Review of the iO PLAY2 Bluetooth music and handsfree system
You need this
You don’t know it yet, but trust me on this – you need one of these in your car. Unless you’re driving around a brand new top-of-the-range executive car, it’s unlikely the in-built system in your car is as good as the iO PLAY2. If you don’t have an in-car audio or hands-free system, the iO PLAY2 will massively improve your driving experience. I had an iO PLAY2 fitted in my car – an MX5 Mk 2 – a few weeks ago, and I’ve been using it every day. First of all, to test it, but then just to use it.
As you can see from the photographs, the iO PLAY2 consists of two small units (about the size of large USB memory sticks). The first is the controller, which has two buttons and a combo dial/button. The side buttons are used during audio playback to change tracks and scan through tracks. They are also used to answer calls and end them. The centre dial/button is used during music playback to change the volume, and pressed to pause/unpause. It’s also used to navigate the menu system, choose menu options, and set up the device.
You see what’s going on on the other unit – the display. This OLED unit is monochrome (orange) and very clear. It can be set at two brightnesses, or set to auto-dim at night time. The simple controls match the simple menu layout very nicely – all you need is left, right and select and you can do everything you need to with ease. Here are the salient features:
I have used the iO PLAY2 to link up with my phone via Bluetooth to make and receive many calls. I’ve also used it (constantly) with my iPod Nano – connected in the glove-box.
The iO PLAY2 links into your existing car audio system, and so uses the speakers already in your car for the audio output for calls. The input is via a microphone, which the installer will mount in the best location, pointing at the driver. In my case, it’s in the corner where the windscreen meets the dashboard – it’s small, but not so small that you worry that it’s cheap! Incoming calls cause the PLAY2 to ring through your car speakers, with audio playback being paused. You can choose between 5 very nice ringtones, and set the volume. You answer by pressing the green button, or reject by pressing the red. I’ve got my controls mounted right in front of my MX5′s stubby gear stick, so I can use the controls with my hand on the gear stick. To make a call, you navigate to the “Phonebook” menu and then jog left and right through your contacts, which sync automatically from your (compatible) phone. If you have voice prompts turned on, the PLAY2 will read the names to you so you don’t have to look at the display.
The call quality is excellent. I’ve used several Bluetooth hands free kits, and this one blows the others away. My car is very noisy, and I haven’t been able to make calls above about 40mph before. With the iO PLAY2, the audio coming through the car’s speakers lets me hear the other person easily, and everyone I’ve spoken to says my voice has been crystal clear. When parked up, people have had no idea I’ve been on hands free and commented that it sounded like my mouth was next to the phone.
Other sounds are also routed through the iO PLAY2 from connected devices, so the SMS notification sounds will come through your car’s speakers too, for example. It also supports text-to-speech for reading the messages, but sadly my phone isn’t compatible. See their website for compatibility information.
The iO PLAY2 comes with two connectors. A universal audio jack, which incorporates audio sensing to detect when something is connected, and also an Apple connector for iPhones and iPods. The cables can be mounted pretty much anywhere in your car – mine are in the glove-box. For apple devices, your music track information and playlists are available through the display and controls. Choose from albums, artists and playlists, and also continue from where you left off last time you were driving with “Now Playing” – just like on your Apple device. Again, if you have voice prompts turned on, the PLAY2 will read the track and album titles to you so you’re not distracted from the road.
The PLAY2′s inbuilt amplifier leads to excellent sound quality. When paired with the inbuilt EQ presets, you can really customise the experience to your music tastes (or audio books!).
I can’t fault the iO PLAY2. It’s the best Bluetooth device I’ve used, it’s the best hands free device I’ve used, and it’s the best after-market iPod connector I’ve used. I’ve never used a Bluetooth device before that reconnects immediately every time without some kind of problem. There’s no doubt in my mind that the iO PLAY2 gets the CDW top accolade of 5 out of 5 – the Gold Award. If we used percentages, I think I would struggle to give a score of less than 100%. Fittings can be arranged via the my-io.com website, which has a search function to find your local dealer and fitter.