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The Ultimate iPod Accessory

I’ve been thinking about my drive to work.  It’s one to one and a half hours each way.  My factory car stereo, as most, is mediocre at best, so to make my drive more palatable I upgraded the speakers.  It was pretty easy to do so, and not very expensive.  I also installed a $30 Scosche FM modulator so I can listen to my iPod.

scoshe

To install this I had to remove the receiver, plug the car’s antenna into the modulator, then plug the modulator’s antenna into the back of the receiver.  I then tapped into the power cord of my cigarette lighter for a power source.  It took about 1 hour and was fairly simple.  The FM modulator, like wireless FM modulators, converts the sound of the iPod into an FM signal.  There is a plug that connects into the iPod’s headphone jack to provide music.  This was fine for a few months, but the problem is that the FM sound band is far less broad than a cd player’s sound.  According to Crutchfield,

Answering this question relies upon two technical specifications: signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and frequency response (FR). SNR is a measure of signal strength compared to background noise in the signal or equipment. A higher number, in decibels, is better. FR is a measure of how much of the audio spectrum, from bass to treble, gets reproduced. It’s measured as a range in Hertz, and the wider the range, the better.

The FM radio, cassette player, and CD player all have different measurements for these specs. The CD player has an SNR of 90 or 100 dB, while a cassette player has an SNR of 50-70 dB. The frequency response of a CD player tends to be better too, often in the neighborhood of 10-20k Hz. Cassette players don’t deliver as much detail on the extreme ends of the spectrum and tend to have an FR around 30-18k Hz. Even so, that difference isn’t nearly as significant as the disparity in signal-to-noise ratios between the two. That’s why it is a cut-and-dry situation that the CD player sounds better than the tape player.

FM radio is restricted (by FCC regulation) to a frequency response of 30-15k Hz. Pretty similar to your typical cassette player. Likewise, the SNR of the FM tuner in a typical aftermarket stereo is similar to a good tape player: around 70 dB. When you use an FM adapter to pipe in your tunes, the music is fed into your radio over an FM frequency — the radio thinks it’s just another radio station. So theoretically, we can expect the music from our portable to sound about as good as a typical FM station.

The best sound I could hope to get out of an FM Modulator is no better than FM radio.  Though the performance is better than a wireless FM modulator, the sound is lacking in not only detail, but also is delivered with far less volume.  I often cranked my volume up to the highest level my radio offered but was not satisfied.  So I started doing some research and realized I had to upgrade my radio.

 

I looked at several receivers and settled on the Alpine CDA-9884, which was on sale at Best Buy for $180. 

Alpine

Some receivers have accessory jacks in the front, making it easy to connect mp3 players.  These provide top notch sound reproduction.  But I chose this unit because it specifically works with iPods and allows complete control of the iPod through its menu system.  I leave my iPod connected and in the glove box and can control virtually all the functions through the receiver.  It even charges the iPod.  It lets me choose genres, playlists, songs, albums and artists.  It has 18 watts per channel, which is so loud its scary.  It has many other features, such as being Satellite and Bluetooth ready, but all I care about is good, loud sound and iPod control.  This really is the ultimate iPod accessory.  My drive to work is much more fun now. 

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January 3, 2009 - Posted by | Accessories, Automobiles, Mp3, Technology

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