Sunday, October 22, 2006

Griffin iTrip Auto Review

Schwag Review: iTrip Auto vs. iPlay | Griffin Technology

Here is another review of free schwag that Coherent Light pimped out and that I finally got around to posting (what? I'm freakin' busy!). Be prepared to read for awhile...I went all out to bring you the best in review-entertainment goodness. I even took bonus action photos just for you!
Is it a sign of bad things to come when a product review begins with a Disclaimer?

Disclaimer: First, this is not a scientifically viable test. There are no control groups or multiple iPod units to test with. This review is based solely on my opinion and my experience in my car, with my iPod 20 GB model, and in my hometown. It may not reflect the views or experiences of the parent bloggers, Coherent Light and Baa!. These results are not repeatable in any process-based format, and the statements made herein are solely the responsibility of marzelous. Even the dirty jokes. Due to the adult content I do not recommend this review to anyone under the age of 18. You’ve been warned.

My good friend Coherent Light (allright, he's more like the wildly vindictive yet surprisingly sensitive big brother I never had) asked me to write a review on one of the pieces of sweet schwag that he received from a marketing company who apparently reads the blog…or at least found it on a metasearch. The item chosen for me to review was the iTrip cable FM transmitter, made by Griffin. By the way, Mr. Marketing Person (Editor's Note: Please see the comments section for some humorous clarification) who contacted the blog, you have just received Martian Kewl Points (MKPs) from me, one for each piece of sweet Blog Schwag. Add up enough MKPs and you might get a photo of me in my shiny vinyl underwear. With zippers. Ooooh...shiny.

Then again, you might get the same kind of picture, but of Coherent Light. Guess you’ll never know until it’s too late.

Some background about the testbed:

I currently own a Monster FM Radio Transmitter with the channel select of the whole (odd-numbered) FM dial. I have to say I’ve really been enjoying blasting some obnoxiously loud favorites from my iPod through it into my car speaker system as I’m stuck in traffic on the way to work. In spite of this I will try to make this an unbiased review for your reading pleasure.

I base this entire review on my Monster cable ownership (approximately 6 months) and on a 1-week test of the iTrip, during which the iTrip was used (beaten, whipped, spanked) and abused, just as I do my Monster cable. My Monster cable has served me well for nearly 6 months without even one issue. This review does not include longevity tests of the iTrip. Total usage of the iTrip was about 6 times for a total of about 8-10 hours of listening time while driving to and from work and other destinations, and also two 20 minute tests where I sat in the car in my driveway and monkeyed around with the functions, tested accessibility, ease of use, and relative power of the transmitter. It also spent 4-5 days crammed into a snack-sized Ziploc bag, which was subsequently crammed in my purse, and survived that very well indeed (the Monster cable would not compress easily into that Ziploc). It also survived a few hot Florida summer days stuck in my car while I was at work, as does my Monster cable nearly every day.

Unfortunately I have a lame stock Delco radio in my GM car, which is only a step up from Coherent’s non-functioning car stereo in his car, so I cannot select an even-numbered station in order to test the impressive odd AND even frequency selection of the Griffin iTrip. The Monster only allows odd frequency selection, which has served my purposes just fine; however, if you have a newer/upgraded stereo system this limitation of the Monster cable may not be acceptable in metropolitan areas (greater than Tampa…like, say, Atlanta or NYC which are ripe with FM congestion). Nearly every frequency on the FM dial in larger cities, like the Tampa Bay area, is either taken or is suffering greatly from signal bleed-through from adjacent frequencies who pay the FCC enough money to not be forced to broadcast a clean signal <*cough ClearChannel cough*>. I’m sorry, was that my outside voice? Forgive an old Pirate Radio DJ for the dripping disdain. I’ll get a hankie to clean up, and we shall continue.

Now, just sit back, relax, and read the review.

iPlay all


iTrip all

The iTrip and Monster units are, of course, similar in function, with easy-to-read LCD displays on the screen to indicate what frequency the transmitter is transmitting. Each unit is super easy to use; in fact I only read the instructions attached to the cable itself for the Monster cable, and only glanced at the instructions for the iTrip to see how to switch from Mono to Stereo (because it wasn’t immediately evident how to do this). Each unit charges your iPod while it is plugged in, a very handy feature. Each unit transmits on it’s selected frequency with seemingly equal strength, and moving the transmitters within the vehicle caused disturbance in each of the transmissions in the same places in my car (for instance, when the transmitters are near the passenger seat rail on the floorboard, they both echo engine/chassis vibrations in the signal). If I were able to test even numbered frequencies I am guessing I would find it very handy to be able to broadcast on a quieter frequency between the radio-accessible odd frequencies…sadly this is not an option for me. One unit was not better than the other in overcoming station noise during a broadcast when choosing a non-utilized odd frequency that had either heavy bleed-over or white noise static, or both. Have I mentioned the true quality of radio signal in most of Florida sucks donkey nuts?

