Harmon Kardon Drive + Play
By Jeffrey Allen
Some car manufacturers, recognizing the iPod phenomenon, have started building iPod-docking stations into their vehicles. If you just bought a new car that did not include an iPod docking station (or if you have an older car), you no longer need to feel left out. For only $199 (plus installation), Harmon Kardon’s Drive + Play will retrofit your car for your iPod. It will provide you with a large enough screen that you can see it easily and a set of controls you can have mounted near the driver’s seat for easy access. It will cause your iPod to play back through your car’s stereo system using an FM modulation process. More significantly, it does all of those things smoothly, simply, and without spoiling the sound with extraneous noises often present in frequency modulation devices. You can use the Drive + Play portably or permanently mount it in your vehicle.
My 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee came with all kinds of gadgetry built into it. It did not, however, include an iPod dock. I solved that problem myself with the Drive + Play. I chose to have mine permanently mounted. It cost about $100 for the work, which I chose to have done professionally rather than do myself to ensure that I got an aesthetically pleasing installation. The car came with a very nice sounding stereo system, so the iPod sounded great when played through it. I have had it installed for more than three months and have been extremely pleased with it.
Harman Kardon's Drive + Play lets you hardwire your iPod into your automobile. It includes an illuminated navigation wheel, a backlit LCD display that lets you view the contents of your iPod, and the “Brain,” an interface box that connects the iPod to the vehicle and charges it while you’re driving through a dock connector interface.
A 3.5mm output connects to any car with an auxiliary input jack, and it can send your songs to an FM receiver if your car can’t accept an auxiliary input. It can also route other audio signals like satellite radio to the car’s audio system.
The Drive + Play works with all docking iPods 3G, 4G, HP, Mini, nano, and 5G video. The device is designed so that you can arrange to put the iPod almost anywhere in the car; presumably to allow for easy removal, under the assumption you will not want to completely give your iPod over to the vehicle. As I had recently upgraded to a 5G video iPod, I found myself with two iPods. Rather than get rid of the older iPod, I simply gave my iPod 3G to my car. I found a nice niche for it in the car, attached the docking cable to it, and I now leave the iPod in the car all the time. When I travel I take either the 5G or my nano.
I am delighted with my Drive + Play. It has a cleaner transmitted sound than any other FM modulator I have used.
Parrot 3200 LS-Color
By Jeffrey Allen
Would you like an installed Bluetooth hands-free kit for your car? Parrot’s 3200 LS-Color may just satisfy your needs. The 3200 LS gives you a sophisticated, convenient, well-functioning kit that should work with most Bluetooth phones. (I tried it with several and had no problem pairing with it or using it.)
The 3200 LS-Color has extremely impressive features. For starters, it comes with a very good color display (TFT 160 x 128 pixels with 262,144 colors). The 3200 LS-Color stores up to 150 of your phone contacts in its own memory. It has voice recognition for up to 150 names, allowing you to dial numbers by saying the contact’s name. If you choose, you may also store a photo with a contact; if you do, the device displays the picture when you call that person. You can keep up to five phones registered to the 3200 LS-Color at a time. The 3200 LS-Color provides full duplex audio, echo cancellation, and selectable hi-fi polyphonic ring tones. With some vehicles, the radio will automatically mute while you talk on the phone. I found the sound quality on both sides of the conversation quite good. Overall, the kit worked very well and proved easy to use.
The 3200 LS-Color lists for $320, but you can get it online for about $205. It should cost around $120 to have it installed (price varies depending on installer and vehicle). For more information, see the Parrot website, www.parrot.biz.