If you’ve already purchased an iPod
or other MP3 player and are now searching for a way to take your music on the go, then you might consider an FM transmitter. An FM transmitter works by transmitting the music from your MP3 player directly to a radio in your car or home. Typically, you will need a station to broadcast on that is blank or has a weak signal so that the FM transmitter won’t need to compete with larger broadcasting devices. The Belkin TuneCast digital FM transmitter is an excellent choice for price and function, but might leave listeners disappointed if they are interested in quality or hands-free ease.
I purchased my Belkin TuneCast from eBay for less than $20 (including shipping & handling). Amazon.com also offers the Belkin TuneCast for as little as $13, if you purchase it from the “new and used” section, but this price may not include shipping/handling or insurance. I do recommend insurance or checking for a return policy, because my digital Belkin TuneCast from eBay arrived with the LCD digital display broken and I had to order a second one.
The TuneCast runs off from two AA batteries, but also comes with a car adapter. It boasts an auto on/off feature that at first appears convenient, but ultimately may be an annoyance. For example, when you plug the TuneCast into your iPod it will recognize that it should be transmitting and will power itself on automatically. Likewise, if the TuneCast recognizes that it is no longer transmitting, it will turn itself off. This means if you drive through an area where the station you’ve selected to broadcast on is suddenly occupied, it simply turns itself off. It will also power itself off if you take too long finding a station to broadcast on.
The digital TuneCast allows the listener to pre-set up to four stations that are best for transmitting. The preset feature is especially helpful in negotiating the auto on/off feature while driving. However, it can take some practice to learn what stations are the best. You must set your radio station to the same as the read-out on the LCD display for the TuneCast, which can be more than challenging if you alone on a country road, and downright suicidal if you are driving through a crowded city.
To circumvent the problem of matching the TuneCast to your radio station, a listener can go to a website like FMFind.info. By inputting your zip code (or the zip codes of the places you might be traveling in), the website will provide several “empty” stations that you can broadcast to with your FM transmitter. Then you simply preset your TuneCast and your car radio presets and hit the road.
Before I found the FMFind.info website, I was at a loss for how to get my money’s worth from the TuneCast. I live 11 miles south of Lansing, MI in a small town and travel to Lansing nearly every day. While the TuneCast worked fine in my hometown, it began to fritz and incorporate more static the closer I got to the larger city. Once I was already driving, I was reluctant to pull over just to reset my transmitter, and ultimately the static overtook the station. With the information from FMFind.info, I can easily adjust both my transmitter and my radio to get the maximum musical experience on my trips to and from the city.
One note for those who hope to use the TuneCast with their in-home stereos: the TuneCast seems to either require (or simply prefer) a radio with a physical antenna. If you believe you will only need an FM transmitter for use in your home, then I would recommend considering other options such as auxiliary cords or speaker systems designed specifically for your MP3 player.
As far as quality goes, the Belkin TuneCast is comparable with a radio station. There are static and volume issues that would be similar with any radio broadcast. If you are looking for the crisp and clean quality that you might expect from a CD, then you may want to fork over some extra cash for a higher powered transmitter. However, the TuneCast does get the job done and works fine for those who simply want to take their MP3 collection on the go.