How to play your iPod in your car (Without static ridden FM adapters)

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Todays music is more often stored digitally rather than on Tapes, Records, and CDs. The iPod revolutionized the way we store and listen to music, but playing them in the car is a hassle for some. Many of you already have the "iTrip" or other "FM Transmitters", but are unsatisfied with the sound. In this article I will explain the other alternatives to connecting your iPod to your car stereo.

Things You'll Need

  • An ipod (or other Mp3 player
  • The make/model/year of your vehicle
  • Check to see if your car already has a connection available:

    Many new cars come with an "auxiliary port" right from the factory. If one of these ports are available it will often be near your power port or in your center console. Some vehicles have an auxiliary port right on the face of the radio itself. To connect your iPod to one of these ports go to Radioshack, Best Buy, or even your local drug store, and purchase a "3.5 stereo to 3.5 stereo cable" The next step features a picture of this cable. Connect one end of the cable to your ipod's headphone jack and connect the other end to your car's auxiliary port. Press the "Aux" button on your radio, turn the ipod volume 90% up, and then control the volume from your stereo thereafter.... that's it!

  • If you don't have an auxiliary port in your vehicle, but you do have a newer car, or even an "AUX" or "SAT" button:

    Your vehicle can most likely be fitted with an Auxiliary port at your local car stereo shop. These adapters run anywhere from $100 to $300 installed depending on the vehicle you drive. Considering a CD changer only holds 12 CDs and costs just as much, these adapters are well worth the price.

    The installation of these adapters involves burying a module behind your dash, and making a connection to the back of your radio. Often times the installer will simply run a wire to an easily accessible place where you can plug it into your iPod's headphone jack.

    Some Manufacturers of these interfaces:
    USA-Spec
    Peripheral
    PAC
    SoundGate
    VAIS

    You can find these adapters online but you are much better off purchasing them at your local shop. Often times the vehicle information and the adapter will match perfectly, and then you pay someone to install it only to realize it's the wrong one for your particular radio. You will be stuck paying return shipping and an additional installation charge. DON'T make this mistake, let a professional handle it and pay for it ONCE.

  • If your vehicle supports it and you have disposable income, you can purchase an ipod "Interface":

    The difference between an Auxiliary input adapter and an Ipod Interface Adapter is that the latter will actually charge and CONTROL your iPod right from the button on your radio. Only some vehicles are compatible with these interfaces, usually very new vehicles. Many will only control "playlists" or just support "track up" and "track down".

    Some Toyota and Lexus vehicles with navigation systems can actually display all the song information on your screen, as well as control all functions of the ipod. If one of these adapters are available for your car then you should go for it, as you can leave your iPod plugged into your glovebox or center console and never have to touch it. I have also seen many newer GM vehicles support this function.

  • If no adapters are available for your car:

    You have two options; replace your stereo, or use an "FM modulator". I will save the stereo replacement for another how to article. To simplify things we will be discussing FM modulators only.

    An FM modulator works on the same principle as your "itrip" or other FM Transmitter. The difference between an "FM Transmitter" and an "FM Modulator" is that an FM Modulator uses a "direct connection" to your radio through the antenna port, and requires a power source. The result is very good sound with no interference from other stations.

    To clarify: remember when you hooked up your first VCR, and you had to be on channel 3 or 4 to watch a video tape? Well an FM modulator works exactly the same, only you will have to be on 88.1 or some other station.

    Unless you are very mechanically inclined, you will also need a shop to install this, the price will typically be about $100 to $125 installed. If you have an exotic car, or even a newer car you may need some extra parts called "antenna adapters" that cost an additional $15 - $30 more.

Tips & Warnings

  • An interface that connects to the bottom of the ipod gives the best sound quality
  • An Auxiliary port that connects to the headphone jack has just as good, or close to as good of sound quality as an interface.
  • An FM modulator is a last resort, but has acceptable sound quality with no static
  • There are no "FM Transmitters" on the market that sound good, end of story.
  • Buying an interface online and then paying a shop to install it will end up costing you just as much as buying and purchasing the interface from the shop. The shop will charge you by the hour to install YOUR equipment and the job must be profitable for them. These parts are VERY specific and if you purchase the wrong one you will have an expensive headache on your hands. It is best to let a reputable shop handle the entire job from start to finish to avoid problems.
  • If you wish to use another MP3 player other than an Apple Ipod, you must get an auxiliary input adapter or an FM modulator, an interface will only work with an "iPod".
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