It took years of lobbying to convince UK regulators to legitimise the use of FM transmitters here, and with Ofcom’s recent law change we’ve seen a glut of FM transmitters fall through the letter box at Macworld Plus. Let’s take a look at Sonnet’s glossy-black iFreq.
The transmitter is designed for iPod nano users, and ships with a pre-made iPod nano docking station, which has been recently redesigned to fit both generations of iPod nano. This comes with a strong adhesive-backed magnet, which you can secure in the part of the car where you want to mount your iPod. Once that’s done, the dock will stick to the magnet when in use, but you can grab it and pocket the contraption when leaving your car.
If you want to use iFreq with other iPods. The 69.8cm cable links to any dock connector-equipped iPod, not just the nano. The cable also integrates the aerial used to transmit what’s playing on your iPod to your car radio. This is a good decision: you’ll get a stronger signal than some other FM transmitters with shorter aerials. The length doesn’t mean you get a longer transmission range, as these devices can’t legally deliver anything more than local area coverage. In tests, we found iFreq effective at up to 30ft. However, when driving inside the M25, effective range is reduced due to interference from mini-cabs (it’s a limitation of these devices, and one you most likely won’t experience outside the major conurbations).
The cable runs to the tuning device, which plugs into the car accessory port. When connected, a silver ‘S’ logo atop the tuner glows red, and the display illuminates briefly. You can cycle through available frequencies (88.1-107.9MHz) in 0.1kHz steps using buttons to the right and left of the front-mounted display. iFreq remembers the last functioning channel you used. While the tuner draws its power from the car accessory port, it also sends power down the line to your iPod, to keep it charged.
Overall, the glossy-black components of the system seem sturdily built, and the system has a nice, attractive rounded design. If you drive a smaller car, it’s also good to note that the entire system takes little space.
An attractive, space-saving design and strong signal strength mean iFreq is a good choice if you’re looking for an FM transmitter you can rely on. However, the £39.99 price tag is quite pricey and there’s little beyond iPod nano compatibility and signal strength to differentiate the system from cheaper alternatives.