VR3 MP3 FM Modulator Review

vr3 mp3 fm a VR3 MP3 FM Modulator Review

The VR3 MP3 FM Modulator is an MP3 player that plugs into your cigarette lighter in your car and transmits the signal via FM. The VR3 has no internal memory, you are required to supply it with any USB flash drive. Buttons on the front allow you to skip forward back and pause the music. There is also an audio input for any other portable device you want plug in.

I have never had any good experiences with FM transmitters but other users on the net mentioned that this one actually did work, and work well. I was drawn to the simplicity of the VR3 FM Modulator which looked like a great way to get tunes into your car. So how well does it work? Keep reading below.


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The Unit

Inside the package is the unit itself, an extra fuse, and a cable for hooking up a CD player or other audio device. On the front of the unit are four buttons: forward, back, pause, and channel. The channel button will allow you to change the frequency which the transmitter uses, this will allow you to select the frequency with the least amount of interference.

On the side of the unit is a plug for the supplied input cable. What I thought was counterintuitive and annoying was the fact that the input on the side is a 3/32nd not a standard 1/8th phono jack. The supplied cable works just fine, but if you want to search for a non-standard 3/32nd adapter.

Testing the Player

Sometimes the placement and layout of the car electronics will have an effect on the performance of the FM transmitter. So to be fair, I tested the player in 4 different cars: 1998 Honda Accord, 2001 Saturn SL2, 2004 BMW X5, and a 1989 Dodge Caravan.

Performance & Sound Quality

The functionality of the player worked just as expected. The songs started to play right away as soon as I pressed play and tuned into the right station. The VR3 did have a little bit of problems with longer file names and it played VBR MP3s just the same. You can plug in pretty much any size flash drive and it will play it. But the problem lies when you turn off the car it sends you right back to the beginning of the list. So anything bigger then say a 256MB flash drive is impractical.

There was no difference in the way the each vehicle, they all preformed the same. In every test instance there was static, on every channel and in each vehicle. The crackling and static random and was anywhere from constant to every couple minuets depending on where I drove. There were times where there would be a good solid 4 minutes without static, which allowed me to evaluate the sound quality. Even without the static the sound was flat, without bass or highs.

Conclusion

I really wanted this thing to work, I really did; it looked to be a simple and elegant way to get music to your car audio system. I would use it on a daily basis if it did work. The fact is it doesn’t. You are better off spending that money on a cassette adapter to connect a player or $30 worth of gas to do donuts in the parking lot. I wasted $30 so you don’t have to.

Purchase

I have already warned you but if you have to check it out for yourself you can pick it up here at Amazon, they usually have good prices on FM modulators




56 Comments

shiftis on August 5, 2005 2:45 PM

That’s odd.

Wal-Mart on August 5, 2005 7:14 PM

That’s odd. I just bought one of these the other day. I have no static but the souund is often distorted. It’s kinda worth the money but something gotta be done about the sound quality. I’m thinking about taking it back to Walmart

GodsMoon on August 15, 2005 3:36 PM

I bought one of these a while ago and it seems to work pretty decently. It depends on where I am though. Sometimes it isn’t worth using it at all. I live in Chattanooga, TN and it seems to work in most of my area.It doesn’t work as well as a tape adapter, however, I don’t have a tape deck in my truck. :(

Jason on September 9, 2005 9:24 AM

I bought one yesterday and plugged it into my car and inserted a USB flash drive. It sounded terrible. I keep hearing a loud high pitch tone. It sounded like electrical noise from the flash and the player. To be fair I also tried hooking it up with a regular portable CD player. The high pitch sound is gone but I can hear noise on any channel I tried. It sounded like a really bad AM station in the far side of town. I would not recommend this device and will be returning my for a refund.

