New car stereo solution?
June 23, 2008 2:37 PM   Subscribe

Car stereo solution for someone non-technical.

I have a 1990 Acura Legend with original stereo & speakers, but the 10-disc changer my brother installed is having issues (discs aren't always recognized, and the remote is broken). And the rear speakers are buzzing. So I'm in the market for something new. I don't want to spend more than $500 (for stereo and speakers). My requirements:
- Input for iPod (will be purchasing that soon also)
- Should play at least one CD (in case on a road trip, someone brings tunes)
- Some kind of equalizer (not just treble/bass control)

My question is not so much "which unit" (but I welcome input/feedback), but "where to go?". My gut tells me BestBuy. I've browsed, and they seem to have a decent selection, and installation is minimal. Or do I go to a car stereo place? There are plenty on Long Island (suggestions for/against would also be appreciated). Would $500 get me something good?

One qualification: I do NOT want to buy individual components and install them myself (I know it's cheaper). I am NOT handy. I CANNOT do electrical installation. This is non-negotiable. Sorry.

Any other suggestions (units to be aware of +/-, forums, review sites, etc.) are welcome. Thanks!!
posted by ObscureReferenceMan to Technology (6 answers total)
$500 is plenty. Go to any large electronics retailer or car stereo shop. You might want to browse Crutchfield as they have great info (bad prices though).
posted by wongcorgi at 2:57 PM on June 23, 2008

A retailer that specializes in car audio will be more likely to give you good advice and install the system properly. In my experience their prices will be close but not quite as cheap as what you pay at an electronics big box store. However this will be offset by better service. Best Buy and co. will likely just sell you $500 worth of stuff without much consideration to what you do vs. don't need. I speak from experience: I've gotten 'free installs' at both Circuit City and HH Gregg and in both cases I've felt let down by shoddy work.
posted by drmarcj at 3:27 PM on June 23, 2008

Best Buy has plenty of selection, and the fees seem straightforward. (I was not comfortable with Radio Shack or the locally owned car stereo place in my town. They both seemed like they were just a little too scheming for my taste, but I can't put my finger on why. You have more local selection than I do, so you might find a great place.) The Best Buy dude, even though he was far from an expert, was helpful in showing me things in my price range with the features I wanted, without trying to push me into things I didn't want. As it turns out, I sold that car so I didn't get the stereo installed. So I can't vouch for their service personally, although I have friends who have been happy with them. Others may come along with horror stories, but I can only go by what my local location's reputation is.

$500 is plenty for a good-sounding system with all the features you need. My theory of car sound systems has always been that paying a lot for an audiophile system is a waste of money, considering it will be used in the worst environment possible for truly good sound, fighting with road noise, wind noise, horns and passenger conversation.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 3:30 PM on June 23, 2008

I had really good experience with a car stereo place. Yes, it was a little bit more expensive. But I went back with problems about a year or so later, and the guy remembered what car I had and what they'd done with it. You don't get that kind of service at Best Buy.

And just for the record, the hardest part of installing a stereo is taking the old one out. After that, it's pretty much just plugging things in.
posted by theichibun at 3:50 PM on June 23, 2008

Best answer: There are two ways to go for the iPod interface---

1. A stereo with the proprietary iPod connector. This will power the iPod and have some kind of on-screen interface to playlists, etc.

2. A stereo with an aux 1/8" input jack (such a connector can often be attached to the port of the stereo used for disc changers, etc). You'll have to power the iPod externally (i.e. with a cigarette lighter plug), but the benefit is that it will work with any mp3 player.

I've gone both routes, and I actually prefer the 1/8" jack. For the iPod-stereos, I find the on-screen interfaces to be usually inferior to the actual iPod display (which will become unusable when you plug it in to the car). Definitely bring your iPod with you when you're planning on buying and try it out first.

Also, be careful- it's easy to get distracted from the road by trying to find that specific song/artist/whatever.

(I also once had a 1990 Acura Legend, and replaced the stereo/speakers. IIRC it was mandatory to replace the speakers, since they're weird proprietary Bose things that have built-in amplifiers and are incompatible with aftermarket stereos... at least, that's what I was told)
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:14 PM on June 23, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks! For all the input!!
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:41 PM on June 23, 2008

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