An Introduction to FM Transmitters

Jeremy Horwitz
By Jeremy Horwitz  - Editor-in-Chief

Few iPod accessories are as abundant, or as frequently disappointing, as FM transmitters. They typically range in price from $15 to $60, and are available in portable versions and car-only versions.

Why are FM transmitters so popular? They can turn your iPod into a miniature radio tower, broadcasting its music to a nearby FM station. Most transmitters let you choose the station, and have enough power to overwhelm a radio that’s 10 or fewer feet away.

Some do a competent job from as far as 30 feet away. This makes FM transmitters useful in any situation – most commonly, in cars – where there’s no way to make a wired connection between an iPod and speakers.

Why are they so disappointing? Governmental agencies such as the U.S. FCC and its international analogues restrict the power of FM transmitters to limit both radio interference and “pirate radio stations.” Even companies that want to create clearer, more powerful versions are limited by law.

Consequently, it is nearly impossible to find an FM transmitter that is truly static-free, and other issues such as sound distortion, size, appropriate positioning, and power consumption affect even the best available options. The static and positioning problems are worst in metropolitan areas with numerous radio stations, and generally have less impact on those in rural and suburban areas.

iLounge always emphasizes that even the best FM transmitters are unlikely to provide sound as clear as “B”-rated cassette tape adapters, or more sophisticated car integration kits. Unfortunately, until more cars offer auxiliary input ports/iPod integration, or unless you have a tape deck, these transmitters are the most cost-effective way to hear your iPod through your car stereo.

Jeremy Horwitz
By Jeremy Horwitz Editor-in-Chief
Jeremy Horwitz was the Editor-in-Chief at iLounge. He has written over 5,000 articles and reviews for the website and is one of the most respected members of the Apple media. Horwitz has been following Apple since the release of the original iPod in 2001. He was one of the first reviewers to receive a pre-release unit of the device, and his review helped put iLounge on the map as a go-to source for Apple news.