The iTrip cable is compact and flexible with a solid iPod cable end that stays put inside the iPod, even through some tight corners or solid braking in the vehicle where the iPod slid off the seat and ended up in the floorboard (Monster cable has a similar very stable plug). Disclaimer: Please to not try to dislodge the cable using erratic driving maneuvers as it’s not good for your iPod to “hit the deck” as it were, not to mention the possible danger to you or others driving near you. See what I do for you, Coherent?? Sacrificing my little harddrive to test your schwag, not to mention the risks I’ve taken with my own precious body…oh wait, you know some of my ex’s, nevermind. Anyway, the selector module in the middle of the cable is a good distance from the power adapter, which allows you to easily reach it when seated in the vehicle (this is assuming you have it plugged into a power outlet accessible in the driver area of the vehicle). In comparison, as with all Monster cables, the Monster transmitter cable is thicker and less flexible. Despite claims that the Monster cables are thicker because of their ability to conduct better quality sound, for a transmitter I could not tell a noticeable difference in the transmitter sound quality between the two units. Then again I drive a 2001 Oldsmobile Alero with a rattling sunroof assembly. What do I know of sound quality in my car??

Speaking of sound quality, another feature the Monster unit does not have is a monaural setting for single-channel Podcasts and audio books. Some people find that these sound better in mono, and if you are one of those people, the the iTrip satisfies your request. The power adapter end is smaller in the iTrip, not in diameter of the plug end, but the overall size – the Monster cable has a larger handling end that makes it easier to pull out/push in to the power plug. For once I won’t make the obvious sex toy references here, I will leave it to your imagination. The Monster cable power adapter seemed to fit better into the plug as well. And Monster has a red backlight LED for the inside of the adapter unit that glows a red M. This makes it easier to find in your peripheral vision when your eyes are on the road. Not that I would ever promote messing with your stereo equipment while driving. Nope. Not promoting that at all.

One big problem I see with the iTrip is that you cannot save pre-selected frequencies on which to broadcast. This makes for more fidgeting with the unit and your radio when your currently-selected station becomes too noisy and overpowers the transmitter. Though, when you consider that the iTrip seems to weigh in at $30 less than the Monster cable, this becomes less of an issue.

iTrip user interface

The other issue I see is that the iTrip frequency indicator does not seem to be backlit for those of you who drive after dark or have limo-tinted windows. The Monster cable has big red glowing numbers which light up a small area around it in the dark. They’re really bright. Like me. *smirk* The Monster frequency indicator is sometimes hard to see in bright sunlight, you have to shade the unit with your hand sometimes. A minor annoyance.

iPlay user interface

Aside from the smaller size of the iTrip, it’s seemingly matched transmitting power to the Monster, and the mono setting for single-channel Podcasts and audio books, which are all pluses in my book, the other thing I really like about the iTrip is that the selector module seems to be covered on the back in that real-feel skin-like plasticky vinyl stuff. For a tactile person like me, this is very…errr…how do I say…attractive. Yes, it’s an attractive feature for me. Now all it needs is a little longer cord, and to be combined with the Audi-Ohhhh somehow (see past blog entries for more details).

Damn, I really need to learn not to type those thoughts.

Oh, c’mon, like you actually read this blog on a regular basis and you DON’T know what I’m talking about when I mention the real skin-like feeling vinyl/plasticky coatings they have out now???? Get real!!

Well, if you’ve made it this far, either you’re really interested in what I have to say about the unit, or you’re waiting for the next sexual innuendo. Hopefully it’s for the real content and you’ve just put up with my sense of humor. I’ll wrap up this review by stating that for the money, the Griffin iTrip is a definite Good Buy when I tally up the score. The features that it lacks I don’t really believe are worth the $20-30 price difference from the Monster cable, and for the feature of having the odd AND even FM frequencies available, along with monaural and stereo settings, the iTrip should be the choice for people who own car stereos that can access the even frequencies and have a preference of mono vs. stereo when listening to spoken word recordings.

Overall, and based purely on out-of-the box performance, the Griffin iTrip is worth the money to get your tunes playing in your car and a great way to avoid your local crappy “we play the same shit day in and day out” radio stations.

If I could give the iTrip Auto by Griffin 4 1/2 stars I would. Because we don't have 1/2 stars and I really like the frequency pre-set selection buttons on the Monster, both for ease of use and safety reasons (I tend to drive for long periods of time, upwards of an hour or more, through different radio territories) I am giving the unit 4 stars.

Thanks for reading!

4 stars

So, this wins the Clubbing Baby Seal of Approval!

Seal of approval


At Tuesday, October 24, 2006 9:31:00 PM, Blogger Coherent Light said...

Ha! Just got an email from "Mr. Marketing Person" indicating that "Ms. Marketing Person" would be preferred. Now, I didn't ask if this was a preference or an actual gender thing but I am assuming it is a gender thing.

So, it would seems we have an incredibly hot Ms. Marketing person reading the blog (by default all readers of the blog have not only super-genius intelligence but stunning good looks as well).

However, Ms. Marketing person failed to indicate her preference for the shiny leather pics. We are going to assume that she is rooting for the Marzelous leather pics ( 1. because it is way hotter that way and 2. because me and zippers and leather is worse than being stuck in an elevator for 24 hours with Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff, and Paris Hilton playing their Cd's in a loop. Yes, it is really that bad).

At Friday, March 16, 2007 6:09:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent blog and thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts here. I am putting together a collection of photos and information on Oldsmobile cars and so far I managed to cover some of the models, and you will find some cool Oldsmobile Alero wallpapers, Oldsmobile Cutlass pictures and high resolution Oldsmobile Bravada photos. I hope you’ll find the website to be interesting, in case you want to pay it a visit.
Enjoy your day!

Michael R.


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