Which car stereo + ipod adapter best integrates an ipod?
October 2, 2006 4:24 AM   Subscribe

Which car stereo model + ipod adapter best integrates an ipod? Or should i just keep it simple and go for a car stereo w/a front aux input?

So I finally purchased an ipod! I'd read and heard from friends that the fm transmitters on the market have poor sound quality. As my cd player no longer worked in my car, I decided to splurge and get a new one. I bought a Pioneer DEH_P3800MP(Car Stereo) + Pioneer CD_IB100II (Ipod Adapter). The front aux input car stereo choices were much more limited and as the stereo+adapter combo was only a little bit more I went for it. Plus i figured being able to control my ipod from stereo would simplify things. Wrong! My biggest complaint about the setup is the stereo's inability to quickly search through the artists for example. I have to hit a button everytime I want to get to the next artist. Every time! I can't seem to find a comparable wheel feature, as on my ipod, on the stereo. So basically its going to take me a decade to get from the a's to the z's. The intstruction manual for the stereo provides no direction on which stereo buttons correspond to which ipod buttons. Bascially, i was just sitting in front of it and punching buttons to figure out how to play the ipod. Folks which stereos have you found that best integrate your ipod? I'm looking to pay no more than $150 for the stereo. Or alternatively should I just go w/a car stereo that has the front aux input? I'm leaning towards this option. It seems to me using one electronic device to utilize another device feels like too many hoops to jump through. I still can't even figure out how to access the shuffle feature. Also fyi I have the ipod 60gb w/video capability and a 1997 mazda protege.
posted by purplestarz to Technology (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have an Alpine, and its interface sucks, too. For anything besides moving forward and backward in the current playlist, I unplug the ipod and use it's interface. Nice sounding unit otherwise.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:21 AM on October 2, 2006

Best answer: IMO, nothing on the stereo will be as easy to use as the iPod itself. The iPod's controls are designed to be easy to use, the car stereo's controls are designed to be easy to use... for a car stereo. Not so much for anything else. I presume you tried spinning the control knob when you're browsing artists? Personally, I'd much rather just use aux inputs with an iPod, and control my tunes myself. You don't necessarily need a front aux input either, you could get a rear aux input head unit, and run a cable under the dash to someplace useful.
posted by antifuse at 5:59 AM on October 2, 2006

I've tooled around with this a lot, and here's the best combination I can come up with:

1) Car CD player with an auxiliary/CD changer input
2) Some kind of semi-permanent iPod car mount
3) Belkin Auto Kit for iPod
4) Cables/adapters

It sounds complicated, but let me explain, using my setup as an example. I have the Belkin cable and a Pioneer head unit (DEH-P3600, I believe). The Belkin Auto Kit has a dock connector on one end, and a cigarette lighter charger/headphone out on the other end. I got a $20 cable that converts the CD-changer input on my Pioneer radio to red/white RCA plugs, and a headphone-jack-to-RCA cable from radio shack.

I plug the dock connector into the iPod, the Belkin thing into the cigarette lighter, the 1/8" end of radio shack cable into the Belkin thing, the other end of the radio shack cable into the Pioneer adapter, and the Pioneer adapter into the radio.

Presto - the iPod charges while I drive, I get pristine audio quality, and (they don't mention this anywhere on the box, but) the iPod auto-magically pauses when I turn off the car.

If you're not scared of splicing wires, you can even hide an extra cigarette lighter plug behind the dashboard so you only have a single wire coming out to connect to the iPod. I'd post pictures of my install, but I can't find them. Head over to iLounge and look at some of the car installs - a lot of people over there use the method I just described.

(And if you're an audio purist, there are guides describing how to bypass the small amplifier in the Belkin kit, which separates the grounds and gets rid of hard drive noise, which is a problem with some iPods.)
posted by cebailey at 6:27 AM on October 2, 2006 [2 favorites]

What cebailey forgot to mention is that this kind of kit treats your ipod like a cd changer deck, with 6cds. The first 5 cds are the first five playlists the 'thing' meets which fit it's criteria, the 6th cd is the entire playlist, or the playlist you're currently playing, depending on the model you've got. (You just reload cd6 to get the entire songlist)
What this means is that you don't get to fiddle with artist etc while you're driving, you have to set up playlists beforehand. This is good in my opinion, since you shouldn't be finding artist 's' while going 80 down the freeway.

Of course, you've got something 'better'. Does it not read playlists as well? Just set up some nice driving ones.
posted by defcom1 at 8:03 AM on October 2, 2006

Best answer: Harmon Kardon has a product that will more likely meet your needs. External display and controller so you don't have to fiddle with the iPod itself. ~$200.
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:09 AM on October 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was looking at that Pioneer DEH_P3800M beck just last week at Crutchfield, and decided against it for just the reasons you specified.
Crutchfield has some great resources for your exact question. Try this guide.
posted by joecacti at 9:36 AM on October 2, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks folks for all your suggestions! I think in the interest of simplicity I'm going to get a cable and run it under my dash. I'm assuming my Pioneer qualifies as a rear aux input head unit, but I'll have to doublecheck. The crutchfield guide joecacti linked mentioned a blue tooth transmitter, which might be an option as well.

Antifuse - I did try spinning the control knob while browsing artists and it just turned the volume up or down:-(

Defcom - it does read playlists so this might be a third or fourth option as well.
posted by purplestarz at 4:55 AM on October 3, 2006

I note that upon looking at the specs of the 3800, it looks like an Aux input is "optional"... I guess that means you need some sort of adapter in order to add aux inputs? I'm not really sure though.
posted by antifuse at 7:33 AM on October 3, 2006

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