Bill on October 12, 2005 8:14 PM

The distortion problem can be fixed.I had the same problems with sound quality when I first used mine, but then I (shock!) read the manual. If you hold the “back” (

mike on October 13, 2005 4:25 AM

This thing would be nice if it actually transmitted clearly and with better detail. I bought this from walsmart because it sounded like a great idea but unless it practically is touching my cars antenna I get static (I have a car adapter extension cable so I can place this closer to my antenna).Overall rating : 2/10 – return to walsmart for clearance bin/trash bin

bill on October 18, 2005 9:44 PM

Hold down the left button to turn down the volume from the player. That will cure the distortion. Then the thing sounds reasonably decent. But it is a drag that it loses your place everytime you turn off the engine….

Mike B on October 26, 2005 12:28 PM

I had one (stolen!) and it had poor sound quality. Also, each song faded in and out, did not start and end as recorded.

Mike Z on October 27, 2005 9:10 AM

I have to say that, yes, although there is sometimes a high-pitched whine, that overall, it’s not too shabby.I use it mainly to listen to podcasts on my drive to work (mainly talk) and I really don’t notice the audio distortion. For $30 and a spare USB key, not too bad at all.

varek on November 2, 2005 7:28 PM

I bought this a while back and I rented cars here and there and this device sounded better in some cars than others and other places sounded better than others but my biggest gripe about this device is that it started to have trouble getting it to work with my flash drive. After a while I couldn’t get it to transmit any longer. The real thing of it is that for 25 bucks its only okay.

Brian on November 3, 2005 11:35 AM

the VR3 works well for me from DC to NYC…I use it with my iPod Mini and Zen Micro b/c the USB port will charge both! great product…

Bunk on November 10, 2005 11:09 PM

I love my fm transmitter and it loves meA happier pair you’ll never seeI don’t how I ever did without thisI think I’ll go and slash my wrists!

Fugazi on November 20, 2005 1:58 PM

I havent had any issues with my VR3, what do you expect for 25 bucks, after all it is transmitting to FM, the sound is’nt perfect but I think it’s acceptable

Eric on November 27, 2005 11:19 PM

Works great in a Honda Civic and Acura MDX. Best $30 I’ve spent in awhile

DEVIN JOANIS on December 14, 2005 9:23 PM

I BOUGHT ONE A WEEK AGO, IT WAS WORKING GREAT UNTIL TWO DAYS AGO I WAS RUBBING ONE OUT AND MY HAND SLIPPED! I WACKED THE DEVICE AND IT HAS NOT WORKED SINCE…THIS THING IS POORLY CONSTRUCTED..WOULD NOT RECOMMEND IT TO ANYONE WHO LIKES WACKING BEHIND THE WHEEL…[IM RRRRRIIICCCCHHH BBBBBBBIIIIIITTTTCCHHHHHH]

Kevin on December 23, 2005 9:37 PM

I have had poor luck with fm modulators so I was sceptical. I have had no problem in my area with my Toyota Sienna. The book says interference can come from some alternators, and a filter for the alternator can be obtained. That said, I have had no such. and I am just amazed by its functionality. The one draw-back is the unchangeable song order. When I tire of song order, I just blank the usb drive out and reload. I keep several I-sticks with different moods. I pop them in like cds or cassettes. – Christmas, Drive jam – podcasts. Its a very hand unit, and for the price it cannot be beat. I picked up a bunch of discounted i-sticks that are considered low capaciy, but work perfect for play-lists.

Steve Hurst on December 27, 2005 2:02 AM

I found one of these over 2 years ago. I used it for 2 years and loved it. I agree that the smaller flash drives work great with varied playlists. It is not the best constructed device, but what do you expect for under $30?The quality of sound reproduction is exceptional for such an affordable device.

