Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New Toy: Hip Street FM Transmitter With MP3 Playback

Despite my reputation among my friends as being a bit of a gadget freak, it is actually quite rare for me to find something that I am truly impressed with. Here's something that I actually really like.

I found this at Staples, but it is also for sale at Wal-Mart. I paid $30 (on sale) for mine. It is simple: it's an FM transmitter powered by the car, and you can hook up any audio source (such as from an iPod) or play music off a USB storage device or SD card. But most importantly: it works.

I think all good inventions should solve a real problem -- too many gadgets out there contrive to sell you on some "need" that you really didn't have before. This one is simple: I want to play my music in my car. Over the past few years I've played with, and dismissed, several different FM transmitters designed for the iPod. The Griffin iTrip didn't allow the iPod to be charged while it was playing. The Griffin RoadTrip solved that problem, but it stuck out awkwardly in my car. The iTrip Auto was a mess of cables. And this Digipower unit from Canadian Tire worked, but only for a short while before it died, and it was limited in the frequencies you could select. All of those solutions had issues with low volume, interference from other radio stations, and the general awkwardness of having to turn things on and off whenever I wanted to listen to music. Not to mention, every time I got out of the car, I had to hide the iPod to avoid theft.

The Hip Street model solves all of those problems by doing away with the iPod altogether. Instead, I can copy music onto SD memory cards and keep the whole thing permanently plugged into my car. It starts playing music when the car is turned on, and stops when it is turned off. It's as simple as that. There's no worry about my iPod being stolen or running out of battery. I like this! There are playback controls on-board, as well as a hokey little remote (like I'm going to use that while I'm driving?)

The FM transmitter sounds great, too. Volume is decent, there's no obvious hissing or distortion, and it's even strong enough to hold its own against real FM radio stations. The only issue I've found is that the SD card slot is not SDHC-compatible, so it's limited to 2 GB cards (4 GB if you really look). But hey, that's still tons, and they're so cheap that I could keep a few cards in my car with different genres of music. No apparent limitation on the size of USB media it accepts. Oh, and the unit does keep track of what song it was playing when you last shut off the power, but when it resumes, it restarts the song.

Strangely, this product doesn't even show up on the Hip Street Online website, and I've only found one other review on the web. Too bad, because this is a keeper!

1 comment:

  1. Only problem I see with it is that I buy tons of stuff off iTunes, and with it being licensed, I would confuse myself horribly if I tried to put it all on a card. I used to burn CDs with protected songs, then rip them off again, uses CDs pretty fast though...