Have you seen the newest car stereos? They’re AWESOME! Built-in navigation, satellite radio and Bluetooth connectivity.
If the last option makes you drool, you’re in luck. A company called Satechi lets you add Bluetooth capabilities without yanking your radio from your dashboard. I took it for a test drive.
At first glance, the Soundfly View Bluetooth FM Transmitter looks like a pretty simple device. It’s an LCD screen on the end of an 8.5” goose neck adjustable arm that plugs into your cigarette lighter plug. It has the usual assortment of buttons including send call, end call, previous track and next track buttons along with a selection knob. As simple as it looks, it can pull off a lot of tricks.
Pair your phone with the Soundfly View (a pretty easy process once you read the included manual) and it’s a speakerphone. When a call comes in, the number will show up on the screen. Press the green button to answer the call and voila! The audio is piped through your car stereo via a line-in jack or the FM transmitter while the device picks up your voice through the built-in microphone. I drive a late model Nissan and people on the other end of a phone call said I sounded great. If your radio supports RDS (where the radio station info and track name pop up on your radio automatically) the Soundfly will actually show the caller ID info on your head unit. Cool, right? Overall, the phone features worked well and, once setup, were easy to use.
The Soundfly’s biggest feature is pumping music into your car. As with the phone option, you can use either a line-in cable or the FM transmitter to get audio from the Soundfly to your stereo. Once that connection is made, there are several ways to pump music into the unit.
The easiest way is to plug your iPod or other MP3 player into the Soundfly with a 3.5mm cable. This is a typical headphone sized plug. This works great but if you’re using the line-in jack on your stereo anyhow, the Soundfly would be pointless. If you’re using the FM transmitter, this is a great way to connect your mp3 player to a stereo without a line-in jack.
You can also plug an SD card or a USB thumb drive directly into the Soundfly and play your mp3s straight from memory. If you already own a storage device, the Soundfly essentially becomes your mp3 player. The screen makes it easy to navigate your music collection.
The coolest way to connect your music is to stream it wirelessly from your phone to the Soundfly via Bluetooth. The technical name for this is A2DP . It sounds great and keeps the cable clutter to a minimum in your car. Some phones will even display the song track info on the Soundfly if the correct Bluetooth profile is supported. On my Samsung Nexus S 4G, this feature did not work.
Things I’d Change
There are a few things I’d change. First, the goose neck is a touch too long. This may make sense in your car but for me it stuck out too far. If it was half the length, it would be perfect. I’d love it if it came with a few different lengths that you could screw in.
Navigating the menus on the Soundfly wasn’t always as intuitive as I would hope. It took me a few minutes to find the menu needed for the initial pairing. It helps to spend a few minutes reading the included directions (but who really does that?) Otherwise, you may waste a few minutes, as I did, trying to figure it out.
Pop, pop, pop. For some reason there are pops when using A2DP audio. There was a pop in between podcasts, a pop in between songs on Pandora and pops when I switched apps. It sounds to me like it’s ending the audio connection and then reconnecting. My phone doesn’t do this with other A2DP units so I’m guessing this is something within the Soundfly. It’s not a huge deal but mildly annoying if you have the volume cranked up.
With those minor grievances aside, the Soundfly View is one of the best ways I’ve found to add Bluetooth capabilities to a car radio that doesn’t support it. It auto connects when you turn on your car so once your phone is paired, it just works. The unit looks good and the adjustable arm lets you custom fit it to your car. For $80 it’s a lot cheaper than forking out the cash for a fancy new radio and may just be the device that can hold you over until it’s time to buy a new car with Bluetooth capabilities built-in.