Review: Tekkeon myPower FM Transmitter
Pros: A portable FM transmitter that connects to the iPod’s line-quality bottom output port without using the iPod’s or its own internal battery; simple tuning includes a station (87.9) that’s highly likely to sound good wherever you are, as well as 6 other stations.
Cons: Requires purchase of (pricey) myPower battery pack in order to work at all, a hint below the best (and less expensive) FM transmitter we’ve heard in overall clarity.
We can almost hear you ask, “another FM transmitter?” Yes. Tekkeon is the latest company to join the iPod FM transmitter fray, having just released myPower FM ($34.95), a wireless means to play iPod music through any FM radio. Yet even with many competing options already on the market, the company has managed to bring something different to the table - a bottom-connecting transmitter that doesn’t drain your iPod’s battery or require its own, and under optimal circumstances sounds very good.
By now, you’re familiar with our standard caveats - the best FM transmitter isn’t preferable to line-out or cassette adapters in terms of audio quality or price, but if you’re in need of a way to broadcast iPod audio to a car or home FM radio, these transmitters may be your only option. With myPower FM, there’s another caveat: you can only use it with your iPod if you already own Tekkeon’s myPower battery pack (iLounge rating: B+), which partially explains why add-ons for add-ons are traditionally a tough sell. You need to own the first part to use the second, which can limit the audience of even the best product.
Assuming you have myPower, the company’s FM add-on makes sense. Like Griffin’s iTrip, it’s a glossy white plastic attachment that’s the same general width as both a full-sized iPod and the myPower battery pack. Instead of connecting through the iPod’s headphone port, it attaches to myPower’s bottom and thereby benefits from myPower’s direct line-out capability, theoretically guaranteeing a higher level of sound fidelity. There’s a Tekkeon logo on its front left, eight yellow LED lights on its center, and a white button on the right. You tune myPower FM to seven stations by pressing the white button; the eighth light oddly indicates nothing. And instead of draining the iPod’s battery power or requiring a battery of its own, myPower FM runs off of myPower’s rechargeable cell, which reduces myPower’s added 30-ish hours of run time into the 20-hour range, depending on the model of iPod you’re using.
Putting the eighth unused light aside, the others are a bit unusual, too. Two lights marked CH1 and CH2 are first, followed by 88.1, .3, .5, .7, and .9. Tekkeon’s manual explains that the CH1 and 2 lights are region-dependent, and in most places are set to 87.7 and 87.9FM. Combined with the simplicity of tuning, this is good news; as we noted in our review of Newer Technology’s RoadTrip! 87.9, 87.9FM is virtually guaranteed to be an open station wherever you go in America, so its inclusion helps to guarantee that myPower FM will sound very good no matter where you go.
What does “very good” mean these days? Though there is no FM transmitter that broadcasts with complete clarity on any FM station, the best have a low level of static/noise interference relative to the amount of clear iPod music, and maintain that level no matter where you go. On its best local station (87.9), myPower FM was only a hint below the low noise level of the RoadTrip! 87.9, which has the best sound we’ve heard to date; on its other stations, it did a very good but not outstanding job, generally overwhelming empty local stations but not significantly displacing ones with actual broadcasting. There was still a modest base level of noise when the iPod’s audio went completely silent, but it was generally less noticeable during playback than in competing products, such as Griffin’s iTrip and XtremeMac’s AirPlay.
As for the difference in their iPod connections - RoadTrip! 87.9 connects to the iPod’s top, myPower FM to its bottom - the audio impact is practically less important and noticeable than the theoretical difference. Line-quality iPod output coming through a FM transmitter sounds virtually the same as headphone port output, given that both are compressed a bit by the transmission process and static is inevitably added. We’ve said it before: if you’re looking for better-quality sound, a wired solution will always be better than FM wireless.
The only other issue worth noting with myPower FM is a small one. It attaches to myPower’s bottom, covering the battery unit’s power switch and bottom ports in the process without providing pass-throughs of any sort. In order to turn myPower off, you need to detach the FM transmitter and flip the switch; similarly, in order to use the line output, you need to remove myPower FM and leave the line port exposed. We’re not as surprised by the latter limitation as the former, which essentially guarantees that you’ll be pulling the transmitter on and off all the time.
Our overall feelings about myPower FM reflect equally strong positives and negatives. On one hand, as a battery powered, great-sounding transmitter that works with 87.9FM and includes enough other channels for the average cross-country traveler to find something else that works, myPower FM offers portability and features that RoadTrip! 87.9 lacks. But on the other hand, there’s the obvious consequence of price: at $35 for the transmitter and $90 for the battery, it’s hard to imagine that people who don’t have myPower will run out to the store to buy myPower FM unless they really need both items.
As such, our rating may come across as harsher than the text of the review suggests, but conforms to our B- standard: a good product that appeals to a specific niche audience - here, those with myPower battery packs. However, if you own myPower and don’t yet have a FM transmitter, consider this an A- option, because it does a great job at a reasonable incremental price.