How To Play Your iPod In Your Car

User amanda69 submitted an awesome question about using her iPod MP3 player.  She's wondering how she can connect her iPod to her car stereo.

A little background, first - Amanda has a Hyundai coupe, and I do as well.  I also listen to my MP3 player through my car stereo, so this question really hits home for me.  I'm guessing that many of you out there haven't even used a CD in months or maybe even years - personally, I can't remember the last time I played a CD in the car.

Amanda, you'll be happy to know that there are a number of different ways that you can listen to your iPod in your car.

#1:  Connect your iPod to an FM Transmitter

Considered the least desirable method by many, the FM transmitter also happens to be the easiest method to go about playing your iPod in your car.

The FM transmitter works by "broadcasting" what you are playing on your iPod over the radio, requiring you to tune in to a not-often-used station such as 88.5, for example.  With the transmitter turned on, and your radio tuned properly, you should be up and running in minutes.

You can browse from a large available quantity of FM transmitters via Amazon by clicking here.

You'll notice a variety of brands and a large price variance between the brands.  I haven't tested many of them, but there are many strong brand names that should all be great choices, such as Monster Cable and Belkin.

The disadvantage of using this method is that the quality of FM transmitters can vary wildly from great to completely awful, and no matter what, you will never reach the quality of a direct connection to your stereo.

#2:  Use A Cassette Tape Adapter

Don't laugh!  I'm serious!  In the event that your car still has a cassette tape connection, give a tape adapter a try.  You can save money by not having to buy a new car stereo, and the quality can be quite good.  Personally, my vehicle has a factory installed Infinity speaker system that is more than decent, and at first, I didn't want to put a new head unit in due to the cost and hassle (see option #4.)

Since the factory installed deck had a cassette adapter, I decided to give it a whirl.  Simply insert the cassette, plug in your MP3 player, and you should be good to go.  In my experience, it sounded extremely good, much better than I had expected, and served me well for years.

You can check out cassette adapters here.  The one I used was a Sony, but they are all pretty comparable and should run about $15-$20.  I would avoid generic brands.

#3:  Modify Your Existing Car Stereo

This method can get quite expensive and is usually not worth it, but it's a possibility.  Some car stereos can be modified with an adapter, allowing you to run a cable for you to plug in your iPod to the "auxiliary" connection.  I would only do this in the event that you already have a very high quality, expensive car stereo that you do not want to replace.  Many car stereos taht were made on the cusp of MP3 popularity are expandable from the factory and thus do not have to be "modified," but you'll have to buy an expensive adapter and have it installed.  If you want to go this way, see your local car stereo installation professional.

#4:  Buy A New Car Stereo With An Auxiliary Input Or iPod Integration

This option, by far, is going to give you the best quality of sound and will be the easiest to use, but it is also the most expensive option.

The amount of choices out there can be overwhelming and confusing  They run the gamut from inexpensive, sub-$100 players all the way to players that approach $1,000!  But, to clear the confusion, there's two main features that you should look for: an auxiliary input, and iPod integration.

Many, if not most car stereo head units that are out today come equipped with an auxiliary front input.  This means that you can buy a cable to connect your iPod directly to your car stereo through a jack on the front.  The cable you need will have a headphone sized jack on both ends and can easily be found at your local Radio Shack or electronics store.  

Connecting your iPod to the front connection is easy - simply plug in your iPod and put your stereo in the correct mode.  The procedure to put your stereo in Aux mode varies by manufacturer, but on the one I own it is as easy as pressing the "source" button until you reach the Aux setting.

Speaking of the stereo I own, it also has iPod integration in addition to a front auxiliary input.  What is iPod integration you ask?  Well, it can vary, and the integration present in my stereo is very limited compared to some other decks out there.

My stereo has a connector coming out the back of it that runs into my passenger seat area.  I can plug my iPod into that special connector, and control the iPod through the stereo.  What's nice is that it charges the 'Pod, but also disables controls directly from the iPod, forcing me to use the stereo.  Unfortunately, the system in my particular unit is very slow and cumbersome, so I never use the integration feature.  I would highly recommend the deck I purchased as a good blend of low cost, features, and sound quality - check it out by clicking here.

However, some decks like this one give you iPod control via the touchscreen display... but you're going to have to drop hefty coin to get your hands on one.

You can either install the deck yourself or have your local professional install it for you.  With a special adapter made to help the deck fit my car, I was able to do it myself in a few hours.

So, in conclusion, Amanda, I sincerely hope that you find one of these solutions to be helpful when setting up your iPod in your car. Let us know how your experience goes! If you've already tried one of these solutions, how did it work for you? Let us know!

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