Review: XtremeMac AirPlay
Many iPod owners have been generally disappointed with the performance of FM transmitters. While Griffin’s iTrip works well, XtremeMac has mounted a challenge to the iTrip’s dominance with the new AirPlay FM transmitter. We were curious to see if this $40 unit worked better than Griffin’s.
The AirPlay looks much like many other top-mounted iPod accessories. It’s a small, white module that plugs into both the remote and headphone jacks. Unlike the iTrip, it does not block the hold switch. The only other controls on the AirPlay are two buttons and a small, backlit LCD.
AirPlay + iPod
AirPlay (Top View)
It takes about five minutes to get the AirPlay working, if you include opening the packaging. To set it up, you just have to plug it into the top of the iPod and pick a frequency to broadcast on. We found the easiest approach is to find an empty frequency first using the radio, and then tune the AirPlay to that station. This method is much easier with the AirPlay than with the iTrip, thanks to the buttons for frequency selection. (The iTrip requires a journey through the iPod’s menus.)
Although the AirPlay’s LCD is small, it is quite legible. When changing frequencies, a blue backlight automatically activates, making it useable in any lighting conditions.
To help conserve battery power, the LCD automatically shuts off after a few seconds (and is not configurable otherwise), and the AirPlay shuts itself off when the iPod is not in use.
In our tests with a car radio, Griffin’s radioSHARK, and a Sony clock-radio, the AirPlay worked quite well. Its signal seemed to be somewhat stronger than the iTrip’s, and it didn’t cut out as easily. Like the iTrip, the AirPlay may be less than ideal for users in large (read: crowded) radio markets, due to the lack of available frequencies, but this will vary from location to location.
Obviously, the best way to connect an iPod for home or car use is a wired connection using the iPod’s line-out signal. If this is not an option, the AirPlay is an excellent choice. Overall, the AirPlay is an excellent choice, and better than the iTrip.
The One-Sentence Verdict™
The AirPlay is the best and easiest to use iPod-specific FM transmitter.
Pros: Small size, fast installation, great design
Cons: None significant