REVIEW – One of the best things about newer cars is how quick and easy it is to pair your phone with your car audio. But what about vehicles that were made before Bluetooth was a thing? DESFLOW has you covered with their Bluetooth FM Transmitter Adapter.
What is it?
The DESFLOW Bluetooth FM Transmitter is a wireless Bluetooth device that acts as a bridge between your phone’s audio and your car stereo via the FM transmitter. It is powered through your car’s cigarette lighter socket and includes 2 charging ports in the device itself.
- Wireless fidelity: Bluetooth 5.0 FM
- 18W QC 3.0 + PD 3.0 Fast Charger
- Dual screen display for FM frequency and voltage
- Weight: 1.43 ounces
Design and features
The DESFLOW Bluetooth FM Transmitter is about the same size as a regular cigarette charging adapter. The front backlit LCD display clearly shows the car battery voltage (usually around 12.8V) and the selected FM frequency that you’re transmitting to. Circling the display is a knob used for selecting the FM frequency and operating the forward and reverse functions when playing music.
Finally, on the underside of the device are 2 ports, one quick-charge USB 3.0 port and a USB-C PD 3.0 port, both of which can be used at the same time for charging devices or powering additional accessories like a dash cam.
Setting up the FM Transmitter took about 5 minutes. Once you plug the transmitter into the cigarette port, it powers on and switches to Bluetooth pairing mode. After finding and tapping on the device’s name in your phone’s Bluetooth settings, I was all paired up.
Then I set my car stereo to FM and checked for a “blank” spot between stations to set the transmitter frequency to. Depending on your location, this might take some time, if you have a lot of stations around. I managed to find a gap of a 4-5 points where there wasn’t even a hint of static and set the frequency to somewhere in the middle.
The plastic knob used for dialing in the frequency was a bit unresponsive. It felt as if I was turning it too fast for it to acknowledge an increase or decrease in frequency, but I eventually got it to where I needed it.
Then all I had to do was dial the radio to that frequency (saving it on my stereo for quick access later) and start playing some music on my phone.
About 15 years ago, I had a 1st-generation iPod nano that clicked in to a Belkin FM transmitter, which used the iPod’s internal battery to broadcast to a frequency of your choice. I remember thinking it was super cool that I’d be able to listen to music in my car (not having an AUX port in my vehicle at the time) but was ultimately disappointed by the audio quality. It sounded a bit staticky and flat, almost monaural, and was honestly more trouble than it was worth.
So when I set up the DESFLOW FM Transmitter, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the sound quality of this device. It’s almost magical, sending a wireless signal to a tiny adapter that’s broadcasting a separate radio signal to my car’s receiver, instantly and without static, noise or interruption.
My car is equipped with an AUX port, but all of my efforts to play audio through it through a wired adapter sounded awful. There was always some popping or noise from the car’s electronic system … maybe something isn’t grounded properly or the cables or adapter I was using was poor. That wired solution was simply dismal, and almost as expensive as this FM transmitter.
I put the DESFLOW through its paces, and even though I don’t have the best sound system in my George W. Bush-era Elantra, it matched the quality in a direct comparison between a CD and the same album played in Apple Music on my phone.
Honestly, it’s amazing. I have to wonder if there would be more of a difference in quality if I had a better speaker setup, but from what I could tell, it was at least matching the fidelity of compact discs.
I’m also enjoying the fact that as soon as I start up my car, my phone connects to the device, and a simple voice prompt gives feedback to let me know I’m connected.
Pro-tip: you can set up a shortcut in iOS to run a series of commands when you connect to a specific Bluetooth device. I have my phone turn the volume up to 100%, turn on “do not disturb” and automatically shuffle and play my favorite playlist for driving, all with a single response tap… something I couldn’t do with my wired AUX connection.
Not to mention the fact that this transmitter includes 2 quick-charge USB ports, so you don’t have to worry about being left without a way to power your devices. I was able to plug in my dash cam to the transmitter’s USB port and it works flawlessly.
The same knob used for dialing in the FM frequency can be used for forward/reverse functions in the phone’s music player. But depending on where your port is located in your car, it might be too far away to safely or comfortably access while driving. Pushing in on the display acts like a play/pause button, and a long-press invokes Siri. I mean, the functionality is there, if you want to use it, I just never found the need to use it.
All in all, if you have an older vehicle (or boat even) that lacks a decent AUX port or built-in Bluetooth connection, this inexpensive FM transmitter is a perfect solution for playing music and podcasts through your phone.
What I like
- Extremely affordable solution
- Fast and easy to set up
- Sound quality is near CD-quality
- Perhaps the best option for older cars
What needs to be improved
- The adjustment knob is touchy, somewhat unresponsive
- Not able to be fixed, but you would need to change the transmitter station if you travel too far out of the area and another station starts to fade in
Perhaps the best part of DESFLOW’s Bluetooth FM Transmitter is the price… just $22 for this tiny, seamless audio streaming solution. It’s a must-have for those older cars without the fancy CarPlay and built-in Bluetooth functionality.