These days one of the most important things to consider when you’re shopping for a new car is how you’re going to get your music pumping through the stereo. Back in the day you were probably stuck with a simple tape deck and a radio. But not anymore. In fact a lot of new cars don’t even come with CD players anymore, 6 stacker? Forget about it. It’s all about digital connectivity in 2017. Whether you’re hooking in your mobile phone or a dedicated mp3 player you have more options than ever before.
USB is a great way to connect a mobile phone or compatible mp3 player to your car because you’ll also get the benefit of keeping your device charged up while you’re on the go. In most new cars, you’ll be able to control your music using the cars stereo interface, which means you can skip tracks using the buttons on the steering wheel and browse playlists through your car’s media display, making it easier and safer to control your music while you drive.
The 3.5mm auxiliary jack or AUX jack (or ‘headphone plug’) has been the standard audio connection for over forty years, so there’s a good chance that your car and whatever device you’re planning to connect has an AUX jack fitted. When your music is playing through an AUX jack you won’t be able to skip tracks or view playlists on your car’s media display. The AUX jack is still a popular way to get music in your car because of its extreme simplicity, and far superior audio connection – nothing on this list comes close to matching an AUX jack for sound quality.
Bluetooth Audio is a special kind of Bluetooth protocol that allows the streaming of music over Bluetooth to a stereo. First things first, not all cars that have Bluetooth for telephone calls have Bluetooth audio streaming. So make sure you check carefully when considering a new car to make sure the features you’re after are included. Bluetooth audio will provide an experience similar to USB audio in that you’re able to control your music using your car’s media display and steering wheel controls. The downside? Bluetooth audio tends to run your device’s battery down and the music quality tends to suffer due to the wireless connection.
In the heyday of the early 2000’s the FM transmitter was all the rage, the iPod had just been released and people were really sick of listening to the same CDs each time they went for a drive. So the portable FM transmitter was born. By plugging the transmitter into your device’s AUX jack you will be able to stream your music to your car’s stereo using an FM signal. For those of us still driving older cars or cars without AUX Jacks these transmitters are brilliant. The downside? Music quality isn’t the best and you can have interference when used in major cities that have crowded FM bands, the devices work best when set to frequencies not in use by major radio stations.
Initially held back from the Australian market these systems are now becoming more popular and common amongst the new models on sale in 2017. These systems function using a USB or Bluetooth connection (it’s best to use USB), and allow you to safely use a large number of your phones features through an interface that mimics your phone’s operating system. Often these services give you access to voice control, streaming services and internet radio applications using your phones data connection. Music quality is on par with USB or Bluetooth audio. The main downside? Certain cars only come with CarPlay or Android Auto, locking you in to that phone manufacturer while you own the vehicle.
Your car’s radio is more important than ever before in 2017, so if your shopping for a new car, make sure you focus part of your research on the audio system; ensure it will be compatible with your current devices and any future devices you plan to own while you drive that car. If quality is most important to you, the AUX Jack will always be superior, but if you’re after a convenient way to keep your phone charged and your music pumping, than USB (CarPlay/Android Auto or otherwise) is our pick for the simplest and most convenient way to get music in your car.