How To: Fix a noisy car stereo iPod/iPhone connection with this Magic Box - Macenstein

How To: Fix a noisy car stereo iPod/iPhone connection with this Magic Box

I am a bit ashamed to admit it, but one of the few reasons I opted to spend $6,000 more for a Toyota Camry over a Toyota Corolla is the Camry had an AUX in port for my iPhone, and the Corolla did not. For years in my old Ford Contour I had to make due with horrible iPod FM transmitters that may possibly work fine in Nebraska, but which are more or less useless if you live outside a big radio market like New York City, as do I. And while at first I was overjoyed at my new found ability to enjoy crystal clear audio while driving, I eventually noticed that that crystal clear audio suddenly became decidedly LESS clear when I charged my iPhone while playing music. At first I chalked it up to the car charger (a Griffin) but when a Belkin produced the same problem, I was pissed. What I was experiencing was noise created from a “ground loop”, or sometimes referred to as “alternator whine”. But whatever you call it, it came through as a high-pitched, staticky sound that would vary in intensity depending on God knows what, but it was always present. If I unplugged my iPhone from the car charger, the audio was fine. Charge it, whine. I decided to do a test on my wife’s newer Toyota Sienna mini van, and she has the exact same problem, so maybe it’s a Toyota thing (Not that I want to accuse Toyota of having any type of manufacturing defects).

But thankfully that annoying sound is just a high-pitched memory now that I’ve found this magic box.

It’s called the PAC SNI-1/3.5 Noise Filter, and while with a name like that you would think it would sell itself, I’m so happy with mine that I figured I would give them a free commercial, and hopefully save some of my fellow car audio lovers some of the aggravation I experienced. Basically you just slip this box between your iPhone and your existing 3.5 mm audio cable (or if the Noise filter’s cable is long enough, you can just use it) and BOOM! Static gone. Unlike the iPad, this thing really IS magic!

If you do a Google or Amazon search for “Car Noise Filter” or “Alternator Whine filter” you’ll likely find a bunch of matches and prices, and almost all of them have both positive and negative reviews, but this one worked amazing for me, so I’m throwing it out there for what it’s worth. I did not notice any loss in audio quality, and I can now crank my music as loud as I’d like without hearing any of the previous whine. It’s $17.99 on Crutchfield’s site. Go get it.

20 Responses to “How To: Fix a noisy car stereo iPod/iPhone connection with this Magic Box”
  1. Dan says:

    That’s a pretty good find! Back in the days when I had a wired FM modulator on my old truck for my iPod, this would have done me some good.

    Since then, though, I think I’ve found the best solution: buy a new headunit. Sure, it’s a couple hundred more than a cheap modulator or an AUX cable, but the sound quality is ridiculously better, and the UI is much easier to read and safer to use while driving than using your actual iPod.

    The guys at Alpine got it right:
    Their head units actually copy the files off the iPod, send them through their own processor and straight to your speakers. There isn’t any loss in quality due to analog problems because it’s straight digital up until the signal is sent to your speakers.

    I have the iDa-X100, an earlier version of the iDa-X303 shown on their site. I can scroll through playlists, settings, albums, etc. in real time. I can actually read the text of what’s playing, what I’m scrolling through, all without really taking my eyes from the road (thanks to its placement in my dash).

    Also, for another $100 or so (you can find them cheaper than MSRP elsewhere) you can get this little add-on:
    That took my stock speakers from sounding like their on the floor level, which they are, to sounding like they’re right next to my ears. It basically corrects timing and frequency modal issues in your vehicle, and ever one is going to have them to some degree.

    So dude, if you’re going to spend $6k just for a friggin’ AUX input, think they problem through all the way.

  2. Vas the Man says:

    You got pwned – for far less, you can get the Auris/Corolla Hatch with an enhanced stereo with line in (and leather steering wheel, and alloys, and fog lamps…). When I bought mine, I talked them up to throwing in iPod charger/adaptor at no extra cost, and it doesn’t have any noise from the car in it.

  3. @Vas,
    What year?
    – The Doc

  4. joey says:

    My brand new toyota yaris has a aux in port on the factory radio and it was only 14,000, about half of the price difference between the 2 cars. You could have spent about 1,000 getting a gps nav touchscreen put in and those all have aux inputs on them

  5. Colin says:

    @Vas have you gone for a ride in a Camry? How about a long trip? I’d hardy call buying a Camry over an Auris Hatch getting pwned.