David on December 27, 2005 6:06 AM

After reading some of the other comments on this blog I simply HAVE to say something:I bought this device from walmart a few weeks agoand have been very satisfied. I bought it for my 1995 plymouth voyager because I wanted to play my mp3′s (I own a ton of them) on a pen drive but did not want to plunk down $300 bucks on a head unit with mp3 features. This little device works admirably, the sound is acceptable and plays with minimal distortion. Does it play like $300 unit ?UH NO! Wake up people we are talking about $30 DUH!!It does have some trouble with high bit rate mp3′s so its best to keep the encoding of the music down to 200 kbps or less. The specs say 128 kbps max, but I have a number of files that are encoded at a substantially higher rate than that and they play ok.The issue of “holding position” with the ignition off really depends completely upon the type ofvehicle you own. With most older vehicles (my plymouth included) the cigarette lighter is wiired hot. That is , It is always on even when the ignition is off. If this is the case with your vehicle, then you should have no problem with the unit “holding its place” when the key is off.The controls on the unit itself are VERY basic.The unit allows only sequential stepping (forwards and backwards one song at a time) through the playlist. And as others in this blog have already pointed out, this can be a real pain in the ass if you are using a high capacity flash drive with a huge play list. I use a 512 mb pen drive which is probably to large for for a player with such limited controls. But the vr3 does can be used as a pass thru device for other mp3 players (including ipod) that do have more robust controls and features. So there is some upgrade path built into the unit. The criticism about the jack being “non-standard” is nit-picking. The 1/8 plug adapter is common and inexpensive.The issue concerning interference is also a bit nit picking. If the reference is to engine noiseor other interference coming from the vehicle itself, then once again, the problem is fixed by an in line noise suppressor , a common and inexpensive piece of hardware.Finally, I dont wish to belabor this point folks, but one last time: We are talking about a device whose msrp is $30 0r less.Other posters on this blog seem to forget that.You must evaluate the unit based on how it performs in relation what it costs.Will it perform on a par with head unit costing several hundred dollars? of course not , dont be rediculous!! On the other hand , if you are on a tight budget then this item is worth your money.

Steven on December 28, 2005 6:14 PM

I wasn’t overly impressed with the VR3s performance with a flash drive but I user it with my MobiBLU 1500i running from the headphone jack and it works great.this was money well spent for what I am using it for.

gabriel on December 30, 2005 9:58 AM

i live in dublin,ireland,walmart do not ship outside usa,is there any other www. or locations in ireland i could buy one such a devise.[VR3 MP3 Modulator]

Edgar on January 13, 2006 7:19 PM

Try Ebay.

matkeri on January 14, 2006 2:05 PM

I’m from Malaysia and it seems this product is made in china with so many names printed on it (mine is easy-mp3).I do agree with david : the price tell the whole story. I don’t have any problem using the thing on my car with 1GB pendrive. Distortion? Pitch? None :) Tested with other cars, works perfectly.Sound quality? Acceptable. Still agree with david said : don’t compare it with 300 bucks worth of unit. If you can adjust the bass and trebble using your radio player, like mine, the problem with flat sound is gone forever :) Conclusion : this is the perfect kit for those who just wanna listen to their MP3 while driving using their pendrive. This is the only product that I can find to play MP3 direct from pendrive using FM Modulation. If you are a serious Music Lover who must enjoy every bit of the sound, then go get yourself a real MP3 player. :)

JAVIER GALLEGO on January 24, 2006 7:21 AM

QUISIERA QUE ME INDICARAN COMO CONSEGUIR CONPRAR DESDE ESPAÑA EL REPRODUCTOR VR3 Y ME MANDEN INFORMACION SOBRE EL PRODUCTO

Murray on February 13, 2006 10:08 AM

I just bought one of these things two days ago and I love it! I have had no problems with static or distortion. I do live in rural Southeastern Ohio, so there is very little radio intereference. I am guessing that the people who have had problems with their units live in more densely populated areas where radio interference is more of an issue. By adjusting my car radio’s bass and treble settings I have been able to get excellent sound quality. I have tried using it with MP3′s as well as WMA files and it works great with both. I would agree that the one drawback is that there is no “shuffle” feature to mix up the song order. But, overall, it is definitely worth the $30 price tag.

