MP3 CD Players
Car audio and MP3 compression; simply a match made in heaven
MP3 CD players are today's playback format of choice in car stereos. Nothing beats the flexibility and capacity for the price of a car stereo head unit that plays MP3s off a CD. Some consider the future of the CD format to be uncertain with the growing number of car stereo DVD players. For now, DVD is still largely a curiosity in car audio and carries a premium price to stick one into your dashboard.
The burned CD has become the current generations' cassette tape. With the availability of cheap CD burners for your PC and compressed musical formats like MP3 and WMA that your car stereo CD player can read from burned optical media, it's no wonder. As easy as it was to make a recording with cassette using your home stereo, today it's simpler and faster to make a CD recording of your favorite music. Compressed into high-bit MP3s you can fit about seven conventional CDs from your collection onto one burned CDR. This puts even a modest CD changer in control of a library of music you can take on the road wherever you go.
Since the satellite radio industry is in a rush to garner consumer favor, CD player head units are receiving satellite compatibility as a standard feature at no extra cost. It's difficult to find CD player head units for your car that don't have built in XM, Sirius or compatibility with both satellite radio systems. Consider Pioneer and Alpine's MP3 CD players- both are compatible with Sirius and XM. If you consider that the brutal war being waged between the two services is any indication that one might not exist for much longer, the flexibility of compatibility with both is a great idea for long term value.
Both Alpine and Pioneer make MP3 CD players with built in iPod-specific features. Adding the iPod interface allows you to navigate your music library and select songs or playlists within your car stereo's menu options. The iPod interface will give you all the music from your library and charge the battery at the same time. The iPod is a great little device, much loved by everyone who loves MP3s, but the bandwagon is getting a little large.
It seems everything nowadays wants to hook up with your iPod even if the advantages are a bit thin. Any car stereo with an auxiliary input can be adapted for iPod playback. You don't need a special adaptor if you don't mind controlling the iPod through its own interface instead of through the car stereo head unit. Special boxes that can take control of your iPod and give you control on the car stereo head unit come at a premium price. Chargers that hook into your car's 12V lighter are cheap and will charge up your iPod just as well as any car stereo. An auxiliary RCA input on your car stereo head unit coming from your iPod's line out will give you all the sound quality of a $100 adaptor box.
You'll want to think about whether or not there are worthwhile gains from iPod compatibility features in car stereos before jumping on board. The adaptors required to make your iPod-compatible head unit fully iPod ready are sold separately and are much more expensive than a simple RCA adaptor. A simple RCA adaptor will make any car stereo with an auxiliary input iPod ready. The most economic option for playing a veritable library of MP3s on your car stereo these days is to simply burn them to a CD and play it back on your head unit.