Tuesday, 9 May 2006

Sayonara Señor iTrip!

I just got back from JB Hi Fi where I had my perfectly functional Pioneer stereo head unit replaced with a Sony CDXGT150. Why would I do something so crazy? Because this Sony head unit has a feature that my old car stereo doesn't have, an auxiliary (line-in) connector. This means that I can finally farewell my iTrip (well, at least in the car).

So it's goodbye to the following:
  • No more iTrip falling out of the dock every time I drive over a bump too quickly (I have lost count of the number of times this has happened).
  • No more poor static-y sound quality, especially when I go through a suburb that's broadcasting a local radio station on the same frequency as the iTrip (88.2 MHz was my current setting).
  • No more switching between LX and DX modes on the iTrip in a lame attempt to improve the sound quality.
  • No more little "click" sound when the iPod goes from one track to the next (probably due to the iTrip broadcast being cut off for a fraction of a second). [Unfortunately, the segue issue is still there.]
  • No more having to make sure I pause the iPod before leaving the car. You see, the iPod has a cool feature where it pauses automatically when the earphones pop out (or in this case, the line-in connector). Since the iTrip was connected via the dock, I had to always ensure that I paused the iPod when I removed the iTrip.
  • No more using the volume control on the iPod while I'm driving only to realise that it has no effect on the volume broadcast via the iTrip (the volume control doesn't affect the output through the dock connector).
My debut album with the new improved "iPod on the go" was Hail to the thief. When opening track 2+2=5 got to the loud bit and the iPod was all cranked up, I was in pizza-faced paradise. The comparison in sound quality is ridiculous. Listening to AM radio was even better than listening to my music through the iTrip. Listening through the line-in connector is just like listening to a CD in the car. I miss this sound quality :-) In fact, I'd been so disappointed in the iTrip sound quality that for the past few months I have totally avoided listening to albums in the car and listened to podcasts instead (where sound quality isn't so important and the iTrip is more than suitable).

Some may argue that this was a waste of money. Well, maybe it was. After all, I could simply listen to CDs when I'm in the car and listen to the iPod everywhere else. But I'd still have the dilemma of deciding which CDs to carry with me. And this goes against the whole reason for buying the iPod in the first place, to centralize my music collection and be able to listen to what I want when I want. Which includes driving in my car.

So if you are still listening to your iPod in the car via an FM transmitter and sound quality is of paramount importance to you, then I highly recommend upgrading stereos. It may be one of those situations where you don't realise what you're missing out on until you hear how it should sound. And it's not excessively expensive, JB Hi Fi are currently selling the Sony model I bought for about $168.

And while this may have come off as a major anti-iTrip rant, I still think that the iTrip is an elegantly designed device that has its place. It's great when you are out and about with no other musical options than listening to the radio. In this case you truly can take your music everywhere. But in the places where you listen to music the most, you can definitely get better sound quality through other means.

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