First Looks Special: DLO mini fm FM Radio & Headphone Amplifier

Weren’t expecting this one, were you? Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO) has just unveiled “mini fm,” which its packaging describes as an “FM Radio and Headphone Amplifier for the iPod mini.” Built in silver as a way to generically complement the various body colors of all iPod mini models, mini fm is a highly professional-looking attachment with five buttons on its top and a pass-through headphone port. A bright blue backlit screen displays the current station.

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It’s also substantially smaller than Griffin’s iFM and BTI’s TuneStir FM radio attachments, and does not dangle from a cord, either. Instead, its body fits right on top of the iPod mini, adding less than an inch of extra height while incorporating a nice blue FM tuning screen.

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Where’s the battery? There is none; it draws off of the iPod mini’s battery, and flashes its letters when power is low. What about the antenna? Your headphone wires. The unit won’t reliably tune stations without them.

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A “mode” button on the left turns the unit on, and switches between FM radio and iPod listening modes. If held down for two seconds, it will turn both itself and the attached iPod mini off. Pressing it again will turn both units back on. Volume is tuned with the plus and minus buttons on mini fm’s top, while tuning is accomplished with the left and right buttons. mini FM tunes from 87.5FM to 108, and our prototype unit actually tunes in super-sensitive .05 increments, something we assume will change in the final production version. It also can do a channel scan to save on button presses.

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The “headphone amplifier” feature is accessed by putting the mini fm in iPod mode and then using both the iPod’s and mini FM’s volume controls at the same time. It’s a nice bonus feature – the sort of thing we haven’t wanted to pay extra for, but don’t mind seeing tossed in with a device like this one.

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A protective headphone plug cover will be included with mini fm for travel purposes. Otherwise, you’ll leave the bottom extended headphone plug exposed, or keep the unit plugged into your iPod mini on the go.

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How does it sound? Our initial testing suggests that it’s roughly comparable to Griffin’s iFM in tuning power, and therefore but we’ll need to run a bunch more tests (and see a final production unit) before we can say anything decisive on this. Though lacking iFM’s recording and remote features, there’s no doubt that mini FM will present an attractive alternative upon its release. Final pricing and availability information have yet to be announced, but mini fm is expected to retail for under $50 and release before year’s end.