FM transmitters for iPod

How can I evaluate how well an FM transmitter works before I buy it? My experience with some is that they don’t work very well. Are there AM transmitters? It would seem that the AM stations are more sparse so that might be better.

Can’t you buy one locally and return it if it doesn’t work well?

In my experience, how well they work depends on the receiver, not the transmitter. If one transmitter works poorly in your environment, switching to a different model probably won’t do much good.

Check here for reviews –

How crowded the airwaves are in your area and the radio you are transmitting to are big factors though. I have never seen or heard of an AM transmitter.

Your best bet is to buy from a local store with a good return policy. I have the belkin TuneFm (Rated highly at iLounge) and it performs decently.

You don’t want an AM transmitter. Amplitude modulation and low bandwidth make for crappy sound. If you’re having trouble finding an FM transmitter that works well, it’s not that hard to find car stereos with line in and just jack your iPod into it.

AM is not inherently low fidelity. With some careful engineering, and a strong signal, AM can provide excellent sound quality.

AM is inherently subject to RF interference in ways that FM is not. Plus the sort of cheap miniature transmitters being discussed here are extremely unlikely to meet all your caveats.

Unless you’re trying to find one that looks appropriate in a 1966 car.

I’m staring at one right this second on my desk. The iTrip. I’ve used it on long trips in the last few weeks and it gets the job done no worries.

If it’s for the car, I bought a gizmo that allows you to plug your ipod into your cassette player. Worked fine for me.

I looked into this a great deal. Currently there are products out there that allow you to plug directly into your stereo (not through the line in) to give excellent sound. The ICE-Link is the one I know of. The problem is that you will either need installation or be able to do it yourself which requires a bit of work. Also, they only have adaptors for certain models/years. Basically it plugs into the CD changer port in the back of your stereo. The great thing with this is that you can control the IPOD with the car stereo controls, so you can have the port in your glove compartment and you don’t need to fool with the IPOD while driving to find the song you want.

The second best option is a line in. Most factory stereos do not have this so you will have to buy a new one. You will also need to get a charger as the line in does not charge like the ICE-Link. Preferably you will buy a holder that combines these functions as you want to get the signal from the port at the bottom of the IPOD, not the headphone jack. The signal will be much better. Something like this would be good, though they have more advanced ones that have a separate display and control system, but they are pretty expensive.

The next best option is an in-line FM modulator. With this instead of plugging into a line in port you plug into a little box that you attach to the antenna port in the back of your stereo (and plug the antenna cable into the box). This is similar to the transmitter, but since the signal is sent via cables, not the airwaves, it tends to be much cleaner, though not nearly as good as the line in. You will still need the dock as with the line in, but you will also need a modulator. If you find a good one let me know as I am still looking.

Next best is a casette adaptor. You still want a dock for the this as the signal is noticeably better if it comes off the data port rather than the headphone jack and you need to power the IPOD somehow. Be careful which casette adaptor you get as the quality is notoriously variable.

The last and worst option is an FM transmitter. The only reason you would want one of these is if your model car is not serviced by ICE-Link, you don’t have a line in on your stereo, you do not want to get a new stereo, you do not want to add an in line modulator, and you do not have a cassette player. Either that or you do not really care about the sound quality and want to be able easily transport it from one car to another. There is a huge range in quality and I have found the reviews at to be very helpful.

I have an original iTrip, the one without buttons or display. It’s a PITA to change stations on (luckily that isn’t usually necessary), but otherwise works pretty well.

A lot will depend on whether you plan on using it in your car.  If you're talking about using it in a car, some cars receive the signal better than others, I guess due to the vehicle electronics and antenna location.  My 98 Contour has some interference, but it's not too bad.  My 95 F-150 doesn't sound very good unless I have the Ipod plugged into the car charger, then it sounds good.  In any case as you drive down the road, especially near power lines and urban areas, expect interference.

If you’re near a radio or stereo, just put it near the radio and it sounds very good. Or if you’re lucky you can sit on your couch with your iPod and play the music from there. It’s like your music IS your remote control.

Just buy it somewhere that takes returns. If you want to read some reviews, go to and search for: ipod fm transmitter

I use the Road Trip. It fits all iPods, including the new video iPod. The advantage is that it charges the unit while transmitting, or if not transmitting at the moment. You jack in, and you’re charging. AND it transmits AND has an FM transmit channel selector with a decent-sized indicator window. It is bulkier by far than the iTrip, which is a tiny thing that mounts on top of the ipod- but the iTrip draws juice from the iPod, therefore drawing down the iPod battery that much faster.

iTrip mounted in place on iPod

Road Trip with iPod in place, showing white power cable.

It is easily switch channels while using the unit. This comes in handy in a very station-dense area like greater NYC. I can start on 88.1 where I live but as I hit the GWB, I have terrible static and switch over to 88.5 with good results. I take it with me when I travel, so that I can have my tunes in the rental car. Well worth the bag space it takes up ( which is minimal ).


I just had to replace my iPod (a couple guys here in New Haven wanted my old one more than I did), and the new ones won’t fit my old transmitter. So I got this one from Monster. It works great, even through New York City where radio density is high, and if a channel starts going bad it can automatically search for a new one. I highly recommend it.

Something else to consider before buying an FM transmitter is if there’s an open space on the FM dial you can use. Around Chicago there is not, though some transmitters appear strong enough to overpower competing stations. I know because I sometimes drive near another car and their transmitter is strong enough to overpower the station I’m listening to.

an aside…

I ran across this link that shows the best “unused” frequencies for a given location. Here is Chicago’s break down: link.

Cool link! I’m in the far West so I usually get blown out of 89.5 (WNIJ DeKalb) by either crappy music on someone’s iPod or else a sports show on someone else’s Sirius adapter.

i got an FM transmitter for my ipod and found that it was very difficult to avoid interference until my friend gave me the suggestion of putting down my antenna. this rgeatly reduces the potential interference from broadcast radio, but doesn’t affect the ipod transmitter at all.