Review: MacAlly FMCup

by on June 5, 2006

The iPod accessory market has a few key products that have almost reached the “dime-a-dozen” status. One being iPod cases, and the other being FM transmitters. What easier way is there to pipe music from your iPod to your car’s audio system without dealing with special installations or tape adapters? The appeal is simple—they’re an easy-to-understand concept and most aren’t that expensive.

MacAlly’s FMCup takes the FM transmitter and makes it the most accessible for car use. Combining an FM transmitter, a car charger, and a place to put your iPod, the $60 FMCup is the whole package. It’s available in white or black.

IceTune
FMCup

IceTune
FMCup + iPod

The FMCup is a plastic base that fits into various car cup-holders and features an FM transmitter capable of broadcasting anywhere between 88.1 and 107.9FM. An easy-to-read LCD displays the current frequency, and includes a blue backlight. Four buttons allow you to turn the FMCup on or off, switch between favorites, and tune to various frequencies. The FMCup tunes in increments of .1, meaning that you can tune to 91.2, 91.3, 91.4, and so on. A removable cord connects the FMCup to the cigarette lighter and there is an auxiliary input for iPod shuffle users or other random audio devices.

Using the presets is easy – the button labeled “QS” (Quick Switch) switches between 5 stations. Essentially it gives your 5 virtual tuners. Set each one to a particular station and QS cycles between them. This way, no programming is necessary—just tune to a station, hit “QS”, tune to another, hit “QS”, and so on and so forth.

Our standard “FM transmitters might not work best for everyone, due to differing radio markets and other interference” disclaimer applies. That said, the FMCup worked well in all of our tests—we tried it with a clock radio and boombox indoors (using an adapter that allows use of a car cigarette lighter device in a house), in our test car, and another car. The audio came through rather clear and we didn’t have to have the arrangement in a weird location to achieve this.

Cars with cup-holders directly in front of controls might not work the best with the FMCup, as larger iPods might interfere with controls and vice-versa. For cars with a center console or cup-holders located near the dashboard, the FMCup should be just fine.

The FMCup utilizes inserts that are compatible with Apple’s Universal Dock Adapters. In our test unit, adapters for all iPod models except the currently shipping models are included (since Apple throws in their own with your iPod, it’s unncessary). This ensures that the FMCup will work with future models, so long as Apple sticks with the Universal Dock. If you remove these inserts, you can even use the FMCup (unofficially) with XtremeMac’s MicroShield and similar cases.

The FMCup is a great product, combining all the essentials in one unit to take your iPod on the road. It works well, and is also incredibly easy to use.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

MacAlly’s FMCup is one of the best FM transmitters we’ve used in a long time

Pros: Clear sound, compact, one-device solution, easy-to-use, works with Universal Dock Adapters

Cons: Might not work in some cars, some radio markets might make using it difficult

The Facts

4/5Product: FMCup
Company: MacAlly
Platform: iPod (3 4 5 M N)
Price: $59.99 (list)

This post has been filed in FM Transmitters, iDevices and Reviews