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Audio In

One of my biggest pet peeves in current automotive design is the lack of an audio-in port (either the red/white or the stereo mini-jack variety). How much would it cost auto manufacturers to add this to every car? Ten cents?

As I look for the arrival of my 30 GB iPod soon (replacing my 20, which is replacing my 5 - hey, employees get good discounts!), I am reminded of how dissatisfied I am with the quality of my current solution, the "fake cassette tape with a mini-jack plug" solution. My Aztek has a 10-speaker Pioneer system for a reason, dammit!

I like my car's stereo. I like the button layout, etc. But I'd really like an audio-in port. I'd give up the cassette tape thing to have it. Does anyone, anyone, know of a solution? Or a place that'll do it. Where do I begin looking?

Update: Please don't suggest an FM transmitter. The quality on those suck too, especially when you live near a large city that uses 88.1, 88.3, 88.5, and 88.7 for real radio stations.

26 Responses to "Audio In"

  1. Unless your stereo has some sort of auxiliary input (basically either a mini-jack plug or a pair of RCA jacks), the cassette tape thing may be your way to go.

    I once had an old-school, high-end Sony tape deck that had a pair of RCA jacks for AUX input. I had a portable CD player mounted on a flexible arm attached to my dash, which had a mini-jack to RCA connection to my deck. Worked great.

    I guess nowadays with in-dash CD players and changers and even those that play MP3 CD's, the industry doesn't feel the need for an input jack.

  2. You should figure out if your stereo has one. Most modern ones have one on the back where you would connect the audio in from a CD Changer or some other thing. It might kludgy, but you may be able to hook that up to some wires which you can plug into. Of course this once again _depends_ on your stereo.

  3. My car MP3 CD player has a mini-jack right on front labeled "MP3 input". Though that doesn't really help you, unless you want to buy a new cd player for your car.

  4. My '93 VW Jetta has one - what a great feature. I'm picking up a car tonight, a '99 Volvo, and I'm not sure if that has one. Hopefully it does; otherwise my Griffin iTrip FM transmitter should be shipping soon. Good luck with looking in the dash for this.

  5. i supposed without tearing anything up, you can try using the GriffinTech's iTrip?

  6. OK and now I read your whole post. Man, I suck.

  7. I hope the Aztek doesn't blind you with it's stunning good looks. 😛

    Good point though. That should be a feature in car stereos. I'd get a FM transmitter over a take deck thing though. I'd rather not have those wires cluttering things up.

  8. If you have a factory stereo, check out They have pluggable modules for modern stereos with CD support in-built.

    For example, my Honda has a 14-pin pack next to the sound/power/control pack. This module plugs into this interface and provides RCA inputs.

    At 60-70 dollars, it is a bit expensive, but with either a car dock (I'm certain they are coming) or a Male 1/8th" Phono to Male RCA pair, one can have a decent, permanent solution.

  9. Eli, I'm not sure I understand how that works (their site is horrible as far as this kind of information goes). Do I lose my CD player to do this? Do I lose my tape player? Where am I plugging stuff in, and what are the tradeoffs?

    And their Pontiac list has the Vibe but leaves off the Aztek, so who knows whether or not that's a "solution" at all.

    You can't even send the bozos mail because they're running a misconfigured copy of FormMail. And they want $100 of my money? Uhhh… no?

  10. It depends on how your OEM sets it up. Many newer car stereos have two connectors on the back: one for the speakers, antenna, and power, and one for the CD changer power, audio and control.

    If you have a single-disc CD player, or in-dash 6 disc changer, it appears this will not work out for you.

  11. Apple sells this "Tunecast Mobile FM Transmitter", which makes it possible to listen to your iPod music tuning an FM station, wirelessly. I think that is what you are looking for. And I do think it is not precisely expensive.

  12. No, that's not a solution. I do not want:

    A cassette tape adapterAn FM transmitter.

    Anyone suggesting either is missing the whole freaking point: quality matters. You ain't gettin' quality by a tape adapter or an FM transmitter.

  13. I have purchased one of the auxiliary input adapters mentioned by Eli Sarver for my Ford Focus. Like he said, the price is kind of ridiculous (about $60-75), but the sound quality is incomparable to FM transmitters or cassette adapters. I used several FM transmitters; they all sucked.

    Most factory stereos have a connector in the back for a CD changer. The auxiliary input adapter is a box which tricks your stereo into accepting input from any source, just like it would from a CD changer. Many stereos actually have support for this lurking in their firmware, but it's very hard to find documentation about it.

    On my stereo, for instance, I can press "CD" once to listen to my internal CD player, and "CD" again to listen to my iPod. The sound quality is absolutely perfect, with no degradation whatsoever.

