If you, like me, enjoy cars (enough to own one anyway) and music, chances are you have a stereo of some sort in your four-wheeled bungalow. And if you also happen to be a sucker for gadgets, chances are you have an mp3 player of some sort. You have no doubt already read the dozens of reviews of the iPod FM transmitters out there. You can stop reading them, because they all suck. And so does that cassette adaptor your grandpa got you from his old Chevy. And the mini jack cable. What you want is a proper way to hook up your baby to the head unit. And the fact is: most manufacturers today provide a solid way to do exactly this. Most of them are adaptors that hook up to the CD changer connection, and gives the head unit the feeling your iPod is such a thing. Adaptors exist for head units from Kenwood, Pioneer, Alpine and probably many more. They will all run you about $100. Well worth it in my opinion, but read on and see if it is for you.
The Kenwood adaptor hooks up to the dock connector of any iPod with said connection. Lucky for me, I am the proud owner of this almost brand-spankin’ new iPod mini. Fits like a glove…
Speaking of which… you can shove both the iPod and the adaptor into the glove compartment along with the rest of your crap, if you like. Thieves won’t see it – plus you don’t really need the access any more!
You now control your iPod from your head unit. In my case, up/down on the joystick flips through playlists, while left/right changes track.
You can stick with the basic information of track name only (fetched from ID3-tag, of course)…
Or you can opt for a bit more details. Right now I’m showing name of current playlist as well as name of current track. Since you will no longer have the scroll wheel to flip though songs, I can recommend you start organizing your music into playlists. Changing playlist or track is easy, and faster then when changing songs on a CD. The sound quality is also as good as it can be. You won’t be getting any better sound if you burn your music to CD. I know, because that’s what I have done for the past year. “I already have all my music on CDs (uncompressed)”, you say. Then rip them in the Apple Lossless format. That will sound pretty good too.
Sound is streamed from the iPod. Yes, sound. Not audio files. This means that you can play back any format that your iPod supports, protected music from the iTS included.
What about coverart? My head unit support cover art in some way or another, but I don’t think you can get it through the iPod adaptor. Don’t quote me on this, but the way I believe you can get it, is if you use Kenwoods own jukebox software (Windows only) to rip your music, and then you can assign artwork from there. All I know for sure is that it won’t read artwork from ID3-tags. You shouldn’t be looking at that while driving anyways.
Kenwood delivers a good solution for iPod integration. I was sceptic before trying it out, afraid it wouldn’t give me the good experience any iPod owner is used to. So it doesn’t do coverart (at least not with my iPod). It will still keep your iPod hidden, and charged. It will allow you to control all the aspects you would want to control (play/pause, previous/next track/playlist), and it will even display the information you want. The sound quality is great, and the price is pretty much what everyone else is charging, even though I agree it’s more than an FM transmitter or a cassette adaptor. If you are at all serious about music however, you owe it to yourself to get a solution like this.