Review: Monster iCarPlay Cassette Adapter for iPod/iPhone

Pros: Clean audio output favorably comparable to Sony’s similar product.

Cons: The neutral case color may still contrast with the interior of your vehicle. And depending on where you buy it, Sony’s similar Cassette Adapter may be cheaper.

Review: Monster iCarPlay Cassette Adapter for iPod/iPhone

Over the last several years, one company rapidly became synonymous with premium-priced, bling bling audio and video accessories – the sorts of parts people would find connecting their brand new home theater components when they told a Best Buy or Circuit City salesperson to spare no expense. Whether it was $59.95 for Monster Cable’s gold-tipped Xbox cables when Microsoft’s reference version sold for $19.95, or $49.95 for “gas-injected dielectric” FireWire cables that could be had for $3.99 as no-frills generics, we’ll admit to having been somewhat skeptical of the premium products based on their prices alone in the past.

But we’ve recently had the opportunity to put a number of Monster’s iPod accessories through their paces, and we were pleasantly surprised by a number of them. Many of the products compared favorably in price with other companies’ accessories, and worked at least as well. The results below speak for themselves.

Updated 6-14-07: Monster has introduced an updated version of the iCarPlay Cassette Adapter that’s also compatible with Apple’s iPhone. Pictures are shown at the bottom of this review, which was originally posted on May 13, 2004.

Enter the iCarPlay

In addition to car chargers and cables, Monster sells an in-car Cassette Adapter called the iCarPlay – a grey audio-cassette shaped device that plugs into a vehicle’s cassette tape deck and connects via a black 3.5-foot audio cable to one of two output sources. The iPod’s headphone jack can be used as the output source, but audiophiles generally prefer to jack in to the iPod’s line-quality Dock Connector output by way of an adapter. (This can be accomplished easily using Monster’s Ultra-Low Profile Charger, Belkin’s iPod Auto Kit, or SiK’s imp car charger.)

Review: Monster iCarPlay Cassette Adapter for iPod/iPhone

We compared Monster’s Cassette Adapter with two physically similar offerings – one was a cheaper ($9.95) Coby-brand Cassette Adapter (black-colored), and the other was a Sony-brand CPA-9C Cassette Adapter that varies in price (also black-colored), our prior favorite. Monster’s product outperformed Coby’s adapter and tied Sony’s in performance, displaying relatively little audio distortion even when pushing the test car’s audio system.

While Cassette Adapter solutions as a product category are not likely to match the crystalline performance of vehicles with in-dash auxiliary ports or more expensive head unit modifications such as Dension’s ICELink, Monster’s is currently as good as it gets for an inexpensive part.

Only Small Question Marks

Our only reservations with the Cassette Adapter are modest ones. First, like Belkin’s Mobile Cassette Adapter ($24.99), Monster’s choice of a grey color for its cassette molding contrasts with both most companies’ black adapters, and standard iPod white. When sucked inside of our tape deck, it left a small grey slice visible that Sony’s adapter, for example, did not, and whether this matters to you will of course depend on personal taste and the color of your vehicle’s interior. We wish Monster had kept the cassette molding black, like both the attached cable and its charger peripherals, to unify the theme.

Second, Monster’s Adapter sells for $19.95 virtually everywhere, which is surely $10 better spent than on Coby’s product. But prices on Sony’s Adapter vary from store to store, infrequently as low as $9.95 or $10.95, most commonly $17.95 to $19.99 at bricks-and-mortar retailers.