I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, but I initially had some issues with it to work out with it first – I didn’t want to slam a product without giving it a fair chance, particularly when it looks as good as this one did. You see, iTrip is the best possible iPod accessory design to date.
iTrip is made by a little known company called Griffen Technologies. I say little known because Griffen is known for making Mac related accessories and peripherals, and while Mac people are incredibly outspoken and energetic, they are still less than 10% of the personal computer market… consequently they get around by word of mouth. This is not a bad thing, either. I get the impression that Griffen likes being an “underdog” because it allows them to really innovate their product line – translation: they’ve got some of the coolest gizmos out there and they keep one upping themselves. Also, a lot of their products, like the iTrip and the iCurve, are cross-platform, inspite of them being mostly a Mac company. Even though they might have had the Mac in mind when originally designed – hence the i – they can be effective with a PC-based platform. The iCurve, as an example, is currently the stand that I use for my drum module for my electric drum set, so a Mac is hardly required.
Anyway, on to the iTrip. The iTrip is an FM-transmiter for an iPod – it will play music over an FM band frequency so that an FM radio can pick up the music and “rebroadcast” it. This is hardly a new concept, right? In fact this is the third FM-transmitter product I’ve tried for my iPod. Since the first two were shit (either not powerful enough or not enough frequencies to choose from) I was skeptical. I gotta admit it – the iTrip is the best there is.
What makes it different? First off, it was designed for the 1st and 2nd Generation iPod, instead of being some “one size fits all” solution. Because of this, there’s no extra battery required for the transmitter – the iTrip uses the special “remote earpiece” jack to get it’s power. It was also designed to look very iPod-ish. Vanity? Hells yeah! The iPod is elegant in all three generations, so who wants a dongle or neon-looking attachment for playback? No, the iTrip is small and looks like it’s part of the iPod. In fact, I had to explain it to someone on the train just the other day, because they had heard about the iPod and had seen pictures but wanted to know why mine had this extra piece on top of it.
What about the new 3rd generation iPod? Yes, Apple did change the design of the iPod this generation, but it’s OK. Really. Griffen already announced that they’ll have a new version of the iTrip by the end of July (it might even be the end of June – I don’t have to care because I’m an old school-Gen1 owner.) There’s actually a guy with a Gen3 sitting next to me – I am a bit jealous of the blue backlit and the red buttons – matches my Passat’s dashboard, actually – but I still like my moving wheel. Either way, Griffen is rushing to support the new generation of iPods, which is always a good sign from a peripherals company.
And how does it work? This is where the iTrip is pretty freakin’ cool. Out of the box it’s set to 87.9 FM, so you don’t need any special software for it. However, the iTrip comes with a a CD with a playlist on it. Granted, for my Gen1 iPod, I had to move my play list over by hand – it’s not very XPlay friendly – but that was no hardship. Gen1 Mac users and all Gen2 users will have no problem. See, this play list is what allows you to change the play back frequencies on the device. This was a huge deal for me, living in Connecticut, believe it or not. While I had shit for cable and broadband options for years, I have about two available FM frequencies available without a station on them already. The rest of the dial has either a full radio station signal or next to a station that is so powerful that it breaks through; that’s why there’s only two frequencies that will work for me, as there’s so many stations around here. For example, I once got 99.9 FM – from Bridgeport, CT – in central New Jersey. It’s one of those stations that can be picked up by putting a wet finger in the air and just listening. With the iTrip, I can pick any frequency I want for play back – makes it a perfect solution for the car – which I need to have. The last FM-transmitter I tried (the iRock) offered just four different frequencies in the 88’s and none of them worked for me.
It makes for an [almost] perfect solution. I mean, if it was that perfect, why did I have to wait to write about it? It seems that the iTrip wasn’t too Jeep friendly, the first couple of times I tried it. They do note, in the troubleshooting section of the FAQ, that there can be issues with cars that have specially lined windshields, but my 95 Jeep isn’t one of them. However, it seems that the engine vibrations that my Wrangler makes – 95, entry level, stock, and no cushion to speak of – and chatters my lock-box/drink-holder were wreaking havock with the iTrip/iPod combo. I’ve used one of those “cassette with a wire” solutions without a problem, so this was a new thing and only effected the FM play back method. On a whim, I dropped the iPod into my computer bag – it was still playing through the iTrip – and that caused the distortion and static to disappear. Sort of a shock, actually – it only needed a slight cushion and the iTrip is pumping out enough FM to broadcast through a bag.
So if you have an iPod, and you want to play back in a car, or even boom box, pick this up. I personally hate the “cassette with a wire” bit because both my car stereos think it’s a metal tape and that muffles my treble something awful. In the house, I’ve found that my stereos have shit for FM reception, but yes, it’s worked on those too, if I got the iPod closer to the antenna. The whole thing only works if the radio can pick up radio signals, after all! Basically, you can just roam around the world, overriding other people’s radio stations with your iPod music… that’s just good times!
Oh, and a Gen2 iPod user just sat next to me – three generations of iPod spinning next to each other in harmony on the train this morning… this is the closest thing to good digital karma that a Geek can get.
Great way to start a new work week, for a change.