Prudent repair or giddy consumerism?
December 16, 2005 12:01 PM   Subscribe

Repair or replace the car stereo?

I've had a Clarion source unit and 6-disc changer since...probably '97 or '98, and they have been mostly trouble-free up until recently. Back in April or May the faceplate started to have problems powering up (though wiggling it would usually fix that) and eventually quit doing that entirely. The changer unit's fine, though one of the magazine's disc slots broke, so it's effectively a 5-disc player.

Of course, I bought the damn thing at Good Guys, which apparently went under or was bought out. The nearest listed Clarion dealers/repair shops are all about 30 miles away. Given all of that plus the fact that I don't do much long-distance driving these days, I'm tempted to just replace it with a single-disc player and supplement with an Ipod.

Thoughts? Suggestions? I'm thinking ahead to the hours of driving to visit the extended family for Christmas, and a battery-powered boombox on the passenger seat just isn't cutting it anymore.
posted by Vervain to Shopping (6 answers total)
Since your Clarion unit is most likely out of warranty, I'd say replace.

I have no experience with it, but this unit looks slick. It can play CDs, MP3s on CD, has an auxiliary and changer input, and can play MP3s directly from a USB pen drive.
posted by SteveInMaine at 12:23 PM on December 16, 2005

Of course, I mean this unit.
posted by SteveInMaine at 12:24 PM on December 16, 2005

The cost of fixing electronics like that is usually more than the value of the radio itself. I'd just go get a new one (an Alpine, personally).
posted by knave at 12:56 PM on December 16, 2005

Best answer: Replace it...I used to sell car audio and can tell you that, realistically, most aftermarket components have a 3-4 year average life. The vibration incurred from daily driving (even in the best conditions) eventually wears them down. Unlike factory stereos that are designed for specifically for their vehicles, aftermarkets must be fitted to the car and you lose most of the vibration protection factory units enjoy. Besides, prices have come down considerably on simple car audio (CD players and changers) due to the wide range of "extras" now available (DVD, MP3, integrated cellular, satellite radio etc.). Check into satellite radio, I love mine and most music lovers I know do to.

Good Luck!

P.S. Buy from a small business if possible (usually better service and almost always better installers)
posted by unccivil at 1:03 PM on December 16, 2005

"...most music lovers I know do to."

oops! I mean "too."
posted by unccivil at 1:06 PM on December 16, 2005

Best answer: I just had to replace my head unit after a theft. I had an Eclipse unit put in and I've been really happy with it. (Flash-site.)

The interesting thing about them, aside from being well-priced for really good quality, is that the head units are coded by the user in such a way that if power is interrupted, it will not function without a Key CD that only you know. If your unit is stolen within the first year, they'll buy you a new one. It will play all of my scratched, bruised and screwed-up CDs (both the ones I make and the ones I've bought) flawlessly.

If you want to spend a little more, there are some good units from Alpine out there. I put an Alpine head unit in my ex-wife's car last Christmas, and added on the Ipod adapter. Looks nice in the car, easy to use and sounds great with the factory amp. The Alpine stuff isn't cheap, but it is pretty well-made, in my opinion.

Navigating the Ipod from the head unit can be a bit tricky - it helps if you organize the music on the Ipod in a certain way, so make sure you get an idea of how the adapter works with the head unit and how easy it is to use before you have it installed. That's something I should have done and didn't.

It seems like most higher-end units are "XM-ready" or "SIRIUS-Ready" meaning that adding on sat-radio is a simple bolt-on. I don't know much about this, though.

I second unccivil's advice about installers. I did use a chain store, however, both of the senior installers at that chain store used to work at a mom-and-pop store and came highly recommended by a car-audiophile friend.
posted by TeamBilly at 8:35 AM on December 17, 2005

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