Best Bluetooth FM Transmitters: Bring Some Flexible Sound into Your Old Car
The best Bluetooth FM transmitters to bring digital streaming music to older vehicles
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BY Noelle Talmon / LAST UPDATED ON October 15, 2021
Wireless technology like Bluetooth has all but eliminated the need for cords when it comes to listening to music in your vehicle. Almost all modern cars and trucks come with stereo systems that can hook up to almost any smart device to play or stream music. For older vehicles, however, it's a little different. Since many used vehicles were around before Bluetooth was a thing, they may lack a way to connect to a smart device, wireless or otherwise. This is where an FM transmitter is a useful purchase. If you find yourself wanting to listen to your favorite streaming playlists in your 1994 Mazda Miata, a Bluetooth FM transmitter will let you do just that and possibly more. Take a look at our handy guide to see what you need to know about today's top transmitter choices.
Featuring a clear display and user-friendly interface, this FM radio and Bluetooth transmitter makes driving easier.
- Large screen
- Stable connection to DC adapter
- Enables hands free calls and music control
- Takes up quite a bit of space
- Can encumber access to shift controls
- Better with DC adapters placed higher on the dash
Affordable and compact, this FM transmitter incorporates a USB and a DC connection. It is built to offer a stable sound with reduced interruptions.
- Equipped with two charging stations
- Multiple playback settings
- Over-voltage and surge protection
- USB ports prone to wear and tear
- Controls are fairly small and can be tricky to push
- Easy to scratch the surface
Simple and straightforward, this model incorporates Bluetooth along with FM function to enhance your car’s ability. The compact plug makes it easy to control
- Compatible with any Bluetooth system
- Pairs easily and efficiently
- Includes overcurrent protection and thermal controls
- Doesn’t enable hands-free functions without a pairing kit
- Version three Bluetooth is good, but other picks have version five
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Why Buy a Bluetooth FM Transmitter
- Listen to music wirelessly. The good old radio hasn't quite lost out to online streaming services just yet, but if you want to access your favorite playlists, a universal FM transmitter is a must in older vehicles that lack in-car Bluetooth connectivity and advanced car stereos. Circumnavigating the lack of built-in Bluetooth, a transmitter allows you to pipe music through an FM frequency using a smart device or MP3 player. This way, you can stream music right out of your car's radio with one handy device.
- Enjoy hands-free calling. Many FM transmitters do more than just pipe music through the radio. In fact, anything that has an audio source is up for grabs. This includes a phone's calling capability, so you can enjoy phone calls with hands-free calling straight through the car's speakers. Some FM transmitters have built-in microphones, while others just rely on the phone itself.
- Get a basic USB car charger. A select few transmitters have built-in USB charging ports so you can get juice right from the car through the 12-volt cigarette lighter outlet. In addition to streaming music and calling with hands-free capability, you can also keep your devices charged during long road trips.
Types of Bluetooth FM Transmitters
The most basic model of an FM radio transmitter is nothing more than a 12-volt plug with a built-in Bluetooth chip. This setup allows it to connect to a smart device and pipe music out through an FM frequency. Some basic models also have a simple LCD screen so you can control the FM frequency selection and verify connectivity with the smart device.
More advanced FM transmitters combine a lot of functionality in one design. In addition to streaming music, these are the transmitters that make it easy to enjoy hands-free calling, music display data, and on-the-go device charging. These transmitters also tend to be easier to use, coming with larger displays and controls to change settings on the fly. Some come as standalone products, while others are a part of a larger car kit.
Roav by Anker
Roav is a branch of Anker. It makes electronic accessories specifically for automobiles—smart car devices, dash cams, chargers and adapters, etc. It also makes Bluetooth FM transmitters. Yes, Anker is a Chinese company, but it's also one of the most trusted electronics brands on the market. Check out the Roav by Anker SmartCharge F2 Bluetooth FM Transmitter.
Relatively new to the market, Nulaxy may have only begun operations in 2015, but it quickly grew into a powerhouse in the consumer electronics industry. Specializing in vehicular electronics, mobile accessories, and more, it keeps a primary focus on research and development. It now supplies electrical accessories internationally, though its headquarters remain in Shenzhen, China. Among its repertoire is some impressive Bluetooth tech, including the Nulaxy Bluetooth Car FM Transmitter, a solid way to update older rides.
