Kensington RDS FM Transmitter

On my quest to find an FM transmitter that works, I stumbled across the Kensington RDS FM transmitter that also doubles up as a car charger as well. How handy!

Like iPod cases, there are lots of different versions of an FM Transmitter, some with varying degrees of success and some being more reputable than others. However, the first one that I’ve come across that actually uses RDS technology is the Kensington model and this is currently patent-pending so you’re unlikely to find this technology in competing models.

If you’re not sure what RDS is already, it’s essentially song information that gets transmitted over the airwaves and most modern car stereos will actually pick up on these signals, decode them and throw out information such as the name of the current station playing.

Kensington have taken this technology and implemented it within the transmitter itself so now you can listen to your favourite tunes and see what’s playing on the LCD display of your stereo without having to pick up the iPod whilst driving.

What does it come with?

Inside the box you’ll get the cigarette adapter itself, which is not small, but it’s less substantial than others I’ve seen and it does fit quite nicely. Depending on the car you’ve got, you may find that the 12v port is located near the gear stick, like mine. This isn’t great if the 12v adapter itself sticks out too much and starts to interfere with the way you drive and of course introducing safety issues – not really worth it just to listen to your iPod in the car. So I was glad to see that the adapter did fit quite comfortably in to my VW Polo without interfering with my gear stick.

The power adapter has the iPod dock connector at the other end of the cable and that slots nicely and securely in to the iPod docking connector. Designed to work with most if not all iPods as far as I know (it doesn’t mention anything in the manual or web-site whether it supports the first generation of iPods), it does at the very least work with the 5G iPods and 2G Nano iPods.

How does it all fit together?

It’s very simple to put together, just pop the power adapter in to your 12v cigarette port, the other end in to your iPod docking port, switch the power on at the side of the adapter and the screen of your iPod should light up instantly and start to charge and install. The whole process takes just a few seconds and on the display of the iPod you will be able to set the frequency manually to a range of frequencies. I typically found the lower bands in the 88FM range to work better with less interference.

Some FM transmitters will only allow you to select from a range of already preset frequencies but the Kensington allows you to select any using the two buttons located on the dock connector. Pressing these buttons allows you to change the frequency that the transmitter is working at on increments of .1

You can set presets so that you can quickly access the frequencies you find to work with your stereo system. The three buttons on the car charger are your presets and to set a new station on one all you have to do is to push and hold the relevant button for 3 seconds.

How well did it work?

The Kensington RDS FM Transmitter is the best I’ve used so far with great convenience in its operation when you need to get going quickly or when you’re desperate for your fix of Beyonce. The RDS aspect of it is useful and handy but not critical to the operation of this unit.

What was important to me was the ability to get a decent reception and retain the audio quality and the Kensington did a fine job in this area. Rarely did I ever get interference and whenever I did, I just pushed the button for another favourite preset that works. When interference did occur it was usually when I was travelling at high speeds or in an urban area with lots of buildings to bounce those radio signals about.

This system fulfilled my expectations for a quick, easy and convenient wireless transmitter for getting my iPod tunes pumping through my car speakers. For too long I’ve been struggling with a stupid tape adapter that was probably draining my car battery a lot quicker than using FM and would go wrong after a few months of use.

So now I can listen to my tunes and charge my iPod at the same time from this one system.

Is it worth it?

The cost of FM transmitters here in the UK can go as high as £40 so I was surprised to find the Kensington RDS FM transmitter going for about £33 at various online retailers. This isn’t bad considering it works and it has the RDS text transmission as well so you can see your song information scroll across your stereo display. The simple control system and quick set up also scores top marks with an unobtrusive car charger included in the package. Your iPod battery will never have to be left in the globe box again.

2007-04-19 Onwah Tsang

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