What’s not to like about satellite radio? You get hundreds of channels, no commercial interruptions, and crystal-clear sound…unless you use an FM modulator.
Investing in an FM modulator is like settling for a McDonald’s cheeseburger when you’re craving a sirloin steak. You sacrifice quality for a tiny bit of convenience, and it’s almost never worth it. Here’s why:
FM Modulators Are Buggy
Do you remember before the days of digital cable when you’d have to position those rabbit ears juuuust right to get the football game on TV? FM modulators (well, at least some of them) are like that.
Basically, there are two kinds of FM modulators:
- A modulator that sits behind the dash and “piggybacks” onto the existing stereo antenna connection
- A modulator that works like a set of headphones. You plug the modulator into the headphone jack on your satellite radio tuner, and then plug the modulator into the cigarette lighter
Both of these designs have problems. Both are vulnerable to interference. Whatever model you choose, external FM radio signals will interfere with sound quality. In some cases, you might not be able to hear satellite radio at all!
While the first type – the piggyback style – is better, neither is immune to these problems.
FM modulator interference problems are by design. There are federal laws limiting the transmission power of FM modulators. That’s because the government doesn’t want people using them to jam radio transmissions. This limited power means that FM modulators are weak transmitters subject to interference from all electronics including cell phones, laptop computers, and nearby vehicles.
Second, if you go with an FM modulator that plugs into your cigarette lighter and a headphone jack, you’ll have all sorts of little annoying problems:
- You’ve got to route a bunch of wires around the interior.
- If you have any other device plugged into the cigarette lighter, you’ll either need to unplug to listen to satellite, or you’ll have to get an adapter that allows you to plug in two devices.
- These small transmitters don’t always work if they’re positioned in a cup holder or glove box. Often times, you have to leave them on a seat or lay them across the console.
No matter what type of FM modulator you buy, you can expect to be annoyed with it from time to time.
Sound Quality Is Compromised
Satellite radio has limited bandwidth and shares that bandwidth among all of its channels, so sound quality doesn’t come close to matching that of your in-car CD player.
If your ears can’t detect the difference in sound quality between the local radio station and a CD player, you might not notice the streaming quality of satellite radio. If you have highly-tuned ears, you’ll want to do whatever you can to get your satellite radio to come in clearly. Using an FM modulator is a poor solution, as they degrade sound quality.
If you use a system that pipes the satellite radio through your factory stereo – like those offered by VAIS – sound quality will be much higher.
You Don’t Have To Settle!
A lot of the companies selling car adapter kits for satellite radio offer FM modulators because they’re cheap, but that also means you’re dealing with stray wires, less than optimal performance, and frustrating signals. There is a better option!
At VAIS Technology, we’ve developed a system for connecting satellite radio to OEM factory stereos, even if they don’t have an AUX input. When our systems are connected to your stereo, it sounds just as good as a factory-installed option.
Curious about your options? Check us out online or give us a call – you’ll be glad you did!