My car is older, a 2002 model, and doesn’t have an auxiliary jack for music/audio playback from my smartphone. I’m sure many of you are in a similar situation. All of my music in the Google Play Music and all of my podcasts are streamed or downloaded using Pocket Casts. In a situation like mine, what do you do when you want to listen to music or a podcast in your car? I could have swapped out my car stereo for one with an aux jack, but that would have cost more than $100, between the deck and installation. The only other option I could find for playing audio from my phone through my car speakers was with an FM transmitter. I have used a few in the past. They were all pretty much garbage. Then I tried the Mpow Streambot Y Bluetooth FM Transmitter and for the first time ever, I found an FM transmitter that was strong enough to cut through the static.
The Streambot Y is easy to set up. Just plug it into your in-vehicle charger, pair your smartphone via Bluetooth, spin the frequency control knob to find an empty station, and press play on your favorite artist or album. It even has a USB port so you can charge your device while using it. This is a nice touch as some FM transmitters don’t provide the option. This device uses the older Bluetooth 2.1 standard, so it’s harder on your battery than current Bluetooth 4.0 devices. It doesn’t come with a USB cable, but you should get one. You’ll need the built-in charger. The build quality of the Streambot Y is also decent. Everything feels solid and well-built, which is also something I’ve noticed is lacking in other transmitters. There’s an LED that indicates when the device is searching or in pairing mode. This LED notification ring is a bit dim in bright daylight, but you don’t need that light for much of anything. The display that shows volume and radio stations is bright and easy to read.
In use, the Streambot Y is one of the better FM transmitters that I have used. Most are weak and don’t create much more than static unless you’re out in the country where there are few radio stations. The Streambot Y works just fine for me in the city, too. The sound quality is passable, but I wouldn’t call it great. The audio technologies that are in use here are inherently lossy. Standard definition FM radio bitrate is somewhere around 128kbps (but probably less than that), and Bluetooth audio is so compressed it’s not even funny. We can add to that the uphill battle that an FM transmitter in your car is fighting against the much larger antennas from terrestrial radio stations. You really can’t expect great sound quality from a transmitter like the Streambot Y. The overall volume is a little low as well, despite having my phone media volume and Bluetooth volume cranked to maximum. Even so, Mpow has made an FM transmitter that gets the job done better than any other transmitter I’ve tried.
The instructions are somewhat lacking as well. The basic Bluetooth pairing and streaming are easy enough, but I had a few confusing moments that weren’t explained in the one page instruction guide. When I first plugged it in and began streaming audio (a podcast, in this case), there was some kind of timer counting up from zero on the LED display. At seemingly arbitrary times, the Bluetooth connection would be severed and I would have to reconnect it. This happened four or five times before I started pushing buttons. I don’t know how I did it, but somehow I turned off this random timer and the disconnecting Bluetooth issue ceased. The two volume buttons do more than just control the volume, too. I don’t know what exactly they do, but sometimes when I press them there are alphabetical characters displayed on the LED screen, instead of the 0-30 numbers indicating the volume level. Not sure what this does. I searched on Mpow’s website and on the internet for a more in-depth manual, but I came up empty-handed.
For its quirks, the Streambot Y Bluetooth FM Transmitter is the best FM transmitter I’ve used to date. Sound quality is decent, and most importantly it cuts through nearby stations and presents you with listenable audio, even in cities with crowded airways. Hats off to Mpow for making a device that does what it advertises. You can find it on Amazon for about $35. You can find more information about Mpow on their website, their Facebook page, and on Twitter.