Lately, it seems like I can’t walk into a Costco or a Sam’s Club without seeing a new wireless adapter to play an iPod though the stereo system of my truck. Unfortunately, it also seems like I can’t see one of these without buying it.
This is because most of them haven’t really worked worth a squat between their awkward controls and their inability to hold a station to deliver a static-free transmission of the treasure trove of southern rock, funk and Richard Pryor albums I have stored on my video iPod.
Of all the gadgets I’ve tried to retrofit my 1999 Tahoe to the 21st century music delivery system, the TransDock Deluxe is definitely another one. But seriously, it is the best one I have used and I think it may actually be the solution I have been looking for.
Of course, now my truck has 150,000 miles on it and I can hear the clock ticking as I wait for something big to break down on it. Yes, I know it’s a gas guzzler. So sue me. I also watch drag races and tractor pulls because they are uniquely American in that they are loud, senseless and consume fossil fuels. My Tahoe also has a very awkwardly-placed cigarette lighter adapter that has proven to make it difficult to use the other iPod FM transmitters I have tried out.
Right out of the box, I knew the TransDock Deluxe would be different.
I immediately noticed the extender arm and was hopeful I might actually be able to reach the controls of my iPod without unbuckling my seatbelt while cruising down the interstate at 85 mph in my couch on wheels.
The box also contained the usual inserts to adapt to various models of iPods from the 1st generation Nano to the video iPod as well as both a black and a silver faceplate to allow for a little bit of customization. The Deluxe Edition also includes a 6 foot AV cable and a RF remote control with a cradle and strap. More on them later.
The mounting arm and extender arm are almost infinitely adjustable. Even with all these different axes to rotate the unit around, the entire contraption is surprisingly stable after all the knobs are locked down. Considering the rough ride of my vehicle and the fact that I want to be able to read what song is playing from the small screen, it is very important that TransDock remain steady while plugged into the 12V power outlet.
The interface with the car stereo is the same as with most other car kits. Simply find a frequency that is no being used in your local radio market and then tune your car stereo and the TransDock Deluxe to the same frequency. The display on the TransDock is clear and easy to read, with the option to adjust the backlight brightness and color depending on your preference.
The rest of the controls are easy to find and easy to use. If you find yourself traveling to an area where your normal preset has too much interference, it is no problem to switch stations to match a new unused frequency. When you travel as much and as fast as I do, you frequently find yourself crossing into new sets of radio stations in a new town, and nothing is worse than having a Toby Keith song bleed over onto your John Coltrane album. Trust me on that one…
Another excellent feature is the USB charging port for cell phones, PDAs etc. on the back of the TransDock. I already have enough things plugged into the various ports in my truck, so I really appreciate the opportunity to add yet another gadget to my front seat without having to drill a hole straight into the car battery.
There are also auxiliary inputs and outputs in case you want to play other devices through the TransDock or port the video out of your iPod to an external monitor for the back seat. Because of course I would never ride down the road with an episode of “The Office” playing on my iPod down below the level of the dashboard where the highway patrol can’t see. No, really.
A final attractive bonus feature is the RF remote control. My truck has no steering wheel controls, so this is actually an upgrade over the stock system that came with the Tahoe. You can actually control the menu functions of the iPod from the remote which is something I can’t even do with my Apple remote.
The buttons on the remote control the tuning of the transmitter, the ability to cycle through presets, turning on the backlight and navigation through the songs on your playlists. The interface is logical and easy to use, and the range of the remote means that I can just clip it to the top of my sun visor and control my entire music library without having to look down from the road. And the world is a safer place because of it.
If I had to name one thing that I didn’t like about this unit, it’s that I have to take the Agent 18 clear plastic protective case off of my iPod to make it fit in the dock. I’ve owned my iPod for a couple of years now and have managed to avoid scratching the screen (knock on wood), so I’ll be pretty ticked off if I mess it up now while using it in the TransDock. Hopefully the remote will mean that I never actually have to touch it anyway.
So on the whole, the DLO Transdock Deluxe is the best iPod adapter I have ever encountered, and believe me I’ve already bought quite a few. It is an attractive unit that performs well and delivers what it promises. The intelligent design of the controls and input and output ports make it a welcome addition to my front seat.
Now if it will only help me get better gas mileage…
The DLO TransDock Deluxe can be bought directly from Digital Lifestyle Outfitters or from many online retailers.
What I Like: Striking design and intuitive controls. Ease of use. Intelligent application of input and output ports.
What Needs Improvement: Difficult to use with some iPod cases.
Product photos courtesy of Digital Lifestyle Outfitters.