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Review - AirPlay2
Friday, January 20th, 2006 at 12:15 PM - by
Most of you who have read the iPodObserver for any period of time know that my affinity for FM transmitters is practically nonexistent. FM transmitters may have all the best intentions and look sharp on paper—promising a quick and easy way to beam your music to your car stereo or any FM receiver—but most executions are mediocre at best. Unfortunately, the ever increasing number of iPod-oriented FM transmitters on the market don't seem to offer much promise. Today's crop of FM transmitters may be smaller, easier to use, and offer more functionality than those of years past (and at a higher price tag), but their ultimate purpose of transmitting music to your stereo in any decent capacity continues to fall short.
Such is the fate of XtremeMac's latest FM transmitter, the AirPlay2. The compact transmitter is compatible with all dock-connector iPods and blends perfectly with the iPod nano's design but simply doesn't offer the performance one should expect in a $60 accessory.
That is not say that the AirPlay2 isn't without its share of attractive features. It sports a nice blue-and-white LED read-out that allows you to see and control every aspect of the AirPlay2 without touching your iPod. It even automatically dims after a short period of time to conserve your iPod's battery, from where the AirPlay2 draws its power. Three preset stations can be dialed in as you see fit, each instantly accessed with the push of a button. The AirPlay2 can be toggled to output your music in DX (mono) or LX (stereo) modes, the former producing a stronger signal. Lastly, a pass-through dock connector on the bottom of the AirPlay2 means that you can connect any other dock-connected iPod accessory in tandem with it.
All the best features in the world can't make up for a product that simply doesn't sound good, however, and here—like all the FM transmitters we've come across—the AirPlay2 falls short. In our Infiniti, the AirPlay2 beamed music to the stereo that sounded woefully flat. Bass frequencies simply were not there and highs lacked the crispness they had when listening to the iPod connected directly to the stereo's line-in port or a cassette adapter. Bose stereos—ney, all stereos—deserve better, as do your ears.
Like Griffin's iTrip with Dock Connector (2 out of 5), reception sometimes improved when we placed the iPod upside-down so the FM transmitter was pointing up, but to no great degree. Furthermore, the AirPlay2 is not capable of hitting 87.9MHz, that sweet spot frequency that is virtually unused in the U.S. (but that not all car stereos can receive it themselves, mind you). Its frequency range is otherwise complete, spanning 88.1MHz to 107.9MHz, but in crowded metropolitan areas getting a good signal from the AirPlay2 on any frequency, even in mono mode, can be difficult.
The kicker is the AirPlay2's price tag: a not-at-all paltry $60. That makes it $10 more expensive than Griffin's iTrip with Dock Connector but $10 less than Griffin's iTrip Auto (2 out of 5), which delivers marginally better audio quality than the AirPlay2. If the AirPlay2 cost half of what it does, which is closer to what we feel it's worth but still on the expensive side, we might be able to bump our rating up to 3 stars and call it "solid" relative to other offerings out there, but as it is the AirPlay2 is another overpriced FM transmitter that under delivers.
Just The Facts
Pros: good design, supports three custom presets
Cons: expensive, mediocre sound quality, can't hit 87.9MHz
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