you’ll never arrive at your destination with a power-less iPod.
The Kit includes a carry case for the iPod. Made of nylon with a shoulder strap and nylon mesh front panel, the pouch style case had a very tight fit when trying to slip the iPod into it. Getting it out wasn’t any easier, for fear of my iPod being scratched. While the iPod is in the case there is no access to any of the controls and you can’t see the LCD display. There are better cases for the iPod, offering full-functionality and protection. The case seems like it’s just something they threw into the Kit at the last minute… not much of a value.
The Dr. Bott iPod Connection Kit has limited appeal. For the select few who would otherwise purchase each component separately, it’s nice to be able to buy them bundled, at a slight discount. And for those who feel more comfortable with instructions for connecting the iPod to various speakers, the Kit’s directions may be a lifesaver. For the rest of us, it makes more sense (and it’s cheaper) to go to our local electronics store and purchase just the components we need.
The poor sound produced by the iPod/transmitter set-up makes other options much more attractive. As a measure of comparison, I connected the iPod to my car’s stereo via a cassette adapter, and the sound quality was infinitely better (the iPod Connection Kit II replaces the transmitter with a cassette adapter). Without a cassette player, it would be tempting to just burn a bunch of CDs of your favorite music and play them in the car’s CD player. If you have neither a CD player nor cassette deck in your car, the FM transmitter may be your only option. In that case, a high quality transmitter - one that produces a stronger signal - might be the way to go.