The Hippo


Jul 17, 2019








Purchase perspective
Repenting, regretting, whatever

By John Andrews

I’m not Jewish. I have, however, been mistaken for such on more than one occasion. In that spirit, I’ve decided to completely misinterpret one of Judaism’s holiest days, Yom Kippur (Sept. 18 this year), and atone for some misjudgments and mistakes in past writings. In other words, give you an update on things you forgot you ever read about here.

First, my DVD recorder. Way back in August 2005, I bought the cheapest DVD recorder on the market, a CyberHome DVR 1600, for a single Benjamin. It had no frills like an onscreen program guide, digital reception or anything, but it did its job: recorded television programming onto a DVD. Sure, it had its quirks — like recording for 59 minutes instead of an even hour in high quality mode, or its clock gaining a minute or two a day — but it was bleeding edge! And cheap!

It’s still tough to find a DVD recorder for under $100, but those that come close are brand names like Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic, etc. They also come with better features like HD upconversion and HDMI interfaces, and probably don’t need their clocks reset every morning. Besides, who records to DVD? Hard disk Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) are where it’s at, right? No popping discs in and out, no labeling with Sharpies and certainly no lending of recorded premium cable programming to friends.

In any case, my trusty CyberHome has recently started to show its age. Just about every time it’s used, there’s at least one occasion where I have to reboot the thing. The picture will freeze, or the audio will play at triple speed, or it just won’t recognize a DVD. Even better, it’s started screaming when we don’t use it. My fiancée can’t even hear it, the frequency is so high, but every few days it emits this constant electronic squeal until I unplug it completely.

I knew what I was getting into with the DVD recorder, though. And five years really isn’t that bad a run for a home theater piece. Giving y’all advice on making an FM transmitter sound decent in your car back in November 2007? Just misguided.

Here’s my new advice: skip it. If you value music at all, don’t use an FM transmitter.

Upgrading to a new stereo with an audio-in jack is an expensive proposition, especially since once you add that feature, it’s just a few dollars more for a model with built-in GPS, then a couple dollars more for a 7-inch touchscreen, satellite reception and a dozen other options that turn your humble radio into a state-of-the-art entertainment system.
There is an option to add just what you want for cheap. If you’re comfortable getting your hands into the guts of your dashboard, you can install an FM modulator for about $20.

The key difference between a transmitter and a modulator is that the latter connects directly to the antenna port of your car stereo. While it still requires a clear FM station to work, the physical contact makes the signal much clearer. No transmitter I’ve ever tried has captured the full frequency range of my music, so it just sounded muddy and dull. When I finally installed a modulator I bought years ago, though, it was practically CD quality.

Now, I did have to pull off half the dash panels, wire the modulator’s two bare power leads to the back of the cigarette lighter and cut a hole in one plastic panel to make room for the power switch. But my music actually sounds good now.

So that’s my repentance. Take it or leave it.

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