Rocking with the Griffin iTrip

by Derrick Story

One of the improvements that the iPod has brought to my life is listening to my music and interesting audio books while commuting to work and appointments. My 1999 Saturn SL2 has a modest stereo system with a cassette deck and four-speaker sound. I've been using a Radio Shack cassette adapter to connect the iPod into the system, but became curious about the Griffin iTrip for wireless connectivity as an alternative. I've been testing it for a few days, and I thought you might be interested to read how it's performing.



Sound Quality



The iTrip broadcasts on the FM band, and you have nearly every channel on your radio available to receive the iTrip's signal. I really like this feature -- you're not limited to one or two preset stations for connectivity. Plus, you can change them on the fly so if you lose your "open" station, you can find another.



I mention this because sound quality depends heavily on finding a channel setting with no interference. The cleaner the setting, the better the sound from your iPod. Once I found a clean channel, I added it to my preset stations so I can switch to iPod streaming with just the push of a button.



On the whole, I found the iTrip sound quality to be equal to average FM stations, but not as good as the hard-wire cassette adapter. I tested this by going back and forth between the two connections in the car with the engine turned off.



In actual use, the sound is good enough for rocking down the highway as long as you can find a channel with no interference. The key to success in my Saturn is to have the iPod volume at about 40 percent, and turn up the volume on the car stereo to about 60 percent. I endure the least amount of distortion that way.



Convenience



The first thing I did was take a hack saw to the iTrip to cut off that annoying prong that inserts itself into my FireWire port on the 10GB (previous model) iPod. The prong forced my to pull the FireWire port cover all the way back stressing the hinge and ruining the iTrip/iPod's otherwise good looks. Plus, I couldn't access the "hold" switch with the iTrip "locked" in place, which is an important control for me. So I simply hacked it off, and now the iTrip can swing freely.



Wonder what Griffin will think when I return the test unit? (Just kidding. My iTrip was a gift!)



I really like having iPod music as just another channel preset on the car radio. I can switch between stations without fooling with the cassette adapter, and I no longer have an ugly wire hanging from my radio.



The iTrip is very easy to use. You do have to load the channel presets that are included on a CD that comes with the unit, but that's a one shot deal, then you're set. I like the cool blue LED that stays on during play. And I haven't notice any substantial battery drain while transmitting music, although I'm sure there's some impact. You don't get something for nothing in physics. But the iTrip does stop transmitting within 60 seconds of idle time on the iPod.



Overall, it's fine. I'm hanging on the the hard-wire cassette adapter for the times I want the best sound quality possible. But for the most part, I can leave the iTrip seated in the iPod for convenient music playback while on the go... as long as I'm not too picky about the fidelity.



BTW: My two favorite songs this morning were Two Lane Highway and Amie by Pure Prairie League.


30 Comments

tychay
2003-06-17 11:33:26
One problem with the channel presets...
The channel presets are small 5 second song files which the installer drops into the your iTunes music as a special playlist you are supposed to sync. There are even some presets hidden in the Japanese file that allow you to extend the dynamic range of iTrip. I think this is a neat idea even though it took me about 20 minutes to get the hang of it--blame the Bay Area airwaves for that one!


The problem is when you use random play globally on the iPod or iTunes they will come up and you'll get 5 seconds of random sounds. By the time you figure out what it is, your playcount goes up. After a while, your top 100 most played starts looking like a bunch of iTrip radio stations.


The trick I suggested to my girlfriend recently is to either uncheck the songs in iTunes (only play back checked songs in iTunes), to modify the most played to filter the genre/rating you give the iTrip station, to not sync all the stations (only the ones you need. Note you can relabel the names of the stations since they are just "songs" with the names of areas so that you can figure out what the best station is for a certain area), and to right click on the song and "reset play count".


I don't know if any of this works since I csuggested them recently and she doesn't do enough driving to test this out. It did eliminate her complaint of hearing the "stations" on her iTunes though.


I hope this helps,


terry

derrick
2003-06-17 13:42:21
RE: problem with the channel presets...
Yeah, seems like you're on the right track here. The main thing is to be aware that these station presets are in your playlist, then deal with them accordingly.


