Picture the scene: your iPod is loaded with thousands of your favorite songs as you head off for that long car trip. As you open the car door, reality sets in: the factory car stereo does not have an input.
Although at least one auto maker has committed to making this a standard feature in future vehicles, there are millions of cars on the road without. While the current crop of FM transmitters that you can connect to music players are better than their predecessors, they still leave something to be desired in terms of audio quality.
Peripheral Electronics has introduced another option: the $199 ipod2car, which gives your iPod a direct connection to your vehicle's audio system.
Some Assembly Required
The ipod2car actually consists of two items: the main interface unit, which includes an 11 foot cable with an iPod dock connector, and a wiring harness for the specific vehicle make and model. The long cable ensures that the iPod can be mounted just about anywhere in the vehicle, including the glove box for security or the back seat to allow passenger control of the music.
The system is compatible with a long list of cars, with the common thread being that the stereo must have the ability to control a CD changer. The company publishes an application guide on their Web site, so you can tell quickly if your vehicle is supported.
It is also important to note one significant flaw in this system: Any existing CD changer will likely be disconnected with this installation. That's because it connects on the same plug on the back of the radio as the CD changer.
Actual installation of the device is pretty straightforward, but not necessarily for the faint of heart. Unless you are comfortable with removing and installing car stereos, I would recommend a professional installation. In my case, it took me about a half hour to remove the front of my dashboard to get access to the back of the stereo, where the wiring harness is attached.
After setting the series of DIP switch to configure the unit for the car, I connected the ipod2car to the harness. The total time for installation was about an hour and a half. When complete, the only visible piece of the unit is the white dock connector and cable.
Heading Down The Highway
Once installed, using the ipod2car is a simple matter of plugging in the iPod and switching over to the AUX input on the stereo. You can use the Next and Previous buttons on the stereo to move between tracks on the iPod or use the iPod's own controls.
If your car has controls built into the steering wheel, you will now be able to control your iPod without taking your hands off the wheel. In testing, the stereo control function stopped working a couple of times, but was quickly resolved by disconnecting and reconnecting the iPod.
Sound quality is amazing, easily comparable to the in-dash CD player. The ipod2car uses a direct connection from the iPod to the stereo, so the system is getting the cleanest signal possible. The unit is also hard wired into the car, so it is not taking up a precious spot in the cigarette lighter outlet. The ipod2car also powers the iPod while connected, so when you reach your destination, the iPod is charged and ready to go with you.
If you spend any amount of time in the car with your iPod, the ipod2car is nearly a necessity. It delivers great sound quality with the convenience of a single connector. By allowing track control at the stereo or the steering wheel, it also delivers a good measure of safety.
One cable to play and charge iPod
Will lose use of existing CD changer
May require professional installation