We chose to install the iOn as an alternative to both the iTrip FM transmitter ($35) and standard cassette deck adapter ($19). After using both, I found that the iTrip was unable to deliver a clean signal to my VW R32's antenna (a common antenna in VWs and Audis) and the cassette adapter had the ubiquitous low-level tape hiss.
Following a clean and simple installation (we did have to cut a notch to accommodate the cable) of the Neo iOn, my iPod Mini was ready to rock through my VW R32's factory stereo. I immediately appreciated the advantages of this unit. I like that during active use:
- the Neo iOn charges my iPod;
- the iPod displays current track information;
- full control of the music/settings is available via iPod buttons;
- the car stereo buttons control scanning within a song and advance/reverse song selection within a folder (playlists, albums, song lists, or artist);
- the connecting cable can either be tucked away (so the iPod can be close to the car stereo) or extended (so the iPod can be held by passengers).
A considerable bonus is that the Neo iOn is a universal box that can be installed with another cable suited for my new vehicle when I sell my VW R32 (look on cars.com!). According to the makers of the unit, www.mp3yourcar.com, there are over 600 vehicles that can use the Neo iOn!
The only software "glitch" that I found with my car was that the button to advance the track does not respond until after the first time I press the reverse button. It works every time after that until the car stereo is turned off. Also, the track selection knob (my car stereo's radio tuning knob) does not advance to future tracks in shuffle mode; it only reverse-selects tracks that have already been played.
The Neo iOn is a direct-mode adapter, meaning that "what you see (on the iPod screen) is what you get." I like the direct-mode adapter better than playlist-mode adapters, which blank out the iPod's display and use the car stereo display to show track numbers, apparently without displaying song titles (I've never used one). Users of the playlist-mode adapters can only play songs that have been organized into iPod playlists.
(Playlist-mode adapters work well for users who don't care about viewing the track names, prefer selecting only playlists, and want to keep the iPod in the glove compartment. That method
doesn't work for me because I enjoy seeing the track names, shuffling my songs, and selecting music by searching for specific song/album names.)
The iOn is relatively high-priced and the benefits are fairly singular, but the market will soon drive down the cost. As new cars come out, it's likely that they're going to be fitted with jacks for mp3 players. In fact, many aftermarket car stereos that rival the
cost of the iOn already have options for direct feeds to mp3 players. The cost of these mp3 player adapters will probably also drop due to competitive factors and the size of the market.
This Neo iOn unit is perfect for my use, delivering the above features with clean sound and keeping my iPod close to the stereo where I can read the track information...yes, while I'm driving! The only rub
for me is that it may be difficult to justify the cost difference between the Neo iOn and a cassette adapter (if low-level tape hiss isn't an annoyance to you).
If you want an easy way to control the iPod via your headunit, the Neo iOn is an excellent choice.