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i-rocks Car DJ review: i-rocks Car DJ

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The Good Simple design. USB for MP3 drives.

The Bad Poor performance. Limited frequencies available.

The Bottom Line Nice idea, but you might find listening to the AM radio a tad more enjoyable.

3.0 Overall

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The human ear is a marvellous thing -- it is extremely adaptable. In my student days, I had a stereo system that was ... well, affordable. I would occasionally notice guests wincing slightly when I played music through it, but it sounded fine to me. Yes, the ear can get used to almost anything. I have added "almost" because I simply could not put up with the sound delivered by the i-rocks Car DJ USB audio transmitter.

The i-rocks IR-1110 Car DJ is one of the many FM transmitter accessories that have hit the market in response to the growing number of MP3 players and, of course, the iPod. Quality always suffers when using FM transmitters, but they are definitely the convenient way to go in certain situations -- such as the car. So when I plugged the Car DJ into the cigarette lighter and hooked up my iPod, I certainly wasn't expecting to get mind-blowing results. And I certainly didn't get them.

Initially, I tested the unit in and around the CBD of Sydney, and thought my location might be the problem -- tall buildings might have been causing reflections and the enormous amount of interference. In fact, it was impossible to hear anything resembling music from the iPod. The Car DJ provides four "channels" for FM broadcasting (88.3, 88.5, 88.7 and 88.9MHz) -- none of them worked for me at all (indeed these frequencies were very crowded with other powerful stations). Some FM transmitters, such as the Belkin TuneFM for the iPod Nano have a wider range of frequencies to choose from -- a feature sorely needed in the Car DJ.

Out on the open road, things were not much better. On one of the four preset frequencies I was able to hear actual music from the iPod, but it sounded like a radio station whose broadcast footprint I was just about to leave. Hoping my ears would eventually adapt, I left it that way for close to 40 minutes at which point I managed to rip the lead from the iPod without driving off the road. I tried the other three presets hoping for a miracle but got nothing but hiss.

I would have liked to go on about some of the other features of the i-rocks Car DJ, such as the USB input that lets you plug a USB storage device directly into the unit (buttons on the Car DJ then let you cycle through music files on the device), but there's really not much point because performance from the USB key would be the same.

I've heard good reports about a few of the other FM transmitters such as the DLO Transpod, so there are solutions out there. Unfortuntely, when it comes to the i-rocks -- i-don't think so.

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