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Belkin FM TuneCast II
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    Table of Contents:
  • Belkin FM TuneCast II
  • Setup and Interface
  • Performance
  • Conclusion

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    Belkin FM TuneCast II - Performance

    (Page 3 of 4 )

    So how well does it work? Initially, it was horrible. This is what happens when you don't read instructions. The device needs to have a minimum signal coming through it to turn on, but it doesn't take well to full volume either. That was the problem I encountered, and the hissing, popping, clipping and general crappy sound left me less than impressed.

    Looking back at the manual though, I turned down the volume on my iPaq to around 80 percent. This cleared up the sound issues mentioned above. I was using the device with 96kb/s VBR wma files, and even that was probably higher quality than necessary, given that FM radio has never been truly fantastic to begin with. In my living room, I could get around around six feet of static-free signal, after that the quality quickly started to degrade. I think the Belkin device needs an external antenna, or at least a more powerful transmitter. It might be better when using the converter that powers it from the 12V point.

    The result is that the output volume of the TuneCast II ends up fairly low. This leaves you turning up the volume on the stereo itself, not a problem on most new vehicles which often possess ear drum splitting levels of reserves. Even my Mazda3 has no problems compensating for the lower input signal. Just don't forget about it when switching to another station or to a CD, or you'll get quite a surprise. 

    One problem I had was with where to place the TuneCast II and the iPaq it was attached to. Normally the transmitters stick out of the 12V power point, which limits your options, but the devices are optimized for it. The TuneCast II, on the other hand, could realistically be put anywhere in the vehicle. That's part of the problem, it just slides around on the seat, or rattles away in the cup holder. I think the best solution is some velcro for both Tunecast II and the media player. For most of the in-car testing, both devices ended up spending quality time in my glove box. 

    The obvious problem with hiding it away in there is that you don't have access to the media player. As well, some static was exaggerated due to the extra plastic in between the transmitter and receiver (the antenna for the Mazda3 is on the roof near the rear hatch). 

    One of the benefits of the TuneCast II over the other FM transmitters I have had the pleasure of working with is the wide array of potential frequencies that it does work with (88.1 - 107.9 MHz in 0.1MHz increments). This makes it easy to tune in nearly any available piece of bandwidth which isn't already taken up by a station. If you live in a rural area this isn't a problem at all, and even within a metropolitan city there should be at least one available channel to work with.

    The problems start when you travel in a built up area like southern Ontario, where the free frequencies are constantly shifting. Unless you are really lucky, that means you'll need to access to the transmitter while commuting, and shift among previously saved frequencies (easy, if you've done the route before and have them in memory), or find available ones by experimentation.

    The other problem I found was that it was affected by high voltage lines. I often drive near the hydro generating station, which conveniently is right near downtown. It disrupts the transmission of the signal regardless of the band. It's not just this device which experiences that problem; however, it was the worst at dealing with it among the ones I have tried. Again, I think it's largely due to the weak transmitter.

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