DLO TransDock III (with IntelliTune)
FM transmitters aren't the best way to port your MP3 player's audio to your car stereo, but for those who don't have a cassette player or auxiliary line input, they're the only option. Thanks to FCC regulations, it can be a challenge to find one that offers transmission powerful enough to dominate an FM frequency without frequent drop-outs and interference, but DLO has managed to offer a reasonably strong signal with its TransDock line of transmitters. The newest addition to the family, the TransDock III with IntelliTune ($99.99), keeps the legacy going, although we found the IntelliTune feature to be useless around San Francisco.
The design of the DLO TransDock III is best-suited for the larger members of the iPod family: the Classic, the Touch, and the iPhone. With the cigarette-lighter adapter, adjustable mounting arm, and docking station, this unit is not terribly compact, but the bulk does allow a user to adjust the iPod and transmitter for optimal use in the car. The docking station, which houses the transmitter, measures 4 inches tall and 2 inches wide. It's about an inch deep at the bottom, which is where you'll find the sliver buttons for tuning and activating the IntelliTune feature. There's also a small backlit LCD that displays the current frequency. Above this are the iPod connector and then an adjustable backrest for the player.
A couple other physical characteristics delineate some additional features of the TransDock III. On the bottom of the docking station are two ports. One--auxiliary line-in--let's you use the unit with non-iPod MP3 players or the Shuffle (you must provide your own stereo patch cable). The other is audiovisual out, which lets you connect the setup to an in-car entertainment system for watching the iPod's video content on any built-in screens. Other features of note include the capability to store up to four stations as presets and something DLO calls IntelliTune, which purports to scan to an "open FM frequency with the push of a button." Well, even after five pushes of said button, the TransDock failed to land on an open frequency--a real disappointment in San Francisco, because such a feature (if it worked) would be a boon in urban areas.
Insofar as reception in general is concerned, the TransDock III is an above average performer. We were able to find two stations in San Francisco proper that held up pretty well as we drove around the city. Each one suffered from a drop out or two in certain areas, but the unit still did better than most FM transmitters for an urban area. For those who live in areas where the frequencies aren't so jam-packed, the TransDock is a solid choice. One thing we noticed is that even when we were able to tune in to a station that offered clear audio from the player, we had to turn up the volume on both the player and the car stereo to much higher levels than when listening to regular radio or CDs. That means when static does creep in, it is very loud--something to keep in mind.