Twelve years have passed since Griffin released its first iTrip, a breakthrough FM transmitter that enabled iPods to send music wirelessly to car and home stereos. The original model, a glossy white housing that sat atop early iPods like a tube of Chapstick, effectively defined iPod accessories for an entire generation of early adopters. And it was fun, too: using an radio antenna and brilliant software, iTrip could flood an empty FM radio channel with iPod music, acting like a pocket-sized pirate radio station.
Everything changed when the FCC cracked down on FM transmitters, forcing reductions in broadcasting power that made iTrips (and numerous competitors) sound staticky, reducing their appeal. Around the same time, Apple and car companies transitioned to better-sounding solutions — Bluetooth and aux-in audio ports, respectively — leaving FM transmitters with fewer customers. But Griffin is rejuvenating the iTrip family with iTrip Bluetooth, aka iTrip Aux Bluetooth, which provides a different type of dead-simple wireless solution for cars. Priced at $50 but available online for $38, it has one purpose: to receive Bluetooth audio sent by your iPhone, iPad, or iPod, conveying it through an included 3.5mm audio cable to your car’s aux-in port…
Kit includes a 3.5mm audio cable and a Bluetooth receiver
Likely supports Bluetooth 4, with fast pairing, clean audio
Doesn’t include speakerphone support – purely for music
Clean design, requires one car power port, aux-in port
Although the iTrip name was originally synonymous with portable wireless broadcasting — use your iPod next to any home or car radio — iTrip Bluetooth is purely a car accessory. It requires a single car power outlet relatively close to the car’s 3.5mm auxiliary (aux) audio input port, as the packed-in audio cable is just over two feet long. An L-joint on one side of the cable provides strain relief.
The design and functionality are ultra-simple. Once iTrip Bluetooth is plugged in, a light on its face flashes blue until it’s paired with your iOS device — a painless one-time process — at which point the light goes solid. Re-pairing is so quick that either Bluetooth 3.0 or Bluetooth 4.0 is being used, though Griffin makes no mention of either standard on its web site, packaging, or documentation. Audio streaming is powerful, with only a little base-level noise in the signal, and iTrip Bluetooth offers proper left-right stereo separation, as well. Occasionally when switching tracks, I noticed a tiny repetition of previously-played audio, a hiccup I heard in a more pronounced way with JBL speakers and headphones a couple of years ago. It’s not a major problem here.
iTrip Bluetooth’s only big issue is its complete lack of phone call support: when calls come in, they interrupt your music and go to the handset rather than your car’s speakers. That’s because unlike the TaoTronics Bluetooth 4 Car Kit I reviewed last month, there’s no microphone or remote control unit. While this wouldn’t be a problem if iTrip Bluetooth was a lot cheaper than the TaoTronics option, it’s not — it’s actually more expensive. Griffin’s audio quality is a little better overall, particularly in the stereo separation department, so you can decide for yourself whether it’s worthy of the premium.