iPod amplifier for car
August 28, 2013 6:55 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend an inexpensive portable amplifier to use in my car so I can listen to my iPod?

My car's tape deck (shut up!) died. The CD player works, but that's not helpful. I have used an FM transmitter in the past, but where I live -- north of Providence, RI -- there are too many stations for it to be effective.

I currently listen to podcasts during my commute using a tiny desk speaker that I got at Staples for ten bucks, but it's too quiet for the days when I want to blast music on the way home.

I plan to use a pair of cheap-ass desktop computer speakers or the pair of pretty Apple Pro Speakers that I own, but I still need an amp. Battery powered would be tidier, so I can take it elsewhere, but I will take one with a cigarette lighter adapter.

I really don't want anything permanent since this car is almost ten years old, and also I often park it in a garage with the window down and the keys in it.

My budget is low, say under fifty bucks at Amazon. Is there a good (or even just adequate) amp that anyone can suggest? Or an alternative that I haven't thought of?

Any suggestions are appreciated!
posted by wenestvedt to Technology (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I recently solved this exact same problem in my 11-year-old car by getting the cheapest car stereo with a USB port. It was $60. Not terribly outside your budget. And it sounds way better than listening to portable speakers.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:59 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yeah, but if I replace the dash radio then I can't also use it in my workroom or in the back yard.

Plus, I simply lack the time to yank out the car's dashboard. And a friend of mine manages a Toyota dealership and he says that they are so uninterested in the fussiness of audio work that they gave a local company a desk in the dealership to take all the audio business that comes through the door -- so there goes my expert help!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:05 PM on August 28, 2013

Response by poster: (But wow, twenty-five bucks for a car stereo? That's crazy! Too bad it won't fit my car, a 2005 Camry.)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:07 PM on August 28, 2013

Best answer: $25 bucks, or maybe less, will probably get you a working, plug compatible dash unit for your Toyota at any junkyard, probably even with a 30 day warranty. You might even find that you can get an upgrade within your budget.
posted by paulsc at 7:23 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'd get a boom box with A) an aux/external input for your iDevice and B) a cigarette lighter power adapter. Look for a boombox that takes a 12V power input, which typically correlates to taking 8 batteries.

Or similar portable powered speakers designed for your device. I've been using a rechargable Altec Lansing unit around the house for years for this purpose.
posted by intermod at 7:30 PM on August 28, 2013

when you say your car's tape deck died - does it mean it cannot support an interface like this?
posted by seawallrunner at 7:33 PM on August 28, 2013

Response by poster: The auto-reverse just keeps switching back and forth and back and forth. From what I read online it's a rubber band that probably dried out and snapped. As a reult, I can't use a tape deck adapter, which is what I did since I bought the car in 2006. :7(
posted by wenestvedt at 7:38 PM on August 28, 2013

Best answer: "Plus, I simply lack the time to yank out the car's dashboard."

You've spent more time on this question, and doing followups, than it would take to wire up a new stereo. It's cake, man; I did one on my old CRX on a smoke break.
posted by notsnot at 7:45 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: OK then, a cheap class D amp ($25 bucks-ish), plus a cigarette lighter adapter, if you want to use your existing speakers.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:57 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

But I think that this Logitech iPod dock is a better alternative - loud enough, rechargable-battery powered but can be plugged in for power, folds up for transport, $45.

I use one around the house - I think it would work well in a car. You could velcro it to the dash.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:04 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Through a return I ended up with a credit I needed to use. I bought a bluetooth speaker, but it also has line in. I thought it was overpriced, but I had to use the credit somehow. I ended up really surprised how much I like it and use it. You could cable into it (I don't know if iPods have bluetooth) or use it with your phone. It's a Phillips Shoqbox.

I am surprisingly happy with it. Recharageable batteries via USB. Nice sound. Very small.
Amazon link.
posted by cccorlew at 8:51 PM on August 28, 2013

I had the forward / reverse problem with my tape deck occasionally, and resolved it by cleaning the contacts on the cassette interface inside the radio and on the little store-bought gizmo. You might want to try that. I used tissue paper, q-tips and rubbing alcohol. Did the trick ( stock tape and radio player in 1995 3 series bmw ).
posted by seawallrunner at 9:04 AM on August 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I recommend the Boombotix, which is loud, portable, and stylish. Got mine (the Rex) through their Kickstarter campaign and I use it constantly, in both house and yard. Haven't tested its maximum yell, but these guys were serious about the audio engineering, so it's probably got the chops. Easy to recharge when needed, and you can even use it as a phone speaker, if so inclined.
posted by acm at 10:00 AM on August 29, 2013

You might re-try the FM transmitter. In my experience, they've improved a lot in the last few years.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 3:25 PM on August 29, 2013

Response by poster: I have that little Lepai Tripath amp on order to try in my house, and I will pick up a car power adapter if it sounds good enough.

I also stand corrected: from what I have seen online, removing this radio is not at all a difficult task, and I might give it a try when I have been able to find out more about upgrade options. :7)

Thanks to all!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:02 AM on September 3, 2013

Response by poster: At Christmas time I was given a small speaker made by Cambrdge Soundworks, called the Oontz, and it FILLS my car with sound. Even soft-spoken podcasts can be heard clearly over the road noise, which is a damn miracle. I love the thing!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:07 PM on January 8, 2014

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