Great heads up! Much thanks.

anonymous2
2003-06-17 14:25:04
Poor sound quality
I too awaited the iTrip, hoping that it would free my from my cassette adapter. I spent the better part of the day trying to find a clear frequency, but never got the fidelity I expected. If you hate wires, the iTrip is decent, but no replacement for either FM radio or your iPod with a cassette adapter. I wish my car stereo had inputs so I could feed it directly from the iPod and bypass the cassette adapter, but no such luck.
anonymous2
2003-06-17 14:27:32
Fire Wire prong
Did sawing off the Fire Wire prong leave a hole in the iTrip?
derrick
2003-06-17 14:39:15
Fire Wire prong
No it didn't leave a hole. I got a nice smooth cut and you can't even tell that anything was ever there unless you look real close. I hated those dang prongs!
derrick
2003-06-17 14:40:57
Poor sound quality
Yes, I agree that the sound isn't as good as the cassette adapter. That's why I still keep it stashed in the car.


But, if you can find an open channel, the iTrip sound is quite decent. One thing I did to improve it even more was to change my iPod EQ setting to "Treble Boost." Along with keeping the source volume (iPod) down, and bumping up the car stereo volume, I got a pretty good groove going.


But an open channel is key. And my recommendation to anyone considering an iTrip would be to go out to their car and see if they have an open station before purchasing.

anonymous2
2003-06-17 16:43:01
Prong and new iPods
Do you think that your itrip, with its prong cut off, would work with the new ipods? That would be a great solution for those of us who want the iTrip and dont want to wait for one to fit our newer iPods!
derrick
2003-06-17 18:05:29
Beware of Road Trips to the City!
I was cruising along this evening listening to my iTrip when I got close to a big city and lost my open channel. The sound was terrible! And while driving, I could not reconfigure the iTrip for another open slot.


Once again, moral of the story: don't toss your cassette adapter, and make sure you have an open channel, or you will be really disappointed in the audio. The high end seems to suffer the most.

anonymous2
2003-06-17 18:57:10
Prong and new iPods
No, it won't. The iTrip gets its power from the remote's cuff around the mini-jack. Griffin will have to create on that works with the new remote port.
darth.binks
2003-06-17 19:08:34
One problem with the channel presets...
Interesting item about the Japanese files - I'm looking at them now (76.1 - 89.9). Can you go into that in more detail? And I assume those of us in the States have to stay in the "normal" range (88.1+) to get any use from those files...
anonymous2
2003-06-17 20:27:29
One problem with the channel presets...
The radios I have can go a little below 88.1. I copied over the Japanese files down to 87.0 to see - one radio I have can do 87.5, another can do 87.0, and my car radio can do 87.7. In my area, there are stations all across the dial, so it's nice to be able to go a little below 88.1 to find a clear spot.
mikego
2003-06-17 21:59:54
iTrip sleep
I sometimes get messed up with the iTrip's automatic sleep feature. I listen to a lot of classical music. There are some pieces with loud parts followed by extended portions of really soft music. I found that iTrip would sometimes go to sleep which would result in a lot of static blaring into my car speakers! I've found that there really is no workaround since dialing up the volume would result in a lot of distortion on the loud parts. :-(
anonymous2
2003-06-17 23:42:55
iTrip tips for opening up stations; and a suggestion
1) If your car has the option of lowering the radio antenna (preferably automatically) like mine does, you'll open up some frequencies on the FM dial if you keep the antenna DOWN while iTripping. This works great on my '84 Mercedes.


2) It would be nice if there were a guide online that listed the frequencies with the least interference in major cities. I live 10 miles north of L.A. and 89.5 is the only relatively open spot on the dial. 89.3 is strongly occupied right next door - but again, with the car antenna in the retracted position, it's fine.