An electronics company focused mainly on computer- and mobile-related supplies, VicTsing naturally dabbles in the radio industry. One of its popular plug-and-play systems is the VicTsing FM Transmitter Adapter. It’s durable and easy to use, a consistent theme with this brand. Developing a good reputation since its inception, you can turn to this brand for everything from automotive supplies to keyboard accessories. When it comes to tech, VicTsing is worth keeping in mind.
Bluetooth FM Transmitter Pricing
- $5 and under: The budget range of FM transmitters is filled with basic options that do one job alone: transmit music to the radio. These tend to be user-friendly in design but can lack intuitive control interfaces (or an interface altogether).
- $5-$15: The midrange of FM transmitters is home to a mix of simple single-use options and multifunctionality designs. In some cases, the FM transmitters still lack additional features like USB ports but do offer higher-end displays and controls for easy use while driving.
- $15 and above: Higher-end FM transmitters package a lot of functionality into one design. Physical features like USB charging are plentiful in addition to built-in capabilities like noise-canceling filters and more.
Arguably, this is the very thing that makes an FM transmitter wireless. Bluetooth connectivity allows the device to connect to a smartphone without any cords. Be aware, however, there are a few FM transmitters that lack the Bluetooth addition, instead of relying on just a simple audio cable to connect the transmitter to the device.
If you want to charge devices on-the-go through a 12-volt outlet, built-in USB ports are a must. Large transmitters typically have one or two ports included in the body. Keep in mind that the type of USB ports included is important. Modern USB 3.0 and above ports are better for quick-charging the latest smart devices you may have.
Modern audio systems do more than just play music; they also display helpful information about the music. For example, you can find the title, writer, and/or singer of the song from the display alone. Some FM transmitters can show this info on a built-in LCD or LED display. Others can also pipe this information onto the stereo display if it has the capability of reading/conveying this information. This capability will depend on the device itself since some Android phones and iPhones vary in compatibility.
- Audio Distortion: Since music is transferred to FM frequencies, it is difficult sometimes to get a quality audio signal. Depending on the device and receiver, audio distortion can be common. Higher-end FM transmitters with noise-cancellation capabilities are a go-to solution to combat this issue.
- Frequency Selection: In order to find the right channel to transmit to, an FM transmitter needs the right frequency. Most basic models require you to surf through the frequencies manually to find one that isn't taken up by a local radio source. Higher-end transmitters can also scan for a frequency automatically.
Best Bluetooth FM Transmitters Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Setting up an FM transmitter should be an easy process. Simply plug in the device to power it in the car. From there, connect the smart device via Bluetooth.
- The most challenging step of the setup process is finding a clear FM frequency. If you have some presets selected in your car's stereo, choose one and then move around to adjacent frequencies. Sometimes, empty frequencies separate commonly used ones.
- Make sure you choose the same FM frequency between the radio and the FM transmitter. Both need to be in sync. The numbers should match between the two.
Q. How do FM transmitters work?
An FM transmitter acts like a basic radio transmitter, similar to high-powered versions radio stations use. It sends a signal to a specific frequency. On the other end, it connects wirelessly to a smart device so data is transferred without the need for a cord.
Q. What kinds of devices can connect to an FM transmitter?
Anything with an audio source and Bluetooth connectivity should work. Beyond smart devices, modern music players are typically compatible. Higher-end transmitters can also use expandable memory like SD cards so you can play music from the device itself.
Q. Will an FM transmitter drain the car's battery?
This depends on the car itself. If the vehicle has an auto shut-off feature whenever the car is off, the battery should be just fine. If it lacks this feature, you may find the battery to be drained if the FM transmitter and stereo are left on overnight or while you are out.
Q. How is the sound quality with an FM transmitter?
No matter how good our car stereo is or how fancy your FM transmitter is, you'll always lose some signal clarity and, therefore, audio integrity when using Bluetooth. It's simply the nature of Bluetooth. A noise-canceling receiver will help. Remember: When it comes to electronics, you (almost always) get what you pay for.
Now that you know the finer points of picking out the best Bluetooth FM transmitters, it’s time to make your pick. For quality and performance, the Guanda Bluetooth FM Transmitter is a terrific pick overall. Working on a budget? Consider the value of the Raxfly Bluetooth FM Transmitter for its balance of utility and affordability.