Update: Still no car stereos with knobs?
October 13, 2014 8:45 AM   Subscribe

So the tape player in my wife's '99 Corolla is dying, meaning we can't listen to Ipods through it. This is bad. We've finally come to the conclusion that we need to replace the stereo entirely with one that has an aux in. The problem is: They're all stupid. Tiny buttons and flashing lights everywhere. A bunch of stupid shit that is actively dangerous to use while driving. Any advice on anything better?

For context, I've read this question and installed the Nakamichi NA98 in one of our trucks after my dog killed the stock tape player (have I mentioned that we're perfectly satisfied with stock tape players and adapters?). My wife has declared that this stereo still has too many tiny buttons and is unusable. It's certainly better than the Best Buy cheapie I installed in my flatbed though. The UI on that one *really* sucks.

Is there anything out there with knobs and big buttons that can be installed in a one DIN slot. Max budget is maybe $150 with cheaper being better. We really don't care about sound quality or features. Like, seriously, a CD player is going to be useless. Just an aux in and easy buttons to work while driving are all we're looking for. Oh, and a radio.

Advice? TIA
posted by stet to Technology (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Part of the trick is your physical constraints -- a lot of the Tiny Button stereos are built with the expectation that you have, e.g., controls on the steering wheel and other safe options. But still, I've seen plenty of sold-by-dealership stereos with at least a couple large control buttons, so it must be possible. Just beat the bushes and maybe you'll find something that she accepts. Or maybe you can get an older stereo and then use a USB adaptor of some sort (have seen, e.g., Bluetooth adapters that stick into the CD slot) rather than being stuck with a more modern interface.

Good luck!
posted by acm at 8:52 AM on October 13, 2014

A car stereo I owned a few years ago came with a steering-wheel mounted remote that strapped onto the steering wheel and had an unobtrusive little wire to the stereo. You could control the volume, switch sources, change stations on the radio, and skip tracks all with your thumbs without ever having to glance down or take your hands from the wheel.

I've installed a converter for my current stereo so that it works with the factory-installed steering remote that came with my current car. So there are definitely options in that area.
posted by pipeski at 8:54 AM on October 13, 2014

Best answer: How about the Blaupunkt Cupertino 220?
posted by TreeDodger at 9:02 AM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've got a $79 JVC that I bought from Crutchfield about a year ago. It's radio / USB / Aux - no CD at all. The volume is a large round knob. Everything else is little buttons, but how often do you use everything else?
posted by COD at 9:20 AM on October 13, 2014

I know you specified single DIN, but if there's a tray or any other thing you can take out so you can use a double DIN unit, you'll have more large-button options. I was looking around myself lately, and I couldn't find any single DIN stereos that didn't have the Chiclet keys.

With regards to the flashing lights, most stereos come with some stupid 'demo mode' enabled that puts on a ridiculous light show, but you can turn almost all of that off through the menus.
posted by echo target at 9:24 AM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

You could also try an FM transmitter if you aren't ready to part with the stereo yet. They aren't the best, but they work reasonably well, especially for the price.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:34 AM on October 13, 2014

Could you maybe try using an aux-cassette converter and find an old in-dash cassette player? I mean tape decks are pretty much obsolete and the most recent gen all share the horrible UI that you complain about but maybe an old one?
posted by Wretch729 at 9:36 AM on October 13, 2014

If it would work, the RetroSound Retro Classic looks like it would be perfect. 2 big knobs, aux-in, and radio.
posted by steinwald at 10:27 AM on October 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

This may be old school, but there are twin shaft DIN size stereos available. They are the kind that normally have one knob on the left for volume and one on the right for tuning. Some have AUX in connectors for the iPod (like this $22 one) or USB+SD card slots. (Feel free to search for more)

Very little in the way of extra's, just a radio or radio+cassette and that's it. I had some old (nice) ones years ago that sat unused in the garage for years. Still good, just replaced by CD players. Perhaps you know somebody with an unused one...
posted by Leenie at 10:38 AM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you are handy with a set of tools, I recommend PICK & PULL. Go to the Lot, find a similar car, pull the stereo, install in own car.
posted by goml at 10:58 AM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

An OEM replacement can be had for $20 on eBay. Removal and install is very easy. There are videos on YouTube showing the install procedure. Harnesses should plug right in.

If you want to get a little more advanced, you could buy an adapter that converts the factory CD changer input into a auxiliary input.
posted by Talk To Me Goose at 11:10 AM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Plugin your car and tells it the right stereo to add. If you want big buttons , then go for the Double DIN stacks which have a larger area for either more functionality or touch screen type radios.
posted by radsqd at 11:48 AM on October 13, 2014

Oh, one more thing. I looked at this a year or so ago. It is one of those iPod/MP3 Player to FM transmitters, but with an extra feature. When listening using the iPod/AUX input, it blocks incoming radio stations. Turn off the iPod and the switch returns to letting the antenna feed pass through. This blocks all radio stations from interfering with the unit and means that you don't have to change the frequency when travelling, it just works, all the time.
posted by Leenie at 2:17 PM on October 13, 2014

Best answer: At one point i searched for the unit that met these requirements:

A. cheapest
B. simplest
C. Aux input, USB or anything else was a bonus, but minimum possible features other than aux

I found this randomly on sale for the price it just... is now, apparently. I'm about 50% sure this version literally switches to aux upon the cable being connected, too.

It has no fancy modes. The buttons are input, clock set, and radio band. it has tuning buttons and a volume knob. I'm also like, pretty highly certain it remembers what mode it was in, so you can put it on aux and never fuck with it again.

It's also $30.

Also a random detail, but i thought it was cool that it can play mp3s from SD cards or flash drives. The main reason i thought this was cool was if i clumsily break the 1/8in jack by yanking the cord and am hypothetically too lazy to pull the thing out of the dash and resolder it, i can just keep playing my own music with those inputs.

This was the no frills-iest unit i could find, that wasn't charging you a premium for being no frills. And amusingly, it had less buttons and stupid than a lot of the seemingly intentionally simple ones. It's like something radio shack or sears would sell back when those stores actually sold real store brand products like this.

Any time a friend of mine asks what stereo to get for their beater car that they "just want to play music from their phone on", i point them at that thing. $30! how the hell can you beat that!

Oh, the one complaint about it i've seen that may or may not be a dealbreaker, the lights on it do NOT dim when you dim your dash lights. They're on all the time, day or night, at full blast. Various pioneer, kenwood, and other "fancy" stereos i've seen are brighter and more distracting than this one with their stupid animations and higher number of lights and i really don't think it's that bad... but yea, something to think about. Still, $30.
posted by emptythought at 5:11 PM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Second the OEM replacement suggestion, via eBay or a salvage yard search site like rockauto.
posted by aerotive at 7:28 PM on October 13, 2014

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