January 12, 2006
../ TestDrive: Best iPod Accessories of 2005
The year 2005 saw hundreds of new iPod accessories come to market, many were innovative and
significantly improved the iPod listening experience, while others were severely lacking in quality and functionality. In this special Futuremusic report, we
are going to celebrate the best products of the year.
The Best iPod Cleaner:
One of the major downsides of the plastic iPod cases is that they are prone to not only
scratching, but also revealing every speck of filth that accumulates on their exteriors. We tested several products but the absolute standout for cleaning
was the iKlear product from Meridrew Enterprises. iKlear cleaned our second generation iPod, the new Nano and our Mini to such perfection that
they looked almost new. iKlear's advantage was their
micro cleaning cloth which rubbed off stubborn grime and gook like no other.
For deep scratches, we opted for the iCleaner Pro, distributed by Meridrew, with tremendous
success. The iCleaner Pro was developed to handle severe scratches that require a dedicated polish.
Klear Screen, iCleaner and iKlear by Meridrew
Meridrew also sent us their Klean Screen product. Klean Screen's effectiveness on removing
persistent and caked on dirt from laptop, iPod and CRT screens blew us away. Klean Screen is, by far, the best screen cleaner on the market today. Again,
the included micro cleaning cloth made the difference. One of our high-definition video monitors that has accumulated years of dirt was cleaned to perfection
in under five minutes. Again, if you're looking for the best cleaning products for your
technology, Meridrew is the only name you need to know. Our highest recommendation.
iKlear Cleaning kit, $19.95; iCleaner Pro, $24.95; Klear Screen Deluxe Cleaning kit, $24.95;
The Best FM Transmitter:
That the iPod is a portable device is fairly obvious, but its utility often ceases when
one enters an automobile. Late-model vehicles don't include cassette decks, which eliminates the most widely-used method to get the iPod signal onto
the car stereo. Only a few forward-thinking car stereo manufacturers have made their units
iPod-ready, which is really as simple as providing an 1/8" mini jack into which a standard cable can connect the iPod to the stereo. Thus, the only
remaining option is the FM transmitter.
The way the FM transmitter works, it connects to the iPod and essentially creates an FM broadcast.
The car stereo and transmitter are set to the same FM frequency (for example, 88.3) and voila, you can hear the iPod over the car stereo, in fairly good-quality sound.
The only trick is that you need to find a "dead" frequency, or one in which there aren't any clear FM
broadcasts coming through the airwaves.
The DLO TransPod FM Transmitter in White, Silver and Black
Unfortunately, in all previous tests conducted with these FM transmitters, there was one overriding
problem: massive amounts of interference. In metropolitan areas, any dead frequencies would often become live after only a few minutes of driving.
Here in New York City, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (known as the BQE to locals) demonstrated the worst; with each curve in the road, and with each overpass, the
signal would absolutely collapse and the iPod would sound no better than a low-quality AM broadcast from 100 miles away.
Another problem with these devices is that they generally fall into two categories. Some run on the
iPod's battery and speed up its drain, which is clearly not a good option for a long road trip. Others include chargers, but depending upon the nooks and crannies
one must navigate to plug the device into the cigarette lighter, the end result is generally undesirable, particularly if you have any hopes of operating the gear
shift without obstruction.
We recently tested the DLO (Digital Lifestyle Outfitters) TransPod, and it neatly and effectively
addresses all of these concerns, delivering a high-quality FM transmitter and and a solid car charger that is seemingly compatible with pretty much any make or
Having evaluated almost every leading transmitter on the market, the DLO TransPod yielded the clearest and
most consistent signal then any other model available. The sound quality of the Griffin, Belkin and others paled in comparison to the latest generation TransPod
and some companies like Monster, should take their iCarPlay back to the drawing board.
In our tests, 88.3 emerged as the optimum frequency for in NYC use, and 88.1 served us well outside the
city. The transition point took place underneath the George Washington Bridge, heading North (or South) on the Henry Hudson Parkway. At the bridge, the parkway
passes under a labyrinth of highway overpasses, and 88.3 begins to be encroached upon by a Latin music station broadcasting from the Bronx. A quick press of the "down"
button on the TransPod and a corresponding press of the "down" button on the car stereo's tuner, and your iPod's stereo sound is once again clear as a bell, not to be
A road trip to Philadelphia yielded similar satisfaction. In fact, the TransPod actually remained on 88.3
for the entire trip there and back, without any meaningful interference. Bored in traffic, we changed the channel on the TransPod to test other frequencies.
To our great shock, the TransPod was able to broadcast a strong enough signal to completely override a
couple of crystal-clear radio stations. Very impressive indeed.
It's important to qualify this review: when broadcasting an FM signal, you're not going to get pristine
quality audio, no matter how high-resolution your AAC and MP3 files are. All iPod FM transmitters provide less overall headroom, and introduce interference, which can
degrade the quality. And most broadcast in mono, so if stereo is important to you, then opt for a cassette adapter or install a dedicated mini jack input. That said,
the TransPod comes close enough that even the most fastidious audiophile should be satisfied taking these limitations under consideration.