I jettisoned my cassette adapter (Sony) soon after using it with iPod because I could not get good contact with the play heads inside the deck. iTrip is much better!!

derrick
2003-06-18 00:20:29
RE: iTrip tips for opening up stations
Well, unfortunately the antenna doesn't retract on my Saturn, at least not more than once ;)


But you raise an interesting idea, which is finding a way to open up space on the FM dial. The funny thing is, that in my area we only have a dozen or so of really strong FM stations, most of which are not interesting to me. All the other slots on the dial are taken up by stations that don't come in well, yet prevent me from using the iTrip. What a drag!

anonymous2
2003-06-19 20:20:39
One problem with the channel presets...
how do you access the japanese files?
I can't find them on my cd
anonymous2
2003-06-20 00:37:44
iTrip vs. Belkin TuneCast
derrick
2003-06-21 01:37:57
New iTrip for 3G iPods
Just when you were wondering when Griffin would come out with an iTrip for the new iPods, they did! You can check it out here.
sjk
2003-06-21 17:42:42
Fire Wire prong
If you haven't bought iTrip yet you can put away the hacksaw if you're willing to wait a month for the model designed for the new iPod -- preorder here:


http://www.griffintechnology.com/products/itrip/itrip_backorder.html

anonymous2
2003-06-23 00:25:33
One problem with the channel presets...
Download newest software at grffin tech's website. That one includes extra fequencies
anonymous2
2003-06-28 13:00:47
One problem with the channel presets...
I just bought an Itrip from the Apple store and my CD only has frequencies to 87.7. and there is no Japan folder anywhere on the CD.
And the software available on the Griffin site only goes to 88.1.
So where can I find the Japanese frequencies?
anonymous2
2003-08-27 10:29:09
New iTrip for 3G iPods
I also found the AudiaX at www.myfmstation.com which is said to be much better quality than iTRip. Check it out, works 100% very happy!
anonymous2
2003-08-31 08:21:10
Griffin iTrip/Belkin Tunecast & Powerboook
Does anyone know if you can use either the Tunecast or the iTrip with a Powerbook G4?
anonymous2
2003-09-05 08:01:43
Griffin iTrip/Belkin Tunecast & Powerboook
I am curious about the same thing. I tried using a headphone extension chord in between my powerbook and the itrip, but it doesn't fully connect to the itrip. This is because the itrip has a ring around the main prong that connects to the ipod that blocks a completely seated connection. This may be where/how it draws power from the ipod. I'm not sure if there is any power that is available through just the headphone jack alone if one would did get a full connection?
anonymous2
2003-09-05 15:27:41
Griffin iTrip/Belkin Tunecast & Powerboook
Tunecast-----yes. iTrip-------no. The Tunecast has batteries and only requires audio in to function. The iTrip requires power from the iPod which it cannot get from a laptop.


SB

anonymous2
2003-12-14 14:05:20
iTrip tips!
If you want to get your iTrip to broadcast a little bit stronger signal, try taking a piece of wire coat hanger, cutting it so it's about 30 inches long, and attach it to your iTrip. (Technically, I believe you want 30 inches of wire if you're using a lower part of the FM band, and you want to trim it to about 26 inches if you're at the high part of the FM dial. 28 inches should be right for frequencies in the middle.)


This will give it a much improved transmission antenna, and may help it broadcast over weak stations that are just causing background noise.


FCC regulations severely limit how much power they're allowed to broadcast with on the iTrip - but there's no reason you can't try to maximize the signal it generates!

anonymous2
2004-01-07 20:10:23
Station 87.7?? Where to find it?
Bought the iPod couple of months ago at the Apple Store and iTrip just last week. the iTrip CD has no Japan folder and only has frequencies from 87.9 to 107.9. where is the missing 87.7 file?? any help would be greatly appreciated!!!
thanks,
Daryl
bickus
2004-12-08 17:05:05
itrip
using the itrip ,i get random bursts of split second staic every now and then .


Griffin has suggested that it might be the type of FM radio . They also suggested doing a soft reset - which i did but it has not helped.


Any advice.

bickus
2004-12-08 17:34:40
iTrip tips!
re the coat hanger trick - you write - attach it to your itrip


How do you attach it to the itrip - there is no place to connect it

bickus
2004-12-08 17:41:29
iTrip tips!
re coat hanger idea - how do you attach it to the itrip - there is no place to connect it.
bickus
2004-12-08 17:44:56
itrip tips
re the coat hanger idea - how do you attach the coat hanger to the itrip -there is no place to connect it