Friday, June 8, 2012

Splicing the Zune Transmitter

For a while now, my Zune HD has been broken. I'll be working to fix it this summer. However, I'm beginning to question if my Zune HD FM Transmitter might have some usefulness in the meantime.

I was driving to campus and I noticed that my Zune transmitter, even without a Zune plugged in, will transmit silence on whatever station it is set.

Now, personally, I've never been a fan of either Zune or Mac products that only work with said branded mp3 players. It occurred to me that maybe I could "hack" my Zune transmitter to be able to play with any device. All I would need to do is hook up a 3.5 mm jack to whatever lines the transmitter uses for audio. Then I could have that protruding form the back with a wire or something so either head can still be used.

Of course, I anticipate that the wire coming from the car adapter is power only, so I will have to open up the transmitter head. I will have to do some research first to see just how feasible this is. Granted, the transmitter is still useful for charging USB devices.

Actually, let me make a correction to the first sentence of the last paragraph. I was just inspecting the image and remembered there is an auxiliary out. I may not need to splice it at all: maybe I can get away with playing music through this? I'll have to experiment a little bit. At the very least, perhaps I will be able to splice the main line which I previously thought was power only. I may not even need to splice anything. Perhaps I could fashion an adapter. I'll look into this more another time and update my findings.

So, it turns out that no modifications are necessary. The Zune transmitter's 3.5 mm female jack is labeled as auxiliary out. Now, at first I took it on face value; if its labeled auxiliary out, don't try to use it otherwise, right? In some situations, this is a good rule to follow, but the more I thought about it, why not test this aux out jack? If its a direct line simply feeding a signal from the Zune Line Out Dock, you should be able to force that signal from the aux out end, if nothing is connected to the transmitter end. Sure enough, when I used a double-ended male 3.5 mm jack to connect my phone to the adapter portion and set the right frequency, it played just fine.

In other words, my Zune transmitter has been able to play other mp3 players this whole time, it was just labeled counter-intuitively (or they didn't spend the money to prevent such use). Microsoft may in some ways be dumb, but at least they aren't Apple (which in my mind translates to wasteful, because you wouldn't be able to find such a loophole, they'd spend money to prevent it).

Oh well, I'm happy with my transmitter's new-found capabilities.

After looking into the situation more, it appears that my Zune transmitter's "newfound" abilities are sadly the result of a malfunction caused from wear and tear. I benefit from it for the time being, but  for those who have a brand new transmitter, don't rely on this "functionality." You may have to hack it after all. Sorry.

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