  6. go figure says:

    Only a Toyota driver would be able to miss that the whine increases with engine RPM…

  7. nuvs says:

    Must be a Toyota thing…

    Both my Honda ’07 Civic & ’10 Odyssey have the AUX line in feature, and both work fine with iPhone, even when charging.

    However, did you try a different iPod/iPhone to rule out your iPhone?

  8. @Joey,
    I actually wanted to get the Yaris, as I only have a 13 mile commute, but I am 6 foot 3, and I just couldn’t fit in it.

    – The Doc

  9. @nuvs,

    Yes, both my iPhone 3G, my new 3Gs, and my wife’s 3Gs all do the same thing, as does a regular old iPod.

    – The Doc

  10. @go figure,

    WHY YOU!!!!

    No, seriously, the sound would fluctuate for no reason. Sitting idle it would sometimes go nuts, sometimes barely hear it. Some drives you would barely hear it, and other times it was super annoying. I could put the car in neutral and floor the accelerator with no change in the sound. Highway driving wasn’t as bad, mainly because the wind noise blocked out everything, including the music.
    – The Doc

  11. Rob says:

    I’ve got ya all beat….I still use my 1990, $4.00 car cassette tape desk adapter….put a little spit on the tape head and it’s good to go!

    Yes, I am a cheap bastard and it will be a cold day in hell before I spend hundreds/thousands of dollars on a car stereo (plus I’m married and my wife would castrate me if I even mentioned it).

  12. Vince says:

    I get that sound in my car too. Here I always thought it was because it was a 91 Dodge with a tape adapter causing the sound. Do they make one of these for a cassette adapter?

  13. Coco says:

    Yeah your Toyota Camry has an input jack, but can you even hear the iPhone over the terrified screaming?

  14. Brian M says:

    No whine in the Camry Hybrid ’08… probably because of the very different drive system. I tend to notice high pitch sounds very easily, so something like this would have annoyed me.
    It is good to know there are devices like this out there that can potentially solve the issue.

  15. Vas the Man says:

    @Doc: 2007 model year – it’s not feeling so new any more.

    @Colin: yes, I’ve driven a Camry, and it’s an old man’s car – the Auris/Corolla Hatch is a lot more fun to drive (6-speed manual gearbox with the stick on the console, fun to get it sideways, better power/mass ratio, wrap-around front seats and reclined rear seats). The longest trips I take in it are about 100km – any further and I’ll hire a van or fly. Also, Doc said one of his primary reasons for getting a Camry over a Corolla was the stereo’s line in, so your arguments are irrelevant, anyway.

  16. Killer's Dad says:

    My 2001 Nissan Maxima has a different problem. I play my iPhone through a cassette converter with no alt.whine. But when I charge my iPhone I hear alt.whine through my Sirius Satellite Radio that transmits to any FM station I assign. I notice the whine starts about 30 seconds after I change the broadcast channel. So I will try the Magic Box on the Sirius output.

  17. imajoebob says:

    HA! What’s old is new again? This is technology popular back in the EARLY 1970s. During the CB craze engine whine was a big problem for a lot of cars. You stuck one of these noise filters between the antenna and the radio, exactly like you’re doing here.

    Maybe you should add a copy of “Convoy” to your play list?

  18. joey says:

    @Doc, I’m 6’3″ and 275 and i think i fit into the yaris fine. I just took it on a 2500 mile round trip last week and the only pain i had was from my ankle being stuck in traffic and not being able to use cruise control

  19. TTboyz says:

    Wow sounds like an expensive Aux in ur right thouse FM transmitter things are sure that was the cause of the ariel malfunction in iphone..anyway thats another story…
    A aftermarket OEM stereo was the way to go for me..not only does it have ipod compatibility, its has built in satnav, usb and sd reader, dvd player…a variety of musical possibilities…well thats my two cents worth….great post

  20. Chuck M. says:

    Thanks very much for posting this article! I’d been living with a pretty obnoxious alternator whine for years and others had posted complicated procedures for isolating and fixing ground loops, but I really wasn’t up for all that hassle, especially when it didn’t seem that the procedures were a definitive fix.

    On your recommendation, I bought one of these filters from Crutchfield last week, and it completely eliminated my alternator whine as soon as I put it in. Best $20 I’ve spent in years!

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