Every Car Stereo Starts With The Head Unit
The single most important component in any car stereo system is the head unit, which is a technical term for the component most people know as the car radio, stereo, tuner, receiver, or deck. It’s the box in the dash that you use to switch radio stations, change inputs, adjust the volume, and everything else.
Modern models typically include auxiliary inputs and Bluetooth connectivity, for example. Some still accommodate older types of media such as CDs, DVDs, MP3s, and Blu-ray discs.
Andresael / CC BY-ND 2.0 /Flickr
The head unit is usually the place to begin your upgrade. Each component in a car stereo system is somewhat dependent on the others, but the head unit is where it all comes together.
Given that most factory-installed head units are light on features, plugging in an aftermarket unit can improve your listening experience. A lot of great car stereos are available, and many are quite affordable.
How To Tell When Your Audio System Needs Upgrading
Before you jump into upgrades, its important to figure out first if your audio system actually needs some work. Follow these steps to help determine what your course of action should be.
Installing An Aux Adapter If Your Car Has A Cassette Deck
Are you still rocking out to that INXS cassette that you bought from Tower Records back in the 90s? We hate to break it to you, but its 2022 and your car could use a little bit of an upgrade. One of the easiest ways to upgrade your cars cassette deck is to completely replace it with an updated unit complete with Bluetooth, satellite radio, and a CD player.
However, if you just cant bear to lose the cassette deck, then you can simply use an aux adapter. These adapters are cheap and easy to use as youll only need to push the cassette adapter into the deck and then connect the aux jack into your phone or portable device. Just keep in mind that the sound quality may not be that great, but if youre used to listening to tapes, then you probably wont mind.
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If All Else Fails Replace The Entire System With An Aftermarket Head Unit
As mentioned above, if you dont want to add adapters to your cars old audio system, then you can always purchase an aftermarket audio system to completely replace the old unit. There are plenty of head units on the market that comes in different sizes to fit nearly any car. They also come complete with features like Bluetooth and many of them have Apple Carplay and Android Auto phone connectivity.
By using those systems, you wont need to look at your phone when driving and youll be able to use apps like Spotify, Waze, Google Maps, and more, right on the cars head unit. Setting up your cars audio system is easy and can be done for cheap with the right parts. Be sure to shop around online on sites like Crutchfield to see what works best for your application.
How To Upgrade Car Stereos To Dab Radios
The first step is to verify if your model has a Dab radio. If your radio can access a vast range of channels without scanning manually to find them, then your vehicle has a Dab digital radio.
Conversely, if you must scan the channels manually or only choose between AM and FM radio frequencies, you have an analog radio and need to upgrade it. There are four ways of doing it:
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Reasons Why You Should Add Bluetooth To Your Oldcar
Before we look at how you add Bluetooth to a non-Bluetooth car stereo, lets ask Why?
Modern cars are pretty muchall fitted with Bluetooth as standard. You just need to find the right buttonon your dash, which can be a mission in itself.
Without Bluetooth, yourestuck with trying to find your aux cable at all times. This cable connects yourphone to your car via your headphone jack, so you can play your music.
Use A Dab Car Radio Adaptor
It is the simplest method of upgrading traditional car radios as you dont need to modify the interior. Purchase a plug-in-and-play Dab radio adaptor, fit it in the control unit and attach an aerial to the windscreen.
The devices transit Dab signals via antennas and convert them to FM, which your car radio picks up. Not only do Dab radio adaptors provide a higher quality of Dab signals, but they also offer other benefits like hands-free calling, Spotify control, Bluetooth connectivity, and voice assistance.
However, Dab radio adaptors are more likely to lose radio signals than sophisticated solutions. As such, if looking for a lasting solution, its best to consider the following two options.
Read Also: How To Connect Lg Tv To Bluetooth Speaker
Amazing Set Of Speakers
Do you love riding down the road and jamming out to your favorite tunes? The only way to keep the music loud and crisp is with a set of quality speakers.
Most of the factory speakers in modern cars are low-quality and will not provide you with the sounds you crave. This is why investing in a good pair of aftermarket DS18 speakers is a must! Before heading out to look at the speaker selection on the market, find out what size you need.
If your main focus is to improve clarity and resonance, you need to spend a bit more on a set of speakers. While you can get by with a cheaper pair, they will not provide the sound quality you are after.
