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Seidio iSound FM Transmitter

Tue Mar 14, 2006 - 12:34 PM EST - By Jay Gross


Bet your car radio has no audio input jack for your MP3 player, for your turntable, or for your Treo. Probably no input for your iPod, either. In recent years, auto mfrs are doing away with in-dash cassette players and switching to stereos with only a CD slot. So how do you play audio from your Treo or other portable through your car stereo if you can't even use a cassette adapter? Enter tiny FM Transmitter Kits, like Seidio's iSound. These devices broadcast audio from your Treo's earphone port (it's on the bottom) over the FM radio band to your car or home stereo, or any FM radio. Presto! Station KTREO on the air, WTREO on the other coast.

With a blazing less-than-milliwatt of transmitter oomph, your personal radio station comes in clearer than bells. For a few yards. Curiously, the FCC regulation that permits these transmitters limits their range to around 30 feet. Seidio claims 50 and up outdoors, but that would be best-case scenario. Okay, a magician would have to intervene, too.

Nonetheless, you'll most likely transmit from the front seat of your car to the FM receiver in its dash or console, via its fender or rooftop antenna, and in some cars, the radio's antenna is in the glass with the rear window defroster wires. Or perhaps you'll want to broadcast across your office or den. Either way, range isn't much of an issue. Quality is.

The device's output quality is fine, as fine as the FM band allows, which was fine indeed until digital recording technologies raised the bar. The product's name includes the word "digital." Big deal FM isn’t CD/digital quality anyway. A transmitter this small can't be otherwise, and the receiver doesn't know or care. All it wants is watts.

Mega-radio station or deskbound device, FM-band radio in general throws away some extreme high and low frequencies, and it squishes the remainder to fit within the bandwidth allocated by the Federal Communications Commission (genuflect, please). It's plenty of bandwidth for almost everybody—except the audiophiliacs who spend Ferrari-level sums on their stereo systems. If you're happy listening to FM radio in your car, you'll be pleased with the Treo's broadcasts over iSound.

The audiophiles would yelp for technical specifications. Rightfully so, but Seidio doesn't supply any, except glowing generalities, raves all, in their promotional materials. So, subjective mode on: The highs sound clean, bass comes in plentiful and not muddy. The transmitted music sounds as good as a good FM radio station.


iSound is a kit for Treo models 600, 650 or 700. It comes with a cable to power it from your car's cigarette lighter, a reeled cord to hook it to an audio input device, and (as sold on TreoCentral.com) an adapter to convert the iSound's 3.5mm jack to the Treo's 2.5mm earphone jack. The device is fairly small and won't use much space on your car seat, or you could velcro it to your dash or console, whatever's convenient for you.

The iSound's packaging blazes trails in homely. A little white box contains the smaller parts, and a baggie-bound 12v car adapter floats around loose. No brand name anywhere, not even on the iSound itself, whose foil sticker states simply, "FM Digital Transmitter" plus some techie info.

You probably already know that fancy retail packaging doesn't enhance performance, doesn't improve the taste of cereal, and doesn't play MP3's any better. Maybe it does help with assessing whether an onset of buyer's remorse is imminent. Don't send the thing back till you try it, though. Let's just call the deceptively unattractive packaging "unassuming" and move on

What's included:
  • FM digital transmitter
  • Retractable audio cable (3.5mm to 3.5mm male/male)
  • The kit sold by TreoCentral.com (this review unit) also includes a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter to accommodate the Treo's earphone port. Without the adapter the device is useless to Treo.
  • Cigarette lighter adapter (supplied in separate, plastic baggie)

    Packed atop the parts in the little box, the product's laughable user manual requires a magnifying glass to read. Don't even bother. Its minimalist approach wends a circuitous trail through marginally English-like words that good guessers might decipher with some luck, and it lists as "supplied" a car holder that doesn't come with it. Meanwhile, it mentions all power choices as "optional," and as with everything under the ionosphere, external power for this item can hardly be described as optional.

    A power "option" mentioned in the (quote) manual (unquote) is an AC-to-USB adapter. That's just a wall-wart with a USB "A" connector on one end. It passes along 5 volts DC, not 120 volts of 60-cycle go-juice.

    Oddly, the device doesn't accommodate any batteries. Here we have the biggest problem with this transmitter. It MUST be powered by some tethered power source. Without one, its function is limited to paperweight, not even a good one since it weighs nearly nothing.

    In fact, the device can also be powered from a computer (the reviewer's laptop, for example), using an A-to-A USB cable. With rectangularish-flatish connectors on both ends, this type of cable comes with Seidio's InnoDock cradle. Unusual for USB cables, it's obtainable for small sums (be sure to get an A—A, not A—B). Use the one off your inno.Dock - wait, it's busy with the cradle, so count this an either-or situation till you buy another cable.

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    Product Info
    > Name Seidio iSound FM Transmitter Kit
    > Company Seidio
    > Weight 5.5 oz (156 g)
    > Fact Sheet & User Opinions
    > Available
    > $39.95

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