When Apple released the iPod for the first time in 2001, it was a major change in the way we listen to our music. It certainly wasn’t the first portable MP3 player, but it took quite a bit of effort to surpass everything else on the market. The iPod quickly replaced the Walkman in the vein of portable music. It didn’t take long for people to start asking, «How can I listen to this iPod in my car?» And back in 2001, the answer was pretty simple: buy a cassette adapter, an FM transmitter, or an FM modulator.

The situation with the car iPod connector is a little more complicated today.

Basic iPod stereo connections

There are four main, time-tested methods for connecting an iPod to a car stereo, all of which have been around for much longer than the iPod, and none of them will give you access to any additional features:

  • Cassette Tape Adapters designed for older head units that have cassette decks but do not have built-in auxiliary inputs. Sound quality cassette tape adapter will depend on the condition of the tape recorder, the quality of the assembly of the adapter itself and other factors, but they are not subject to external interference. You use this type of adapter by inserting the device into a cassette deck and then inserting it into your iPod’s headphone jack.
  • FM transmitters can be used to connect any type of iPod, iPhone and any other MP3 player to any head unit with FM radio. This means these adapters are useful if your head unit does not have a cassette deck or auxiliary input. physical wire connects FM transmitter to headphone jack to your iPod, and then the device transmits your music to the head unit via FM.
  • FM modulators similar to FM transmitters, but they are designed for a wired connection between the head unit and the car antenna. Instead of being transmitted over the FM band, the signal modulated from your iPod’s output is inserted through a wired connection. It does FM modulators are less susceptible to interference than transmitters although they are more difficult to install.
  • Auxiliary inputs included with some head units and can be used to connect an iPod. Most auxiliary inputs are in the form of a jack that you can plug directly into your iPod’s headphone jack.

Advanced iPod Car Audio Connectivity

In addition to the basic methods you can use to connect any MP3 player to your car stereo, there are also a number of iPod-only connections. While these advanced connection methods provide access to advanced features, they are only available for certain head units.

  • With iPod USB connection easiest to understand. If your car stereo is iPod compatible and has a USB port, you can usually use any dock connector or lightning cable that has a standard USB connector on the other end. Using this type of connection works just like connecting an iPod to a computer, instead you connect it to your car stereo. While this is usually a very easy way to connect an iPod to your car stereo, difference between USB and using auxiliary input may be significant.
  • iPod adapter cables needed for other situations. While many iPod-compatible car stereos come with USB ports, others require a special adapter cable if you want to take advantage of all the available features, such as iPod direct control . For example, the correct iPod adapter cable may allow you to control Pandora and other iPod music applications directly from the head unit. These adapters sometimes use their own connector, while others have a USB connector in addition to other connectors.
  • External iPod controls are usually optional equipment for factory stereos. So if you have a relatively new car and you’re happy with the radio, you might want to check for an external control box for your iPod. These control boxes plug into your factory stereo with a proprietary connector and then provide a USB connection for your iPod. In many cases, you will be able to control your iPod through the head unit’s controls.

Functions Available from Advanced iPod Connections

Although using a cassette adapter or an auxiliary input for Connecting an iPod to your car stereo There is nothing bad, using a digital connection has some advantages. The main advantage is the sound quality. When you connect your iPod to your car stereo via the dock or light jack, instead of the headphone jack, heavy weight is transferred from the iPod to the head unit. The digital information is transmitted over the connection and the head unit, which is much better equipped for the task, actually decodes and processes it.

The other benefits of using an advanced connection are mostly related to ease of use. Instead of changing songs and doing other things with the iPod controls, you can usually do it with the head unit controls, which are designed for safer control on the go.

Selecting an iPod compatible car stereo

If you not want to buy new car stereo , you are limited to the connections supported by the current head unit and related features. If a will look for a new head unit, on the other hand, there are some additional factors . which , Maybe , wish to consider. For example, the display and controls vary greatly from one head unit to another, and just because a head unit has an iPod connector doesn’t necessarily mean it will support all the features you’re looking for.

One of the great benefits of using a digital connection between your iPod and car stereo is that it allows the stereo to display information from the iPod. With this in mind, you should pay special attention to the type of display that each unit includes when considering new head units. Some single DIN head units, especially budget priced models, feature single line displays that are only capable of displaying a very limited number of characters at a time. On the opposite end of the spectrum, dual DIN touchscreen head units can display a wealth of information about the song you’re listening to as well as provide touch controls. Either way, you need to look for a head unit that allows you to simply read the display at a glance.

Another benefit of using a digital connection is that it allows you to control your iPod directly from the head unit. This can be a huge convenience or an even bigger headache, depending on the head unit in question. Some head units, which include only basic controls, require you to press additional buttons or enter additional menus to control your iPod, which can be difficult — or even dangerous — while driving. Others have dedicated iPod controls, and some even use control schemes that look a lot like the iconic iPod «scroll wheel» that you’re probably already used to using without even looking at it.

Apart from these two main issues, you will also want to make sure that any new head unit you are looking at supports definite feature set you are interested in. Some head units offer basic audio playback, while others support video playback, direct application control and even integration with Siri. Never take it for granted that any given head unit will include any or all of these features or you are bound to be disappointed.

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