Use A Digital Radio Conversion Kit
This method uses the same technology as the plug-and-play Dab adaptor, but it comes with a visible antenna, and the installation process is a little more complicated. You may need to hire a professional to install the kit. There are two types of digital conversion kits:
- Fully integrated kit: This type is ideal for motorists who convert traditional radios without modifying the interior. This means you still use the existing car radio display to control the Dab radio.
- Semi-integrated kit: Its pretty similar to a fully integrated kit, except that you dont use the cars existing controls to fine-tune the Dab radio. Instead, the kit comes with a wireless remote for controlling the radio.
Whereas full-integrated kits are suitable for cars with steering wheel controls, semi-integrated kits can be added to any car.
Consider Mobile Stereo Installation From Yourmechanic
While The Drives how-to guides are detailed and easy to follow, no vehicle is created the same, and not all auto maintenance or repair tasks are easy to accomplish on your own. Thats why weve partnered with YourMechanic and their network of mobile automotive technicians to offer our readers $10 off a $70 or more service call when you use promo code THEDRIVE.
Can I Add Bluetooth To The Vintage Car Radio
As you will see below with the options I have collected for your perusal, you are definitely able to add Bluetooth to your vintage car radio.
You do not just need to purchase a brand new head unit because there are several ways in which you can upgrade or instead integrate Bluetooth with your vintage car stereo.
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Can I Install Apple Carplay In Any Car
If you think that CarPlay is a feature you can only enjoy in a new car and partnered up with Apple, you are wrong.
Luckily, you can purchase aftermarket systems made by many manufacturers that allow you to run CarPlay in pretty much any car. Even cars from 20 years ago. Yes, thats correct.
Manufacturers have made different models and variations of aftermarket systems that allow you to install some variant of an infotainment system into your car that will allow you to have various features, including CarPlay support.
So I Started Googling And Found An Amazing Solution: Fm Transmitters
Since my car stereo has radio, there’s a simple solution for adding Bluetooth: an FM radio transmitter.
Using the existing car stereo, the Nulaxy FM Transmitter is able to play whatever your phone is playing over the car’s existing speaker system.
It works really simply:
1. Tune the Nulaxy FM Transmitter to an unused FM signal .
2. Tune your car’s radio to the same signal.
That’s it! Your phone is now able to play music, or podcasts, or today’s HQ Trivia game through your car’s speakers.
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Which Car Stereos Are Compatible With Apple Carplay
Perhaps you are looking only to purchase a head unit and not an entire car stereo unit that supports CarPlay.
Or perhaps you dont think that your stereo system will support CarPlay, and you cant find any information on the net, and you think you will have to shell out hundreds of dollars to get this great feature.
Well, This is a tricky question to answer because the research Ive done shows different brands and models have some stereo systems that work with and without CarPlay the list is quite long but dont fear!
If you dont know if your stereo system will be compatible with CarPlay, then dont worry because there is a device that allows you to hook up ANY stereo system to enable CarPlay support. Yes, that is correct, ANY stereo system, or so they claim, and the research Ive done supports it.
Can I Install And Upgrade To These Bluetooth Devices Myself Or Do I Need A Professional
The six options we described here for you will not require you to seek a professionals help or take your car into a car audio shop to get fitted, except for the Bluetooth amplifier.
All these devices are essentially plug-and-play devices, and they have unique features like auto-connect. You will not require any previous knowledge of Bluetooth, adapters, car kits, stereo systems, and so on to be able to upgrade your car audio system with these devices.
Regarding the amplifier, if you have no car audio experience, I recommend having it installed by a professional. Installation of the amplifier is not complicated. However it can be tricky, and there are many factors that you need to consider, such as speakers, power, wire gauge, placement, grounding, additional devices like a DSP, and much more.
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Carlinkit 30 Wireless Carplay Adapter
The CarlinKit Wireless CarPlay Adapter is unique and pretty much reliable. It is a neat solution that lets you convert your wired CarPlay to a Wireless CarPlay interface. The dongle connects with your cars HUD with the USB interface. It then connects with your iPhones via Bluetooth and WiFi. It is the WiFi that initiates the main connection.
