Review: DLO TransDock iPod Car Kit - Macenstein

Review: DLO TransDock iPod Car Kit

Posted by Dr. Macenstein

TransDockiPod FM transmitters for your car are a dime a dozen, yet DLO has managed to somehow make us stand up and take notice with their TransDock ($99). The TransDock boasts a wealth of features you may find scattered across its competition, but DLO’s unit is the first to combine all the best features into one unit.

The TransDock consists of a charging cradle/FM transmitter located at the end of an articulated arm. The arm can be adjusted for length as well as direction at a number of points, allowing for a wide range of positioning possibilities depending on the location of your car’s cigarette adapter (the means through which the TransDock draws power). The transmitter allows for 4 FM presets to be stored, and the large backlit display is easy to read without having to take your eyes off the road for too long. The controls are fairly intuitive and simple. A mode button on the left of the unit is used to select modes, and the Up and Down navigation arrows on the right are used to (depending on the selected mode): manually tune stations, select presets, adjust backlight timing, brightness, and volume levels. The TransDock also comes with a silver faceplate you can swap out with the black one that ships on the unit to help match your car’s interior.


Above: The TransDock can accommodate any iPod with a dock connector, including the nano (with included adapter)

What sets the TransDock apart from the competition is the range of options it features. In addition to charging your iPod and broadcasting your iPod’s music to your car stereo via FM, the TransDock can also connect directly to your car stereo via an auxiliary input jack (assuming your stereo has one). This delivers far superior sound compared to FM (especially in densely populated areas with many competing radio stations), and is the way to go if you have an AUX port. The TransDock also has a line-in port, so you can use the FM transmitting capabilities of the TransDock to broadcast audio from another device to your car’s speakers, for example, the audio from a portable DVD player the kids might be watching in the back seat. Another nice touch on the TransDock is an included USB port. This allows you to use the TransDock to charge any USB powered device, such as an iPod Shuffle, cell phone (with appropriate cable) or even a 2nd iPod. And of course the TransDock’s cradle charges your iPod while it plays.

Above: The TransDock makes entertaining the kids on long rides easy.

But my favorite feature of the TransDock is its ability to connect not just the audio from your iPod to your car, but also the video. If you are lucky enough to have a car with a rear seat entertainment system, you can connect the TransDock’s output to your car and view video from your iPod directly on the screens, all while charging your iPod and keeping it securely positioned. We found this worked very well, and it was a big hit with the kids on a recent trip (we had recorded some 200 hours of kids shows using Eye TV and exported them for iPod, giving the kids a much wider choice than the same 5 DVDs they always watch to choose from, not to mention taking up hardly any extra space).

Even if your car does not come with built-in DVD screens, you can still enjoy the video output of the TransDock. My 2007 Toyota Camry has no video screens, but I was able to cobble together a poor man’s version with a $130 set of RCA dual head rest DVD screens from Target, and about $20 worth of cables from Radio Shack.


And for the REALLY negligent drivers out there, thanks to the positioning possibilities of the TransDock’s arm, you can even watch video in the front seat directly from your iPod while driving (depending on where your cigarette lighter is located) however we do NOT recommend this, unless the show is really good (OK, we don’t recommend this under any circumstances).

As a final bonus, the TransDock ships with a gift card for 35 free tracks from eMusic. You have to sign up for a 14-day trial period to eMusic, but you can cancel if you don’t like the service, and still keep your 35 free songs.


The only real issue I had when watching video on the TransDock is likely more of a problem with the video itself than the TransDock. I have recorded some 300 or so kids shows using Elgato’s Eye TV and exported them for iPod playback. While the audio on these shows always sounded fine when viewed while wearing headphones or with an external speaker hooked up, I found in the TransDock I was getting a lot of extra “hiss”, and needed to have the audio on my radio set quite loud even when using the wired connection. However, when comparing the audio of the Elgato recoded/exported videos to that of a DVD I ripped, I could see it was not the TransDock’s fault, the levels were just lower. I was able to select all my exported video in iTunes, and adjust the volume slider to 100%. This fixed the output of the iPod via the TransDock, and the video sounded great.

Additionally, depending on the type of car you have, you may experience a bit more background noise using the TransDock than in other cars. For instance, there was a faint but audible electronic whine when I used the TransDock in my Toyota, where it did not occur in my Ford truck or a Nissan Quest or Saturn sedan. This is likely alternator whine specific to the Toyota, but be aware that it is a possibility. This again is not a problem specific to the TransDock, as using a standard Belkin iPod auto-charger produced the same whine in the Toyota.

Above: The DLO ships with both a black and silver faceplate you can change to match your car’s interior, but changing them can be a frustrating ordeal.

The only legitimate complaint I have with the TransDock is so minor it is not worth mentioning, yet I will. The included extra faceplate is almost impossible to change without using a tool of some sort and causing a little bit of scratching to the sides to the unit. I am a fan of a tight fit as much as anyone, but this is REALLY tough. I think most people will end up sticking with the stock black faceplate regardless of their car’s interior, just out of sheer frustration.


When it comes to after market iPod car solutions, The TransDock is the Jack-of-all-Trades. Its adjustable mounting arm, AUX in/out ports, USB port for charging additional gadgets, and video out capabilities make it the most versatile car solution we’ve seen.

TransDock iPod Car Kit from DLO


FM broadcasting plus AUX output, an AUX input for connecting other devices, a USB port for charger extra gadgets, versatile mounting arm

Cons: Non significant.

7 Responses to “Review: DLO TransDock iPod Car Kit”
  1. HomunculusAvatar says:

    Could you provide more information concerning your “poor man’s” ipod video set up in your Toyota Camry? For instance, I’m interested in how you mounted the LCD screen in the picture you provided. I think many people would appreciate you sharing your experinece on this matter.

  2. Sorry about that, HomunculusAvatar.

    Those pictures are stock photos from DLO showing nice-looking screens that come with nicer cars than mine. I tested the unit in a Nissan Quest with a built-in DVD system, but did not take photos of that.

    Regrettably, my “poor man’s” version looks a little poorer than those photos.

    The good news is, it doesn’t really look horrible, but there are (as you might expect) more wires showing you’ll need to tie up and hide places.

    I will try to take some pics of my setup and publish it this weekend.

    -The Doc

  3. HomunculusAvatar says:

    Cool thanks. I look forward to it.

  4. Ben Friedman says:

    I actually have this, and the FM works great.

  5. Hey HomunculusAvatar , just wanted to let you know I finally got around to writing that “how to” for ya.

    Hope it helps.

    -The Doc

  6. Udigis says:

    > the TransDock can also connect directly to your car stereo via an auxiliary input jack (assuming your stereo has one). This delivers far superior sound compared to FM (especially in densely populated areas with many competing radio stations), and is the way to go if you have an AUX port.

    This is cool, I’ve been using quite a few FM transmitter, IMO, you have to use the aux port to deliver a superb audio to your car. FM transmiter just has static sound, no matter what. This is a wonderful option for iPod fans, thanks for sharing.

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