Review: XtremeMac Audio Kit for iPod shuffle
Pros: A bundle of of good cables and a car charger for the iPod shuffle at a reasonable overall price. Two of the components are noticeably improved over earlier versions we’ve tested.
Cons: All of the components are XtremeMac’s non-professional versions, which separately sell for the same prices as the company’s better, professional ones. Car charger becomes warm during normal usage.
Though bundles of accessories are fairly common in the portable video game world, the same concept hasn’t appeared for iPod owners until recently. Now that XtremeMac has introduced a new Audio Kit for the iPod shuffle ($49.95), shuffle owners can purchase a single box with five different accessories that sell separately for around $84. The Audio Kit’s components include:
An iPod shuffle Car Charger ($24.95), a stripped down version of the company’s AirPlay charger and FM transmitter for the iPod shuffle. The Car Charger does nothing more than connect an extended cable (with a gray velcro strip for length adjustment) to your car’s power adapter and provide juice for the iPod shuffle’s internal battery. In our testing, the Car Charger worked to recharge the iPod shuffle on the go, but like AirPlay, did become physically hot during normal use.
A Cassette Adapter ($19.95), which connects an iPod shuffle’s headphone port to a cassette tape-shaped device that goes into your car’s stereo and blares iPod music through car speakers. XtremeMac’s new Cassette Adapter is an improvement on the one we tested some time ago, and now features audio quality and noise levels paralleling B+ rated Sony’s CPA-9C Auto Kit, the best-sounding and most reliable cassette adapter we’ve seen to date. It can be distinguished from its predecessor by its L-shaped headphone plug.
An Audio Splitter ($12.95), which turns one iPod shuffle headphone port into two, and fits on top of the iPod shuffle like a white plastic hat. Like the Cassette Adapter, this version of the Audio Splitter has been fixed from the one we reviewed previously, and now properly outputs iPod shuffle audio into two headphone ports at once.
A Home Stereo Cable ($12.95), which plugs into the iPod shuffle’s headphone port and creates two RCA-style left and right plugs for easy connection to a home stereo. The cable is gray, with white plastic and standard metal tips, and an adjustable Velcro strap in the middle to keep the cable as wound or loose as you like.
An Auxiliary Audio Cable ($12.95), which plugs into the iPod shuffle’s headphone port and connects to the Auxiliary ports found on some portable speaker systems and - if you’re lucky - a line-in port in your car. It’s white and standard metal tipped, with gray cabling. As with the Home Stereo Cable, a Velcro strap is included to keep the cable as taut or loose as you prefer. We had no problems with any of the cables in our testing - as expected.
While we were a little concerned about the Car Charger’s warmth, we were very happy to see that all of the other items included in the Audio Kit worked as expected - better than the versions we’ve previously looked at. This is a very good thing, and we’re happy to see that XtremeMac is continuing to improve its products.
The Kit is also a pretty good value. If you have a need for most of the parts it includes, you’ll probably find its value equation to be reasonable, not fantastic: XtremeMac is now separately selling gold-tipped versions of the Splitter, Stereo Cable, and the Auxiliary Cable called the Professional Audio Splitter, Professional Stereo Cable, iPod Computer Speaker Cable for the same prices as the standard, non-gold ones included in the Audio Kit.
True, this dims the $34 “savings” by a bit, as you’re getting lower-quality components in the bundle, but there are two other facts: most people will not be able to notice or care about the difference between the standard and Professional cables, and the bundled pricing makes the deal more attractive, regardless. Yes, you could spend the aforementioned $84 at XtremeMac and get gold-tipped versions of all of the cables, but you couldn’t spend $50 on separate parts and get everything that’s in this box. From our perspective, that’s a reasonable value proposition, and iPod shuffle owners who don’t already have any of these parts would be well-advised to start here.