Review: Griffin TuneFlex Aux (2008)
Having watched the iPod car accessory industry develop over the years, we were dismayed when early add-on maker TEN Technology, creator of the flexibleDock Adjustable Car Mount and Charger for iPod, went out of business and abandoned the excellent, flat A-rated accessory in the process. TEN had been first to release a superb gooseneck mounting and audio-out solution for iPods, but newer models weren't officially supported.
After several tries, Griffin Technology has finally come up with an almost ideal alternative in the form of its 2008 edition of TuneFlex Aux ($50). Earlier TuneFlex versions came close, and even had a feature missing from flexibleDock—a pass-through Dock Connector port for attachment of other accessories. But the new TuneFlex Aux relies on a simpler, better design that is highly iPod compatible, sturdy, and attractive—better-looking, in fact, than any of its peers.
TuneFlex Aux comes in a box with nine total parts: seven iPod-specific cradles, a combination gooseneck mount and charging bulb, and an audio cable with an integrated Velcro length manager. The cradles snap into the top of the gooseneck mount with two pressurized ball bearings, which work properly to hold the parts and your iPod together. Griffin supplies cradles for all current iPod models, as well as the discontinued fifth-generation iPods and second-generation nanos; there are two cradles for each full-sized iPod or iPod classic to accommodate their differing thicknesses. Most users will place one cradle on Aux, connect the included audio cable to the “line in” or “aux in” port on their car stereos, and make a one-time adjustment to the line out’s attenuation knob to set the audio level. As with earlier TuneFlex products, you can also connect a cassette tape adapter, which isn’t included here, to the audio port if your car stereo has a tape deck rather than line-in.
Aux makes some welcome improvements over the prior version. The charging base now features a variable line-out port with a knob rather than a switch for volume attenuation—a smart move that echoes Belkin’s earlier Auto Kits for iPod, and most generously accommodates both the unfortunately differing line-out levels of various iPod models, and users of cassette adapters. Griffin’s new gooseneck is also thicker than before, enabling it to be very firmly set in a specific position for viewing and control access, and it’s ringed at the base with a colored light that shows the current charging status. This light’s not necessary given the iPod’s own on-screen battery indicator, but it’s easy enough to check with a quick glance, and looks nice. A visible external fuse on the bulb protects against power surges, too.
The purposes of a charging mount like this remain simple: properly power your iPod, and enable it to stay stable in your car. TuneFlex Aux does both things as well as any product we’ve tested; the charging feature is not especially controversial, but the mounting stability of such accessories is occasionally open to variation from vehicle to vehicle. Griffin has done about as much with TuneFlex Aux as can done to secure your iPod, using a spring-loaded charging bulb, a very secure hard rubber star at its end, and the thicker gooseneck mount. If TuneFlex Aux doesn’t secure your iPod in one of your car’s cigarette lighter ports, nothing will; in this case, vent or dashboard mounts from companies such as ProClip should instantly become your preferred options.
Is anything missing from TuneFlex Aux? The gooseneck is around 5 inches long, which is adequate in length, but not as long as in past models, a choice made to guarantee stability in more vehicles. Additionally, past versions of TuneFlex sometimes included car cassette tape adapters and/or pass-through Dock Connector ports for attachment of FM transmitters such as iTrip, but neither of these features is found here. As much as we’re inclined to miss them, no company other than Sony and Philips actually made a good enough tape adapter to actually include in the box, and those looking for FM transmitter, mounting, and charging solutions typically gravitated towards all-in-one options such as Belkin’s TuneBase FM, DLO’s TransDock, or Griffin’s RoadTrip instead. Since many of TuneFlex Aux’s best features have been carried over to a new version of RoadTrip, the only people who lose out buying Aux are those who planned to use another portable transmitter with it instead.
We consider these issues to be minor relative to how much Griffin has done right with the new TuneFlex Aux. Cosmetically and functionally, this is the company’s best gooseneck car mount yet for most iPod owners, and though the $50 price could stand to be a little lower given that a couple of past pack-ins have disappeared, it’s reasonable considering the quality of the product and the design. As its 2008 Best of Show Finalist award indicated, TuneFlex Aux may not be groundbreaking, but it is a superb new car accessory overall, and worthy of our high recommendation.