Mike on February 16, 2006 8:41 AM

I had recently bought one for my wife whom was going on a road trip. As mentioned by others it seemed easy enough and HOPED it actually worked. She was using it with the CD player plug option and didn’t quite get the hang of working the thing and gave up on it. I next tried it using the flash drive. Not Bad. Sound quality was a bit diminished but not too bad. It does start over at the beginning when the car is turned off which I must agree is inconvenient. It would help greatly if it had a display that simply list the track number it was on so you could forward up to that point when returning to your car. I thought it work pretty good. I’m actually liking the thing quite a bit. I have had no distortion problem and did find it works great if the station you pick has no transmission over it (not a working radio station) For me it works gtreat and besidea a few features that would help it out … I like it. After all … it was only $30.

Lee on February 25, 2006 6:29 PM

Just got one from Walmart to use in my Honda Civic. It works as mentioned in most of the posts here: sounds a little different from normal FM broadcast stations (probably a combination of the player and mp3 encoding) but certainly acceptable considering the price. Playing with the player’s “volume” (holding down the next/prev buttons) does make a difference in how it sounds. I also found changing the bass/treble settings in the radio can help. It doesn’t remember where it left off after the car is turned off (maybe I can re-wire the outlet to be on when the car is off??). Overall, a good deal. Its the first time in years that I can listen to my own music in my own the car (no cd player…) In my Dodge Caravan, it sounds better than the tape adapter I got from Radio Shack get the audio out of our laptop when the kids are watching DVDs. Unlike other “FM adapters”, there are no batteries in this unit.

Anon on March 11, 2006 10:18 AM

http://sewelldirect.com/vr3-thumbdrive-dj-mp3-fm.asp This model also shuffles your music, remembers the last station, and remembers the last song you played. I have the original model and it works fine for me in my 2005 Grand Caravan.

MRK on March 13, 2006 9:56 PM

Anyone know where on the EM190 PCB is the FM antenna??? It’s an obsoleteHY1417LP modulator chip, but I can’t get a pinout for it… Anyone???

Hamid Mukhtar on April 12, 2006 11:21 PM

I just bought mine, and tested it out. There was a little static which disappeared after I pressed and held the FWD key (as instructed in the manual!). It does remeber the last song played even if you remove it from the vehicle and put it back in later. There are 2 different models. I am talking about the one with LCD display that costs around $50 from Walmart. This seems to be much better than the cheaper model ($30). My advice will be to go for the $50 model and so far it seems great!!

Shady on April 15, 2006 5:26 AM

where can i get this product in egypt ?

picatchoof on April 18, 2006 4:53 PM

in fact i have read that in u turne a car off the player will start from the beginingthat is not my casei stop the car and when i m back the player start at the last played tracki have an USB HardDrive it work fine i make a little changes for the antenna i make if u wanna say an internal FM antenna

saban on April 24, 2006 2:42 AM

heloo

Yanting on April 24, 2006 4:23 AM

hi, can anyone tell me where can i get the Instruction Manual? because i bought it from e-bay and it doesn’t have the Instruction Manual, and i have a problem that i can’t pay mp3 file with my device. i want to know do i have to put the mp3 file to a specific loaction on my USB flash memory or does it requite any software to support the mp3 function? Thank you for your help!!

chris on May 3, 2006 8:33 PM

this is worth it, if you like low quality sound. try buying a monster audio cable and hooking your mp3 player to your car audio system the right way. it is compatible with any mp3 player, cd player, etc. only thing is your cd deck has to be pretty new to be compatible with it, other than that it cost 10 dollars less than the fm modulator and has about 10 times the quality. try picking one up at walmart

Lisa on May 9, 2006 4:18 PM

I have VR3 and a flash drive, but recently I download some wma files and it doesn’t played at all. How do I fixed that? Please help me.

et on May 10, 2006 9:12 AM

Yanting – I haven’t bought one yet but from reading other reviews it would appear that you need to rip your MP3′s at, the manual recomends, 128 but user have found it good up to 200. This may be your problem.

Oleg on May 16, 2006 4:16 PM

It depends on the car and as well. Mine (later version of this one) works perfect in Nissan 350z but produces a lot of static in Nissan Altima.

