Convinent Doohickies with minor headaches

I’ve been starting to use my trusty Blackjack as my main music player. It may not be as great as an iPhone, but it works and is always on me. When my Zen Micro started to die on me earlier this year, and I saw myself with two long distance trips looming in the future, I decided to do the frugal thing - buy a memory card and use my phone as my personal media player. I haven’t looked back, but I’ve been adjusting.

After finding the phone a trusty companion during long trans-continental flights, I wanted to see where else it could guide my music listening, and naturally thought I could give my collection of burnt mp3 CD’s the boot and just use my phone. At first, this was simple and straightforward - just use the same aux connection I was using with my Zen Micro with my phone - but this turned out to be awkward for one important reason:

  • If anyone calls, I need to unplug the phone to be able to have a meaningful two-sided conversation. Otherwise, while I could hear the person calling me, they wouldn’t be able to hear anything I said.

Now, I’d been looking at ways of getting Bluetooth in my car before, as answering phones without a handless devices such as a headset is not only illegal in many states, it’s also very dangerous and hard to do in a manual. It’s actually been rather recent when good intermediate devices have been getting more affordable, and after some quick research picked up a Jabra SP700 speakerphone. Unlike a headset, it does not make you look like a duchebag, since it is meant to stay in your car – specifically, hanging from inconspicuously from a shade. But also unlike a traditional one earpiece headset, it has the following features:

  1. The ability to play stereo music from a phone
  2. Transmit whatever it’s playing to any FM radio through its FM Transmitter.

While the sound quality could be better, its lack of wires to play booming phone music is definitely a win! Sure, you could say that lone headphone cable that connected my phone to my car’s head unit was simple and easy to use, and it’s true, but the obtrusiveness of the cable plus its incapability of allowing phone conversations made it annoying and a chore. Now, I think of these 3 button presses (one to turn on Bluetooth, one to turn on the speakerphone, and the last to turn on the FM Transmitter) when I enter my car as a ritual that will allow the most awesome music to emanate forth.


I was actually pretty impressed at how seamless and automatic (outside of my 3 button press ritual) it all was, once the devices are connected, my Blackjack sends all my calls and music to the speakerphone. Though pairing up the device with my phone did send me searching for the manual. And when a call comes in during a song, I no longer have to worry about both breaking the law and unplugging and then plugging back my phone, since the call music will transition smoothly to my conversation when I answer the call. It’s actually rather neat - Kate actually tried it while in the car to see if it would work, and was impressed!

There are downsides, sure; I’ve had many conversations were listening to the other side through my car’s speakers was very tasking. I’m not sure if that had anything to do with the FM Transmitters rather low strength (I have to set the volume pretty high just to listen to music) or from the other parties unconscious effort to keep from sounding like their being overly loud. I’ve also been forced to work around the unit’s low transmitter strength: by both removing my cars external radio antenna and creating a makeshift antenna out of USB cable that dangles a little from the rear view mirror. Though after finding an FM band without too many stations around it, 105.5 seems to be working well, I’ve at least not had any more issues with interference or the sound fading out.

I’m still trying to decide what to do next. I would like to have better and louder music then I do now, but that might mean messing around with the internals of my SP700. I could also save for a new head unit, but I think I would prefer a new bed instead. So, there might some things that I could think could be better, but while it’s not perfect, it’s easy to set up and does just what I need. Think I’ll leave this setup for a little bit longer.

September 28, 2009 10:41 PM Gadgets and Hardware


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