    Installation's not too hard, either. It's essentially just a big adapter. You need to pull your stereo out, but you don't need to tap into any power wires or anything. Just plug it in to the back, stick the box somewhere back there and go. I run the audio cable through my glovebox.

    Combine this with a custom mounting bracket and a nice Multidapt compatible case and you've got yourself a nice little package.

    Now I just need to find some way to make an no-fuss mount to snap into the new iPod connector. Maybe this will help.

  14. You can't really complain about the "quality" of using a cassette adapter or an FM transmitter when you would be using them to play MP3s. I mean, I understand your plight, but not much is lost when using a tape adapter. If that's what you're doing now, and it sounds bad, it's because it's MP3. MP3 cuts out a lot of the bass and highs that you're used to in the car -- you don't notice on headphones because the headphones can't reproduce those tones anyway.

  15. Nick, you're wrong.

  16. If you've got a Volkswagen, I've got a homebrewed cd changer adapter that is very reasonably priced: VWCDPIC. I've also got schematics/firmware source code available for DIYer's in the developer's area.

  17. JVC seem to have several with a mini socket on the front, eg KD SX990. I have not bought one yet because they seem unavailable in UK but they have received good epinions.

  18. I just got a JVC KDSX990. As mentioned above it has the socket in front. It seems to work great. With a male, male plug I can play tapes and MP3s off an IPAQ pocket PC. Internally it has a tuner and a CD/MP3 CD player.

  19. I totally hear what you are saying about the FM Transmitters. My idea (that i haven't tried yet) is one of those hardwired FM Modulators they use to add CD changers to factory stereos that don't support direct plug-ins. You can get those for about the same price as the FM transmitters, it will be hardwired and should have much less signal degradation. (I haven't heard tons of complaints from people who have added aftermarket CD changers using this method). My only challenge now is figuring out a 'pretty' way to mount the RCA jacks into my dash or console so the wires don't look like crap.

  20. This should solve your problem.

  21. has anyone had any sucees with an FM modulator? i think i found one for my pontiac vibe but i have never tried to install something by myself so i am a little worried about fuckin' something up.

  22. If you install an equalizer or other amp in your car, you could probably make the input switchable with some parts at Radio Shack, that way you can have whatever car stereo you want pumping tunes into the amp, then when you want your MP3 player to play, turn off you radio, switch the amp inputs and play your tunes!

  23. Hi,

    May be this can help u.



  24. You don't lose much sound quality from a tape adapter, look at the signal-noise stats. The weak link with tape decks is the tape, not the deck. Adapters don't have that problem, especially not nearly as much as FM modulators. Those FM deals do mean things to your signal.

    However, if you have so much money, a fancier solution would be iPod adapters for many HUs (head units [fancy word for car stereos]) that accept CD changers. Neo iON Monster iCruze etc., use google for more. And if you have all this money, it's not a problem for you to buy a compatible HU if you don't have one, right? And a compatible iPod if you don't have one, right? And Steering wheel controls, and better speakers... Why don't you just get the BMW if you care so much?

    (found your site from google: pontiac vibe ipod )

  25. I have a honda Civic 97 and I had a 10 Disc MP3/CD Changer installed using the hardwired FM Modulator and it was not the best. I bought the cheapest changer i could find, but it still sounded bad. It was more quiet than my normal CD player which stinks. And i had to cut off the changer everytime i wanted to listen to the radio. so, in short, i want an audio jack for my Honda Civic LX 97 too.

  26. 2 solutions:

    1 - Buy a cheap after market cd player that has a built in audio in jack.

    2 -
    a. Remove the stereo from your dash. If it's a newer vehicle, you may need a special tool which usually just looks like 2 U's. The pointed ends are inserted into small holes on either side if the stereo. Pull the handles away from each other (pull the left one to the left, and the right one to the right). Pull, and the stereo will slide right out. If you have an older car, you will have to find out how to remove the dash and/or stereo. Sometimes it is just a couple of screws, and the rest is held on with clips. On others, you have to figure it out with trial and error (but remember, the more errors you make, the worse your car will probably look in the end). Ask some friends who may have the same car as you, or look it up online so it's done right.
    b. Be sure that your stereo has some type of input in the back. If your stereo has a CD changer input in the rear with RCA inputs, you aren't out of luck - but you may be out another $50 because you need an adapter that changes the CD changer input into simple left and right RCA inputs. If you already have RCA inputs, there will be 2 of them (left and right audio). Usually, one is red, one is white, and they may or may not be covered by small rubber caps (depending on how old it is). If there are caps, you can remove them.
    c. Decide where you will be putting your iPod and where you want the wire going. Once you've done this, drill your hole.
    d. Now get a 1/8th to 1/8th rca cable to connect your ipod to the input jack!