Saving Money: Digital Music through your Old Speakers

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by Ed

(image source)

FM transmitters are not just for the road.   When I first found out about them a few years back, I thought an FM transmitter would be the greatest thing in home audio: a way to enjoy my music, anywhere in my house or yard using the good quality sound systems I've already invested in.  Instead they ended up as the default way for Car drivers to enjoy their MP3 players and I really had to hunt for one that could actually be used in our house.

Time has shown that what seems obvious to a nerd is often only obvious because we are nerds.  Let me combine two interests - Music and cheap tech - for one frugal/nerdy post.  Want a cool old radio like the one above to play music from your computer?  Read on.

By way of intro, let me ask some rhetorical questions about Car Based FM transmitters.  What are their best features?  Your answer would likely be some variation on, "music that I want coming through expensive, high quality speakers instead of headphones (dangerous for driving) or built in MP3 player/cell phone speakers (shrill and terrible)".  Another great feature is that your MP3 player likely holds more music than a tape or CD (or all the tapes and CDs that you and your ancestors have ever owned).  What are the worst features?  Well, likely while you drive you'll need to avoid other vehicles with transmitters or on longer trips, you need to seek new stations to avoid losing your tunes.

Now take your pro/con list inside your house.

Firstly, the Pro List.  Your house likely has more than one set of speakers connected to an FM receiver/radio.  I'd venture a guess that almost all the speakers in your house, from your bedroom clock radio to Home Theatre Speakers, all have built in FM radios.  Where will the music come from?  Likely your home computer, which has even more storage room on it than all your MP3 Players and Cell phones combined.  So... endless places to play music combined with a (practically) bottomless pit of songs.  Sounds pretty good.

The con list?  Basically none.  Your house doesn't drive around much, unless you're in a mobile home of some sort, so once you find a station that works, it will likely work forever.

Why should you do this?
  • Your home computer has more music on it than you remember owning.  You don't want to sit near it all the time.  This way you're free to roam around your house.
  • Imagine how cool your house parties will be: the same music playing everywhere in the background; people will think they are at a fancy celebrity party with its own soundtrack.
  • Smaller parties are a blast if you play Hot Potato with DJ duties - passing the iPad around to play guess the track (see the "Remote" App below).
  • And as cool as it is to do housework with ear buds in, it just plain rocks to do family chores vacuuming, dusting, doing dishes, whatever to the same music, everywhere.
  •  Got access to a digital projector?  Pair it with a DVD player, an FM transmitter and a boom box and you can take a show outside.  Your own outdoor theatre.
  •  Since the range of the typical transmitter is much further than a single car, you can now run your own pirate radio station for your house and those within a few dozen or so meters.  All you, all the time.

The potential is limited only by your imagination and nerdiness. 

How this all works:
  • Pick up an FM transmitter that doesn't rely on a cigarette lighter for power.  This one's from Amazon.com:

  • Plug the Transmitter into the Audio Out (or headphone jack) on the computer that has the most music on it.
  • Play music on iTunes or whatever your favourite Media Player may be.  Roam around your house tuning radios to whatever channel you set the transmitter to broadcast on.
  • Enjoy multi-storey, multi-room surround sound without the hundreds of dollars the big boys cost.
  • Own an iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone?  Kick it up a notch further with the "Remote" App which allows you to remotely control your iTunes Library from anywhere on your network.  

Anyone else play with an FM transmitter with any success?


  1. Hello,
    This is such a nice sharing. Such a money saving product. The modern technology is very helpful and save our money and time both.


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