The thing about this wireless CarPlay dongle is that it is pretty neat and compact. It suits almost all the cars and heads up display that has access to wired Apple CarPlay at least. A thing to note is that the dongle works with iPhone 5 and up. Apart from that, everythings pretty easy and efficient. Also, this CarPlay Dongle is lightning fast when it comes to connection.
- Compatible with almost all vehcile models
- Easy to use
- Compact and easy wireless connections
Why Do We Recommend You Choose Bluetooth Car Kit
Realistically, we will always recommendyou choose a universal car kit. Yes, TaoTronics do sell these, but its for more important reasonsthan that.
- This is the least expensive option, which is alwaysgreat.
- You can use it in multiple vehicles. Take it onroad trips with you even if youve hired a car.
- Its really effective just by simply plugging itin. You dont need to go through a huge installation process!
Plus, they are small and lightweight,making them super portable. You shouldnt even notice them in your cartheyshouldnt get in the way. So, very little thinking is involved about what typeyou purchase beyond the practicalities.
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Do I Need Apple Carplay In My Car
Apple CarPlay is quite a unique feature that can add another dimension to your car. If you have to think about and look at models of vehicles that come out with smart dashboards and infotainment systems, you will notice a couple of things that separates CarPlay from them.
Most dashboards that are stock standard from manufacturers are alright, but some features and aspects are not that great and can be improved.
We can start by looking at the UI of most dashboards. Some of them are complicated and difficult to see, understand, and use.
When you launch CarPlay, the UI turns into a familiar UI representing a basic version of your iPhone that most people who use Apple love and can navigate without any hassles.
Then you have the features which come with a standard dashboard. They dont offer anything in terms of variety. You may be able to connect your phone and play your music from the cars media player, but CarPlay takes it to a whole other level where you can download apps that let you stream music, listen to podcasts and audiobooks, and even the news.
Looking at the standard GPS that comes with a car, it sometimes has limited features, only allowing you to navigate to your destination. CarPlay allows you to load 3rd party navigation apps if you like, and it uses its Map app that gives you a ton of features right off the bat that some dashboards just dont offer.
Watch Nikias Molinas comments about why you need Apple Carplay.
Pump Up The Bass With The Help Of A Subwoofer
If you are looking for a way to increase the power of bass in your vehicle, then a DS18 subwoofer is exactly what you need. With the right powered DS18 subwoofer, you can feel the thump of each bass note in your favorite song throughout your whole body.
Most modern subwoofers can be mounted directly under the seat in your vehicle. Instead of making mistakes during this installation process, you need to let professionals handle it for you.
Often times, you will have to run a series of wires to the subwoofer to ensure it gets the right amount of power. Making mistakes during this installation process can result in the subwoofer or amplifier being damaged, which is why paying professionals is the best option.
Challenge : You Never Had A Stereo In The First Place
Solution: UE Wonderboom
I bought my 2009 GEM e4 street-legal golf cart secondhand from the Navy. And Uncle Sam didn’t spring for extras like speakers. Or doors. If you, too, have a vehicle with no stereo whatsoever, your best course of action is a battery-powered Bluetooth speaker. Better yet, two of them. The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom is about the size of a grapefruit and disproportionately loud. It lasts about ten hours between charges, and is waterproof, which makes it well suited to old Jeeps or other cars with hose-it-out interiors. Hanging one from the rearview mirror is a jaunty way to go, but I, once again, resorted to Velcro, mounting one on each side of the dash, no wiring required.
Verdict: Just remember to put it in the trunk when you park.
This appears in the July/August 2017 issue.
Add Some Sound Deadening To Your Car
Price: $50+Noise cancels out other noise. So that means in your car, the quieter you can make all that clatter from the road, the better you’ll be able to hear your music. Sound-deadening mats are relatively cheap, and can be applied to strategic parts of your car, like your door panel, to make a huge difference.
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Get A Brand New Head Unit For Your Car
Every car has its own head unit from the factory. The head unit is a radio or video player embedded on your cars dashboard. You need to upgrade your car radio if you want a better listening experience. Get a head unit with a wireless or Bluetooth kit that is compatible with smartphones.
A built-in Bluetooth receiver would be an excellent upgrade for your car stereo system. This new device could allow you to make a phone call or listen to your favorite music playlist. If you cant find one, you can buy a Bluetooth kit for your car stereo.