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Using Your iPod with a MACH Audio System


Active Member
May 5, 2011
Reaction score
City, State
Grand Rapids, MI
Year, Model & Trim Level
2000 Mountaineer 5.0
Thought I would put together a quick list of the various ways you can get an iPod to play through your factory MACH audio system. I get asked this a lot from my non-technical friends with iPods (I'm the resident Apple nerd).

The list is ordered from best to worst (in my opinion).

Note: This list is iPod-specific, but much of it also applies to any portable device.

BEST: iPod-Specific CD Changer Adapter

This option is comprised of a "brain" module and wiring that allows you to tap into the car's CD Changer input. Here are the advantages/disadvantages:
  • Advantage - Sound quality: VERY GOOD (line level)
  • Advantage - Limited control of iPod through radio controls
  • Advantage - Charges your iPod during use
  • Disadvantage - Cost: HIGH
  • Disadvantage - Difficult to install, professional assistance may be required

I recently installed a USA-SPEC adapter in my 2000 Mountaineer and I LOVE it. The sound quality is as good as my CD player, and I love being able to control my iPod from the dash.

Note: This works with my iPad and my iPhone 4, however it gives me a notice that it is an old accessory everytime I plug in my iPhone. However, it still works just fine.

GOOD: Wired RF Modulator

This option is comprised of a "brain" module and wiring designed to add a CD changer or other auxiliary device into a factory stereo. It is nearly the same quality as the BEST option above, but is less expensive. However, it requires a separate adaptor to charge your iPod.
  • Advantage - Sound quality: GOOD
  • Advantage - COST: MEDIUM
  • Disadvantage - Difficult to install, professional assistance may be required

FAIR: Tape Adapter

This option is comprised of a cassette-shaped adapter that allows you to play any portable audio device through your cassette player (if equipped). It is also the easiest option to use, even for those that are not technically inclined.
  • Advantage - COST: LOW
  • Advantage - Easy for anyone to setup and use
  • Disadvantage - Sound quality: FAIR

POOR: RF Modulator

This option takes a number of different forms, from cradles to dongles. The device broadcasts your iPod audio through an FM station, so all you need to do is tune your radio to the same station. One major disadvantage is that if you travel a lot, you may end up having to hunt for the best station in an area. Also, in my experience, these suffer a lot from radio interference.
  • Advantage - Easy to hook up.
  • Advantage - COST: LOW-HIGH, ranges based on features
  • Advantage - Easy for anyone to setup and use
  • Disdvantage - Sound quality: FAIR
  • Disdvantage - Interference can be annoying

Let me know if you have any questions!

Great list. :thumbsup: Should be made a sticky! :biggthump

Thanks for taking the time to do this.

No problem!

One more thing I forgot to explain: the "Wired RF Modulator" and "RF Modulator" work much the same way. They both broadcast your iPod's audio through a FM frequency for your radio to pick up. However, there is one big difference: the wired modulator plugs right in to your factory antenna, while the other option simply broadcasts like a low-powered radio station. In both scenarios, you tune into a radio station (like 88.7) to pick up the iPod audio. The advantage of the hard-wired option is that when you activate it, it cuts out any and all interference from outside radio waves. Basically, it severs the connection with your car's antenna while you are listening to the iPod, so there can be no interference. The straight up RF modulator can and will encounter interference.

If you haven't noticed, I'm not a big fan of the non-wired RF modulator, I've had several of them and not one of them was a pleasant experience. Its a constant struggle to find a "clear" station to use, and even when you do the sound quality tends to be less than stellar.