Doug on May 25, 2006 12:58 PM

I got one several weeks ago and I really like it, but I’m not using it as a dedicated mp3 player, but rather use the input cord from my PDA. I’ve been listening to audiobooks, but sound quality is decent. I like this unit because I can use the USB port to charge the PDA while it plays the mp3s!To address earlier points about the unit “forgetting” where it was playing, my old Honda Civic has the power shut off to the lighter outlet when the ignition is off. So upon restarting the car, I have to reset the station frequency, and I imagine that the mp3 player would reset to the beginning. In my wife’s much newer car (Saturn), the power supply to the outlet is constant, even with the ignition off, and therefore, it did not “forget” its settings.

wearethree on May 31, 2006 10:13 AM

Overall I am happy with the player – it has its limitations but it is worth the value. One gripe I have though is that everytime I play a podcast, the vr3 only plays about 10 minutes or so and then moves on to the next file – anyone else have a similar issue?The songs play fine, only the longer podcasts get terminated after 8-10 minutes.

greasemonkey on May 31, 2006 10:34 PM

got one, put it in my jeep, can’t use a indash player in my ride because it faces up, and the tape deck doesn’t work, so i tried this, it works great!, admitted, it starts over when turned off, but then i rewired my lighter socket to be on always, and presto!, i stays running, so it keeps going till you go again, which is way down the road where you left off, so i just hit pause. sound quailty is not sound room perfect, but in a jeep with the roof down in the rain, with no cd’s or tapes, and nothing to skip when pounding through the bush…it’s awesome!, as for the distort, guess some of you didn’t read the…..manual!

Cliff S on October 23, 2007 12:43 AM

Seems to have a nasty issue when playing MP3s off of one of RCA’s Pearl MP3 players, it’ll just stop dead for some reason. Sound quality from my unit is excellent, AND I got a little remote with it. This beats the Tunecast/Tunecast II (Belkin) hands down. Works fine in my 91 Pontiac Sunbird, no static or distortion whatsoever

3v!L 6047 on December 20, 2007 11:33 AM

I LOVE MINE, but you MUST MOD IT.Adding a 3 foot USB extension cable dramatically improved the audio. The issues w/ annoying noises may to be related to EMF from the transmitter on the USB interface. I have a SwissBIT 1GB on my keys and didn’t want to remove it for every trip. So the cable serves two purposes.Mine gets HOT; I added an aluminum heat sink to the case to dissipate all that energy. Nothing special, just a $0.05 hunk of metal w/ lots of surface area like you see on PCI/AGP cards adhered straight to the hottest part of the shell.You can use CDex to move/re-encode/re-name VBR and high-quality files before heading out to the car; http://cdexos.sourceforge.net/?q=download .Having the play list order always reset is annoying. I believe newer ones have a random button (genius!). I hit BACK a few times before PLAY and listen to the most recent OR simply delete them and copy a new set of songs for the commute home. As a last resort I have a 256 MB drive I always keep in the car w/ a few entire albums as single MP3s. If my mix for the day isn’t pleasing me, I’ll pop the other in and select an album.SUMMARY: Mash-up devices you already have, car radio and a usb drive, providing a basic, functional solution for MP3. Is it perfect no, but it is inexpensive, compatible and portable. If you accept the $30 device’s limitations (and look for solutions) it is a very satisfying purchase.

Tim on May 18, 2008 3:47 PM

vr3 sucks.at first i plugged it into my car, tuned my radio to a few stations until i got a good one (i think 106.9) and it sounded good until i moved my hand away from the transmitter. the sound was decent but all of a sudden static attacked.it suckedi lost my receipt but luckily the lady at walmart messed up and had to give me cash back when i took it backDO NOT BUY doesnt even perform so so it hardly sounds audible

frank on May 29, 2008 12:28 AM

i bought the black vr3 of $30 and i loved the idea of a usb transmitter but it worked ok at first no static what so ever. it played good and all at a sudden a number appeared on the lcd and it didnt play anything. i dont know whatz the problem. i have a 4g usb flash drive plugged to it. so if anyone have a solution tell me pleaseeee!!!!!!!!!!

