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(+) USE, PRACTICALITY, SIGNAL & RANGE:
This is a completely legal way of connecting your iPod to your car. Anything under 1W is allowed by Ofcom without licence. This then makes it the perfect way to stream audio to a radio without any cables or costly iPod connecting technology.
This little transmitter is designed for use with your iPod in you car, but i find it particularly useful if you haven't got a cable for something. I just plug it into my MacBook Pro, turn on my radio tuner and broadcast music to my HiFi through this. Less cables, less hassle, and a genius way around the problem. Genius for me that is. This can also be quite a fun gimmick to play around with. If you don't like the music blaring out of the car next to you, just tune your TX over the top of whatever the chav next door in the Saxo is listening to and you can enjoy your Marc Bolan album through his sound system. I wouldn't recommend doing this, but there's an idea...
In the car this works well, the signal can go from the front of our Ford Galaxy to the ariel on the roof without any drop in sound or quality. The power is enough to transmit from the house down to the bottom of our garden too, about 30 ft so you can have the CD player on in the house and transmit outside to listen in the garden. This saves dragging it outside and hooking up cables.
There are literally hundreds of different things you could do with this so for practicality it scores top marks. The signal gets a 9/10 for me because while it is near the limit for a 1w transmitter, it's not quite there. It can get to the bottom of the garden yes, but it does begin to fizzle out towards the very bottom, and i know these things are supposed to go slightly further. You have to go out of your way and put this up high to maximise its range, otherwise it won't reach its full potential. Theres a difference between 1W with a weak signal and 1W with a strong signal. This is just 9/10 because with a little bit of tweaking to improve signal strength at a lower altitude it could get a 10.
(+) BUILD QUALITY:
The casing is made entirely from plastic. It's not particularly thick but won't break easily either. You can knock this thing about, drop it and all without incident. It doesn't chip easily and doesn't fall apart. The casing can be split but only with excessive force and prying it open with a sharp object.
The buttons do feel a little tacky, they make incredibly loud clicks as they get pressed down and do wobble about in place but i can't take marks off for this, as after 8 months they are still working perfectly, and don't require any extra force or pressure to use. So they do at last last, as is the case with... er... the case.
The cable is covered in a thin layer of rubber to protect it. This hasn't fallen off, torn or got cut from use. It seems well made and doesn't feel flimsy. You can tuck the cable away by wrapping it round the outside of the transmitter's case. It slots in place at the top into a nice little hole. This is incredibly annoying though, as it takes the strength of a billion rugby players to pull it back out again. (exaggeration intended)
(-) BATTERY LIFE & ECO FRIENDLINESS:
This thing goes through Duracell's like I go through Budweiser. It chews up AAA's in a matter of hours. When left on over night you can expect to replace them the next morning. I find a solid use of about 7 or 8 hours will drain them down to a very low level. It doesn't make a difference to the battery life if you have it on a certain frequency, all frequencies drain equally. Not touching it and therefore not letting the light come on won't make much difference, as this is only a low power LED.
If you use it on and off you'll get a bit more life out of it, or twist the batteries in place for an extra 10 minutes or so. I take the batteries out when not in use because it does seem to drain them a little bit with them still in. I'm not sure if this is a standby thing but it certainly does make a noticeable dent in the battery charge. This then makes it an expensive transmitter to run because it requires a lot of battery replacements. Those are not cheap, and it's not good for the environment.
(+) EASE OF USE, CLEANING:
There is a little icon in the top left corner which indicates whether it is broadcasting or not and this is just a little satellite dish for some reason, which will animate itself when powered on to show 3 bands moving away from it. You can tune up or down in ± 0.1 MHz steps which is more than suitable for most radios. My HiFi tuner goes up and down in half of this, but thats even better because you can fine tune the signal in to whatever frequency picks up the strongest signal in much smaller steps.
There are presets that can program in frequencies to broadcast on. These go from 87.5 MHz to 108.0 MHz in .1 MHz steps. To program them in just hold the memory button you want to save to. Job done!
This is also lightweight and small so you can carry it around in a bag or keep it in the glove compartment of your car. It does require a little effort to clean though, as there are a lot of grooves and corners on this thing that collect dirt. A moist cotton but (just moist, not wet) will allow the dirt to get stuck and will lift it off easily. For everything else, use a can of compressed air.
The temperature gauge thing on this is highly inaccurate. It almost always says 16*C when in fact, last summer it was 30*C outside so unless this thing has built in air conditioning somehow then I don't know how it's keeping itself cool. Unless the gauge is badly made and highly inaccurate. I suspect that's the answer.
This is incredibly easy to use then, just turn on and you're already broadcasting, and you can fine tune frequencies as and when you need to. The screen is lit by a bright blue LED which shines on the screen from the left hand side. This isn't too bright and does make it look quite good in the dark really.
(+) SOUND & BROADCASTING QUALITY:
This thing leaks. Not battery acid, I mean it leaks frequencies. You can tune this thing to 107.5 FM and it will leak sound all over 107.6 and even up in to 107.7 just a little bit. The same is true of scanning down frequencies. A good signal can be heard 0.05MHz down and on 107.3 it fizzles out a lot more.
Sound is excellent though, you don't loose sound quality when you put music through this. 320KBPs MP3 files still sound immaculate and full stereo. The bass is full and rich and the high hats are reached with ease. It also depends on your tuner as to what sort of performance and sound quality you get from this but even with a standard indoor ariel and panasonic tuner you can get an excellent sound from this thing. This doesn't make your sound quieter or louder, it maintains the same volume unlike other transmitters in this price range which make the signal considerably quieter.
This doesn't have a clipping limiter so you do need to watch your input volume to avoid blowing your speakers. They will crackle and pop if it's too loud, so just turn your headphone port volume down.
At range the sound quality doesn't drop. It maintains a good sound to the end of the signal before fizzling out, but crackle and static will compromise this so place it high, keep it out of the way of stuff blocking the signal like walls and sheds. Not bad for £7 though!
This is an excellent little thing to have, very handy for getting the signal about from anything with a 3.5mm jack. This works with laptops, MP3's and sends to all tuners. This will of course be unaffected by the DAB switch over because you can then broadcast a DAB signal onto your FM tuner, you can play internet radio through your car if you have 3G on your phone, and like I said given the time I could list 100+ things you can do with this.
I highly recommend having one of these to hand, they make a great alternative to cables and can be a lot of fun to use too.
Cost: Around £7
Amazon ASIN: B00387NFWC
My signal Rating: 9/10
My star rating: 5/5
My sound quality rating: 5/5