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Product Review: Macally BTCUP for iPod

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Over the years, I have purchased a variety of FM transmitters in the hopes that they will transfer the sound from my digital devices to my car stereo better than cassette adapters. In general, I have not spent more than $30-40 on these devices, and in the end, I was unsatisfied with them. Recently, I was given the opportunity to test Macally's BTCUP for iPod, and I was suitably impressed with the device.

Figuring out where to put the BTCUP in the car is not difficult — it will fit snugly in any cup holder, thanks to the spring-loaded, rubber-tipped size adjusters on the base of the device. The power cord is long enough (and coiled to keep it short when not extended) to reach the cigarette lighter outlet from anywhere near the dashboard of the vehicle.

The BTCUP comes with several docking accessories to fit whichever iPod model you may be using, and the inserts help keep the iPod from getting knocked out of the dock. I have a first generation Nano, but since I use an Agent 18 case, it was too thick to fit in the insert, so I used the BTCUP without it. I did not have any difficulty with the device as a result.

stock photo from MacallyOne of the difficulties I usually have with FM transmitters is finding a frequency that does not have something already broadcasting on it. My car stereo does not have the capability to select specific stations — I am able to scan for live signals only. Like most FM transmitters, the BTCUP can be set to any broadcast frequency from 88.1MHz to 107.9MHz. However, unlike most of the FM transmitters I have tried before, the BTCUP also comes with four pre-set frequencies that can be toggled through with the push of a button. This allowed me to set the device to broadcast from one of those QS frequencies and then use my car stereo's scan setting to find it.

My only complaint with the BTCUP is the output volume. For music, it was adequate, although I did need to crank up the stereo volume for quieter songs. However, for spoken word (such as podcasts), my car stereo volume had to be almost to the maximum in order to hear anything over the road noise. This is not uncommon with the FM transmitters I have used, but I had hoped that since the BTCUP can draw on more power, it might boost the signal a bit better. It could also be my radio, but I was not able to test the device in any other vehicle to know for sure.

The BTCUP can also work with your Bluetooth enabled mobile phone, but I was unable to test this feature. Considering the price point for this device, I would recommend that you intend to use that function in addition to the iPod interface before purchasing it, as there are many other adequate FM transmitters for iPods that do not have the Bluetooth capability and are less expensive.

Macally's BTCUP for iPod would be a great gift for the technophile in your life, or for yourself. It is by far the easiest and most reliable FM transmitter I have used so far.

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