Thursday, January 17, 2008

An MP3 Player for the Car


I recently purchased an integrated MP3 Player/FM Modulator for a car. This unit is very convenient! – no battery to charge, wires to hook up and switches to turn on, you simply plug the device into a cigarette lighter connector in the car and listen via the radio.

While you can control the frequency, playback, and volume on the unit, it also comes with a small remote making adjustments much easier. It’s designed to use an SD card or USB memory stick containing MP3 and WMA audio files. A line-in jack is also included.

I use the device with 1G or 2G SD cards which creates a lower profile, although all three inputs can be connected simultaneously. In such cases, line-in takes priority followed by SD and then the USB memory stick.

I haven’t experienced much frequency overlap, but changing the frequency is quite easy. You can scroll up and down or press, say, '9' '8' '5' and "Ch Set" which switches the channel to 98.5 MHz. The FM frequency ranges from 87.5 MHz to 108.0 MHz in 0.1 MHz steps.

Pressing the EQ key on the remote rotates playback conditions of ROCK, POP, JAZZ, CLASSIC and NORMAL. Pressing say '1' '2' '5' the device followed by the "Pick Song" key plays track #125.

The backlit monochrome LCD display has two lines. The top line shows the FM frequency, logo for the input device and the track time counting up. The lower line shows only the song title.

On the downside I’ve found that when powering off and on, the device remembers the track number and plays from the beginning of the track. This can be a problem when playing books on tape or long audio files. Even though the unit doesn’t have a shuffle mode (it plays in a directory ordered manner), I found a Windows utility called ‘Reorganize’ which can order the files alphabetically (up or down) as well as randomly.

The player seems to have some difficulty with foreign language characters, which is not an issue for me. The stereo sound quality is very good,and quite clear.

I purchased the unit for under $10 from ebay, and the reason may be that it could be an early version as similar units are more expensive, $20 and up, yet with more features.

Low Cost Entertainment Control

It’s amazing how much energy vampire electronics can consume. A DVD player powered on while playing a DVD can draw about 12 watts and half that when turned off and still plugged in. A computer on standby takes about 65 Watts.

As I have several entertainment systems, including a laptop, plugged in all year the cost can be over $100 (power modules for laptops are notoriously inefficient as are most transformer-less power supplies). Buying a control center can be very expensive, so I decided to convert an old entertainment system as a power center. Someone gave me an old TV satellite control unit to which I stripped out all of the inside parts, yielding some useful components to stash in my parts draw. On the back, I cut out some slots to place six power sockets. On the front I mounted four switches, one to power the entertainment systems, one to power the laptop, one to power a transformer to switch on a hurricane lamp fitted with LED’s and one to power a 5-volt transformer to energize a USB socket. The USB socket only has the power lines connected and together with a headphone socket mounted on the front I can plug in an MP3 stick player.

The transformers are mounted internally and on the back I placed appropriate connectors for the lamp as well as audio sockets for the MP3 connection to a power amplifier.

So now I can control several devices with the flick of a switch.

Post Note: I've also added an HD radio to this.