Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/03/review_dlo_tunestik/

DLO TuneStik with Remote FM iPod transmitter

Driver-friendly iPod controller

By Alun Taylor

Posted in Hardware, 3rd October 2007 11:02 GMT

Review Thanks to a recent and long overdue amendment to the UK's 1949 Wireless Telegraphy Act, it's now possible for those of us living in these sometimes benighted islands to use an in-car FM transmitter iPod adapter without fear of the long arm of the law feeling our collars for impinging on someone else's spectrum by running a pirate radio station, albeit one with a broadcast footprint a few meters in diameter.

DLO TuneStik with Remote
DLO's TuneStik... with remote

Griffin's iTrip blazed the path for these handy little gadgets, useful for those who don't want cables festooned about their car cabin and vital for those poor souls who only have a CD player in their motors. Now we have DLO's offering, the remote control-equipped TuneStik, a gadget that seeks to separate itself from the herd by the inclusion of a remote control that allows you to select your music without getting distracted while fiddling with your iPod and inadvertently causing a pile-up on the M6.

Out of the box, the TuneStik consists of a small - 5.8 x 2.8 x 0.5cm, 7g - RF remote control complete with cradle and velcro strap to attach it to your steering wheel, and the TuneStik FM transmitter that attaches to your iPod's dock port. The dock connector is of the pass-though variety, allowing a power charger or other iPod accessory to be attached in series. Set up is pretty straightforward: find an 'empty' frequency on your car radio then set the TuneStik transmitter to the same frequency using the remote control - the transmission frequency shows up on your iPod's screen.

Done, you're ready to rock - or, given the automotive angle, roll.

The steering wheel remote control cradle works well, after a few minutes fiddling we managed a snug and secure fix to the steering wheels of both a Mercedes E230 and a Toyota Previa. The remote control itself clips in and out of the cradle with a secure click and we have no worries about the cradle's long term durability.

DLO TuneStik with Remote
DLO's TuneStik: connect and drive

On the move the TuneStik remote allows you to select next and previous tracks, play and pause the music, adjust the volume up or down, and to illuminate the iPod screen. Not exactly full iPod functionality, but more than enough to keep you in control of your playlists - and your car safely on the road. One small failing with the remote is the lack of any sort of backlight which can make getting the right button a bit of a hit and miss affair during night driving.

Sound quality is decent enough though naturally dependent on the quality of the in-car entertainment system it's transmitting to. The combination of TuneStik transmitter and car radio seemed to rob the music of some bass though nothing that couldn't be compensated for with the radio's own tone controls. Audio output is at a lower volume level than normal FM radio broadcasts so to give the TuneStik's on-board volume control a decent range of play you will need to turn up the radio volume a little more than usual. Just remember to turn it back down when you revert to regular FM stations.

DLO TuneStik with Remote
DLO's TuneStik: compact remote

We tested the unit in and around Manchester. After selecting 102.1 FM as the TuneStik's frequency, we went for a spin around the M60 Manchester circular and then cut across town on the A57/M57. At no point did the TuneStik suffer from any broadcast interference which bodes well for performance anywhere else in the country, including Greater London.

Anybody worried about getting interference over longer journeys by entering an area with a local radio station occupying your chosen TuneStik reception frequency is probably best advised to select a second frequency on their radio in advance. Changing the TuneStik's transmission frequency is the work of moments - finding clear frequencies on the radio is what takes up the time and isn't something we'd recommend doing on the move. The TuneStik can store four pre-set transmission frequencies so if your car radio has enough pre-sets you can set up four transmission frequencies on the TuneStik and four identical reception frequencies on the radio. That should cover all eventualities.

The TuneStik's uses are not restricted to the car, of course. It does its thing with any FM radio to hand - or within a 27ft radius, to be more precise. Pairing up the TuneStik with a portable Sony CD/radio and with the receiver of a home cinema system proved as painless as setting up in-car, though once again the resultant sound was little light in the bass. For out-of-car-use, the RF remote control has a stated range of 40ft. The TuneStik can also be used to remotely control your iPod when plugged into a stereo system, though the lack of a display on the remote rather limits it in this role.

DLO TuneStik with Remote
DLO's TuneStik: remote cradled

The TuneStik is compatible with fourth and fifth generation iPods and presumably the new Classic, along with all Nanos and Minis. Even though the FM transmitter draws power from the iPod its use didn't seem to have a noticeable effect on our iPod's battery life during the test, and as we said, you can still hook up a power supply.

Verdict

A straightforward yet elegant way to play back your iPod via any FM radio. The steering wheel remote mount is, I believe, a major contribution to road safety... well, maybe that's going a bit far, but it does allow you to skip about your music tracks without taking your hands off the wheel - or your eyes off the road.