I just spent a week with a new hardware accessory for my iPod touch and I wanted to share the review with you today. It’s called the Belkin TuneBase FM with Hands-Free.
I spend about 45 minutes a day in my commuting and I use that time to catch up on podcasts. Like so many other iPod owners, my car does not have a built-in plug for an iPod connection, so I have to use third party alternatives to listen to the iPod touch thru my car stereo. The easiest method is using an FM transmitter to listen to the iPod via an open FM channel on my radio.
Using an FM transmitter may be the easiest solution, but seldom produces the highest quality audio. I’ve tried several inexpensive alternatives, and although they’ve worked to a point, the problems I encountered were many and the sound quality was low. I finally tried the $99.99 retail Belkin TuneBase FM with Hands-Free and am very happy I did.
The basic construction mimics several other iPhone/iPod connectors. One end plugs into the vehicle’s power plug/cigarette lighter, and then a flexible snake-like cable allows you to bend the iPod so you can easily view it and tune it. The connection clamp grabs the top and bottom of the iPhone or iPod and below the clamp is the control center for the TuneBase. The control center has buttons for tuning the transmitter frequency up or down, the ClearScan button, two buttons to remember frequently used frequencies and what they call a Pro setting that optimizes the audio and boosts the volume.
Below the control center is the connection to the iPod which also contains a multifunction button that can be used to easily pause or play music, change tracks, and receive calls. There is also a USB plug and a 3.5 audio out jack you can use to charge other devices or play audio through a tape adaptor or external speakers.
As you can tell, this is an amazingly feature rich device. It has more functionality then any FM transmitter I’ve ever dealt with before. So after I just listed all the features, what about the performance? Although the quality was not as good as a direct connected iPod to the car stereo, the Belkin TuneBase had the best audio of any transmitter I’ve tried over the years. The ClearScan button finds the open stations and the Pro button gives you the boost you need listen to podcasts, audiobooks or music. The operation was simple and easy to manage while driving. I am actually surprised to hear myself say that the Belkin TuneBase FM is worth the $100 retail.
So what are some of the things that bothered me about the Tubebase? Well, the flexible connection cable seemed to be a little too long or a little too flexible because when I drove, the iPod had a slight shake to it that I was unable to resolve. If a passenger in the car wanted to watch a video in the iPod while I was driving, they would have a difficult time with the shake. Also the ClearScan feature seemed to grab channels that were not actually clear. I would have liked to had the ability to control the signal strength of the open frequencies that it found. Other then that, I was very happy with the Belkin Tunebase FM Transmitter with hands-free. You can find it at www.belkin.com. You can also purchase it for much less through Amazon, so make certain you do a little searching before you buy for the best deal.