Saturday, April 23, 2005

Griffin's iTrip Review

Fancy starting your own neighbourhood FM Radio station? Costs just under 50 Euro from people like iPod Europe ;Posted by Hello

In theory, the iTrip in Europe is illegal, or not licensable is properly a better description. Yet at the Business fair TINE in Amsterdam this past week, there were racks of the iTrips on sale. You plug it into the headphone jack of an iPod and tune in the output of your iPod on any FM radio (87.5 - 108 MHz). Great for listening to podcasts round the house.

In theory, you can do the same thing in the car. Is say, in theory. The FM airwaves in the Netherlands are really full and so picking the right "quiet spot" on the dial becomes a real challenge. As I start out from my location, one channel is quiet, but by the time I've gone 15 kms further, I'm starting to get breakthrough from a local radio station in the town I am driving through. People forget there are over 300 local (community) radio stations in this country, many with a slightly more powerful iTrip of their own.

The iTrip from Griffin is not going to cause a massive increase in interference levels or have the authorities tracing you with detector vans. (There was a pirate in Huizen once that used a 20 watt FM transmitter as a babyphone. He and his wife connected the babyphone to a homebuilt FM TX and then went to visit friends in the next town. If the baby woke up, they could hear it and be back at the house in 5 minutes. That explained wierd broadcasts of a ticking clock. But I digress. The in-built transmitter in the iTrip has a power of a few milliWatts and the range in my house is from one room to the next (less than the wi-fi on the ASDL modem) and just a few feet in the car (range not helped by the fact that the FM transmitter is inside the car and the car antenna is at the back of the car on the outside - well shielded in fact. Also, the i-pod needs a holder or it starts flying around all over the place.

Is it worth 50 Euro? I bought one in the US for 50 US dollars, and I'm pleased with it. I use it mainly at home as a simple way of transporting audio around the house. The signal needs to be strong, or the FM receiver picks up a lot of extra noise - especially during the summer when there is more long-distance FM propagation possible. But Griffin can't help that - and they have come up with a simple and neat solution. I use it to listen to radio interviews I have just made on the way back to base. I am using the Archos for those recordings, not the I-pod....see why in another posting.

I know some US cars are starting to put 3.5 mm jacks inside the car as an auxillary input to the car-sound system. Wonder if BMW will do the same shortly? Naah...the software in my BMW phone was designed in 1999. Can I upgrade?.....yes by buying a new car. It is amazing that software and hardware costing a few tens of Euros is not an easy option in a car costing tens of thousands!