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iTrip maker readies 'smart' iPod car adaptor

Control your iPod from the tape player

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iPod accessory maker Griffin Technology has launched what could prove the best way of connecting the Apple MP3 player to an in-car tape machine.

Griffin SmartDeck in-car iPod adaptorLike many other cassette deck adaptors, the SmartDeck relays the iPod's output through the deck's magnetic head. However, Griffin claims to have figured out how to send control data from the tape deck the other way, allowing drivers to operate their iPod from the tape player.

Griffin hasn't said how it works, but it's not hard to imagine a system that detects fast forward or reverse button pushes by sensing how the cassette adaptor's sprocket wheels are being driven. That feedback could be used to send a signal to the iPod to do the same -although Griffin uses the information to skip tracks rather than run through them at speed. Ditto Play and Pause, by reading if the cassette deck's magnetic head is engaged or not. Ejecting the adaptor also sends a Pause command to the iPod. SmartDeck can also auto-adjust the iPod's volume for optimal sound quality, Griffin says.

SmartDeck provides should better sound quality than Griffin's alternative in-car audio product, iTrip, which transmits the iPod's output as FM radio signals. iTrip's inherent sound quality isn't bad, but it can prove problematic in regions with a very crowded FM band. It's also illegal to use iTrip in some countries, such as the UK.

SmartDeck also provides a cheap alternative to more fully integrated in-car iPod connectors, such as Dension's iCE:Link Plus, which hooks in to a car stereo's auxiliary input. It's a more seamless system, but not an easy one to fit if you're not an expert in such matters.

Griffin will demo SmartDeck at Macworld Expo in San Francisco this week; the product is expected to ship in Q2 2005, for the cheap-as-chips price of $25.

Griffin will also demo its upcoming AirPort Express port replicator, a handy unit designed to allow owners of the Apple product to site their compact access point more effectively than wherever a free mains socket happens to be.

The Xpress Stand will also cost $25, and ships early this quarter, Griffin said. ®

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