The TransPod comes with a fully adjustable arm that enables you to position the device in a seemingly
endless variety of poses. We tested the device in a variety of cars with equal success. Even a Volkswagen Jetta, which has its cigarette lighter buried in the recesses
of the dashboard, underneath the car stereo and directly in front of the gear shift (the most inconvenient location for the lighter ever!), proved that
the TransPod's design is well suited for most makes and models.
The DLO TransPod easily adapts to the cramped Jetta
It took about two minutes at first for us to figure out how the arm worked - a series of adjustable
screws enable all of the arm's joints to move, and when the desired position is attained, the screws are easily tightened and the device remains in place. Disassembling
the unit is equally easy, and it stores in the glove compartment in two simple-to-detach pieces. When you reconnect the two pieces, the TransPod is once again
in exactly the right position, so reconnecting it to the cigarette lighter is all that must be done to start listening again.
Close up of the DLO TransPod's adjustable arm connection
Though it wasn't a factor when we were desperately seeking out an FM transmitter that would deliver
a clear signal, the TransPod's design certainly helps make its case for being the must-have iPod accessory for anyone with a car that isn't already iPod-ready.
Curvy and smooth, with a smart-looking indigo display, the TransPod should fit in well no matter how luxurious your car's interior. Making it even easier to color-match,
the TransPod is available in white, silver, and black. However, the white color, mandatory for the iPod's aesthetic, is clearly the most unattractive, and screams
"steal me" to most thieves, so stick with either the silver or black. No software is required. $99.
The Beginning Of The End?
DLO, Griffin and others may find their FM transmitter technology go by the wayside when the next
generation of iPods hit the market. Apple recently filed a patent (No. 20050286481), outlining "a method, apparatus, and system"
that wirelessly plays iPod audio files over on a FM radio. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, has made
integrating the iPod into automobiles a priority, something that he believes will contribute to the
iPod continuing to be the portable audio standard.
The Best iPod Protective Case:
There are so many protective cases for your iPod that wading through the options can be daunting.
Don't fear, we did the hard work and found a new model that hits all the right notes.
iSkin's new Duo model for the iPod Nano is the perfect marriage of form and function. Built
with a high-quality, dual-layer silicon shell, the Duo protects the fragile Nano while at the same time lets your personality shine with eight different color schemes.
The dual layer allows for two different color combinations for a fashion-forward statement. Several of the combinations include Ultra-Glo phosphorescent colors
that vibrantly glow after being exposed to a bright light for over 10 minutes. (We suggest taking your Nano out of the case before performing this "power up").
One of the features we really liked was the built-in port covers for the docking and earphone
connections. These prevent dust and other debris from entering the unit, yet easily pull-away to plug it in.
The iSkin Duo's versatile clip
The Nano's ultra small size is at the cutting edge of miniaturization, however this can cause big
problems in handling the unit. The super slick plastic front cover, coupled with the metal back cover, make for an
extremely slippery object. The Duo's dual silicon cover allow for a confident grip, while
protecting the unit in case of a misfortunate drop.
iSkin's next generation RevoClip is also an industry leader. The clip can be rotated 360 degrees
for attaching to your belt, purse strap, backpack or practically anything else. The clip can also be safely removed without compromising the protective qualities.
Lastly, the best-in-class screen protector is excellent. The crystal-clear screen gives the Duo's
delicate display much needed protection from wear and tear that comes from carrying such a small item around with you on a daily basis. The only caveat is that you
might unknowingly throw away the protective screen cover due to poor product packaging. The cover is housed not with the silicon case, but rather on the side in the
clear plastic shell. So don't throw anything away unit you fully assemble the Duo.
The iSkin Duo, $29.99, iskin.com
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iKlear, iCleaner and Klear Screen from Meridrew Enterprises all score a 100% Power Rating. They are the very best iPod/Computer cleaners you can buy.
According to our tests, the best FM transmitter available is the TransPod by DLO.
The iSkin Duo is an exceptional protective case for the iPod Nano. Fashion, function and great design all come together to provide the best all-around case for the Nano.
As the name correctly implies, Experiments In Sound, is Futuremusic's latest endeavor for pushing electronic music technology to the very edge of what's possible.
Experiments In Sound grew out of Futuremusic's avant-garde events in
New York City that featured DJ's taking mixing and live sound reinforcement to a whole new level with the very latest gear and software.
Now Experiments In Sound has become The Ultimate Mix Contest...
After the tremendous success of our groundbreaking The Next Big Thing DJ Contest, Futuremusic has decided to once again create a new paradigm...
Learn more about Experiments In Sound!
Futuremusic wants to thank everyone who participated in The Next Big Thing 2004. John Digweed, Beatport, Alienware, M-Audio, Native Instruments, IK Multimedia,
PVDJ, PK Graphics, Ableton, The DubHouse, Propellerheads, Technics, FreeFloat, The Church, PCDJ and every DJ who entered this year's event thank you. From the sheer number of
quality mixes, we can tell you that dance music is thriving in the United States. The amount of outstanding talent and creativity really blew us away, and every DJ who's putting
their heart, mind and soul behind the music is a winner. John Digweed has
made his decision and the winner is...
Think you got skills?? Then start practicing! The next Next Big Thing will kick off soon!!
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