Car Audio Conundrum: How to Connect Portable Devices

Car Audio Conundrum: How to Connect Portable Devices

Campbell Faulkner
Feb 28, 2011

The advent of the iPod and iTunes spelled the end of the CD as the dominant music media. In the car audio world, aftermarket and OEM manufactures followed suite with iDevice attachments. With so many options, we are left wondering what works best for those of us who don't have a late model vehicle or lack the inclination to spring for pricey in-car attachments.

  • So you have a tape deck...: The portable CD is the classic audio connection popular since the the early 90's. They are cheap, ugly, and barely passable in sound quality, but never need to be adjusted to work on long road trips. We like them for their ease of use and common application in older vehicles. Just make sure when you use them to not turn the volume above 75% with your device for optimal sound quality.
  • You have a radio...: Since the inception of the iPod, this method has become the most popular among our friends for jacking music from idevices to car stereos. There are a large numbers different brands available and they all provide similar services. Differences are largely relegated to enhanced automatic tuners that find empty bands of FM in your respective area. While the sound quality is middling, they work in virtually any car built in the last 30 years and offer a wire free solution for music.
  • You have a built in jack...: This is the best type of connection and the most unusual, even in newer cars. If you happen to have a luxury car that was built within the last five years, many have MP3 player connections and iPod integration. These provide the best sound quality and easiest integration, but are expensive and comparatively rare unless you have a very new or very expensive vehicle. You can get this type of connection if you're willing to install an after market solution, but these can be labor intensive or very expensive.

Unplggd readers, what do you use to connect your portable devices to your vehicle sound system? The aforementioned solutions are how we have enjoyed listening to our portable devices in our vehicle. Yet, we are left looking for more elegant solutions to jack our tunes in.

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