TuneBase FM for the iPod mini

TuneBase FM for the iPod mini
Company: Belkin

Price: $79.99
Belkin TuneBase FM Link

I just love gadgets. I’m a sucker for the next thing to come along. A psychological fault I suppose. Except when it came to the iPod. Try as I might, I resisted the little music player that single-handedly brought more good press to Apple like no other product since the original iMac. Oh, such a foolish attempt. In my heart of hearts, I knew I would buy one of these doohickeys, so why did I wait? Like most of my life decisions, I have not a clue. Wait I did however and maybe it was the right decision all along.

While I sat on the sidelines, sweating over some cool tech that I did not have, something wonderful happened. Apple managed to capture a significant portion of a major new market that all the other manufacturers had failed to really make any headway with. Of course no one had the whole package ready to go. Sure there were other MP3 players and music stores before the iPod and iTunes, but none of them worked well together and none of the stores had the backing of most of the major music labels.

Apple did it with aplomb. Then, after making major headway with just the Mac market for the iPod, they did something that astounded the rest of the industry. Well, at least the rest of the industry that expected Apple to just sit on the sidelines with their Mac share and be quiet. They released iTunes for Windows and made the iPod MS friendly. The rest is history.

The iPod’s popularity exploded with such a force that you can hardly go a week without hearing about some other companies release of an iPod Killer. So far, these killers have had all the impact of a Wayne Newton CD with the Waynster singing late 70s Punk Rock classics. That is to say, almost no impression at all.

Along with mega-sales of the iPod have come the inevitable add-ons from third-party companies. No other Digital Music player has the sheer volume of cool tech add-ons that the iPod (in all its various forms) does. This is why I’m glad (sorta) that I waited as long as I did. Which finally brings me to what this review is about.

Belkin has been Apple-friendly for a number of years. They have contributed all kinds of neat gotta-have tech items that has helped make the Mac the platform we all know and love. They now make stuff for the iPod that has helped cement its number one position among digital music players. One of the items that they have made recently is the Belkin TuneBase FM for the iPod mini. Why is this such a must have device? Well pilgrim, I’ll tell you.

One of the best things about the iPod (or any digital music player) is its portability. Carry it here, carry it there, carry it almost anywhere! That works great except in one case. The automobile. For all the obvious reasons, many states in the USA prohibit wearing headphones in both ears while driving. Even cell phones are not supposed to be in both ears and most earphone kits I have seen for only have a single earpiece. So how can you listen to your iPod and enjoy the stereo experience if you can only use one earpiece? Third-party products to the rescue! There are all kinds of car stereos that now have auxiliary inputs just made for portable music devices. Heck, BMW even modified one of the car stereos to work exclusively with the iPod. That’s just WONDERFUL if you can afford a BMW to listen to your iPod or can install a car stereo that can accommodate you.

What if you already have a perfectly good car audio system? Belkin is here to help. The TuneBase is a neat little device that allows for hands-free FM transmission and a charger for your iPod mini (Those of you with the full-size model will have to find another solution). The base plugs directly into your cigarette lighter (Or DC power adapter in these politically correct times) to power not only the FM transmitter, but your iPod mini as well. The base also has a 3.5 mm audio output for plugging it into another adapter (God knows why), or if you want to plug in headphones. Going from the base to the FM transmitter is a flexible steel neck that will bend into almost any direction you want. The neck is amazing strong and sturdy and is long enough to fit close to your stereo from just about any manufacturer’s aux power plug.

The FM transmitter has a frequency range from 88.1 to 107.9 MHz. No matter where you live, you should be able to find a frequency or two to dial to. This should accommodate just about any circumstance. The FM transmitter has four selectable presets as well. Just dial to the frequency you want and hold down one of the presets for a few seconds and you’re done. The tuner dials one frequency click at a time which is odd since most FM radios can’t dial to even frequencies (Like 90.2 or 101.6), but the TuneBase can. It also has a backlit LCD display that while a little dim in brighter light, isn’t unusable.

Your iPod mini slips right into the top of the FM transmitter snugly, with very little play. Even driving over the worst roads that Northern Virginia can throw at me hasn’t dislodged my mini from the TuneBase.

Be aware that like all FM transmitters for consumer devices, the TuneBase MUST accept any interference that might arise from outside sources. I did experience some interference while driving around. Also keep in mind that your music transmitted from this device is not going to sound as good as from a CD or any other direct high fidelity audio component. This isn’t Belkin’s fault, just the nature of the beast with these kinds of devices. If this is a problem for you, you are welcome of course to spend a lot more money than you will for the TuneBase for a new stereo with an auxiliary audio input AND an iPod charger to keep things moving.

If you own an iPod mini, I can’t think of a better solution for the ‘On the road again blues’ than Belkin’s TuneBase FM for the iPod mini. I give it a MyMac rating of 4 out of 5.



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