frank on May 29, 2008 12:41 AM

i bought the black vr3 of $30 and i loved the idea of a usb transmitter but it worked ok at first no static what so ever. it played good and all at a sudden a number appeared on the lcd and it didnt play anything. i dont know whatz the problem. i have a 4g usb flash drive plugged to it. so if anyone have a solution tell me pleaseeee!!!!!!!!!!

rnd3000 on July 9, 2008 1:59 PM

yeah…I have the same…bought mine 2 days ago on e-bay…plays well for 12 min, than STOP…till you plug it off and back…then 3 min more and stoped again…I’m thinking of sending it back…

Amer on August 10, 2008 7:38 AM

I have a question abou this device as I got one,I want to know how to put mp3 files on to it.im confused,please any help

Paul on August 23, 2008 11:54 AM

FYI – This is available at Harbor Freight for 19.99.

Phil on October 8, 2008 12:56 PM

To Amber, I may be too late here but the VR3 unit itself stores nothing, It reads from whatever is plugged into USB the port. There is nicer unit (VRFM9) that has a display and a built-in SD card reader, My wife picked one up cheap in the wal-mart “sale” aisle and I just love the thing, my unit seems to remember what track it was on when powered off (reading via SD slot) but I need to RTFM again myself as I don’t remember how to shuffle and folder navigation is (to the best of my memory) nonexistant

garras porgratix on November 6, 2008 11:32 PM

The best thing is that its a deterrent to having some punk bust your glass to get at copies of cd’s that aren’t worth the glass!! This one sounds a bit limited in its frequency range so don’t expect thumping bass out of it. The one with the numbers is a little bit staticky and sounds more like a distant station. Definately recommended for those who like to listen to world radio and don’t mind that “weak signal” sound. This one does not fade out or go off frequency.

ekrem kaya on November 18, 2008 5:09 PM

Ihave bought one of that device a couple of days before. The performance was bad. There was interferences from strong transmitters. I decided that I had to add some power to that tiny transmitter. I opened it and constracted an extra rf stage and voila! it is now ok and the sound quality is not too bad if not hifi qulity.

shakay on December 19, 2008 1:03 AM

My modulator is great

lok on March 31, 2009 5:41 PM

Device seemed to work fine when I first bought it, however the sound quality is not good at all and it is not working that great anymore. Lots of static especially if you like to listen to loud music. I agree with the comment about it not being well constructed. I would not recommend it.

Gadget on May 9, 2009 5:02 AM

It’s unfortunate some people have had problems. My wife and I each own these exact units. We’ve owned them for over 5 years, and they’ve always functioned flawlessly.Her one gets used regularly with her iPod while commuting, while mine gets used less regularly with thumb drives during long road trips. We both have regular stock car stereos, not after-market bass-thumping headache specials.At the default setting, there is no audio distortion or radio frequency shift that my ear can pick up. The sound quality seems just fine. Much better than the Belkin unit I tried once and promptly returned.One note, though. Somebody else mentioned this unit getting hot. If you have a lighter socket which stays live after you turn the vehicle off, MAKE SURE you unplug the modulator otherwise it’s likely to eventually overheat and stop working.It happened to a relative using a similar (newer) VR3 product with LED display, and I bought him this older model as a replacement. They’re getting hard to find in stores, but you can now get them online for only $14!Great value for money – highly recommended.

Mike on June 1, 2009 6:24 PM

I got mine at a garage sale for $1.00 but it’s worth $9.95 max.Sound quality is poor but for $1.00, who cares.

Luc on June 14, 2009 5:37 AM

I’ve read good things about the Scosche modulator.http://www.cleverandeasy.com/Multimedia/scosche-interference-free-fm-transmitter-for-your-ipod.htmlWhat is different about this one is that it connects directly to the antenna input in stead of transmitting the music over the air, thereby avoiding interference.

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