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Tips from the Windows Pros: Playing Audio from Your Portable Device Through Your Car Stereo

So now you know how to work Media Player and how to organize your media with complete media information and album art. You have synchronized your media to your portable device. The majority of music that people listen to during the day is in the car during the commute to and from work. Next, I explain the options you have for getting your newly stocked portable player connected to your car stereo so that you never have to carry a CD again.

To decide the best method to use, you need to know a little bit about your car stereo. If you have not already checked, see whether your stereo has an auxiliary input. This information can usually be found in the vehicle or stereo's manual, or you may need to call your local dealership. Another option to look into is whether your stereo supports a stereo Bluetooth link. After you know this information, review the following options, listed from best sound quality to worst, and choose the one that best suits your needs. In all cases, the portable media player's headphone jack is used as the audio source.

  • Auxiliary Input—This is a direct connection to your stereo either through an auxiliary (front/rear) or an adapter connected to your specialized CD changer input. There is little interference with this type of connection and as a result, it is highly recommended over other methods.
  • Bluetooth Link—If your stereo supports a Bluetooth link, you can get an adapter for your portable device that will allow a high-quality wireless direct connection with your stereo. Because the link is wireless, the Bluetooth link is subject to slightly more interference than the Auxiliary Input method.
  • Cassette Adapter—This option offers quality similar to that of the FM options discussed next. However, because it is not bound to the FM spectrum, it is subject to less interference and noise. This device connects from your portable device directly into your car's cassette player.
  • Wired FM Transmitter—This option does offer decreased sound quality to the previous option because of the limitations of the FM spectrum. A wired FM transmitter is a device installed in line with your stereo's FM antenna. While an audio source is connected to the device, the car's antenna is switched off and the audio signal is modulated to a set FM frequency, such as 88.9 FM. When there is no audio input source, the device switches the antenna back on to keep from interfering with FM radio reception.
  • Wireless FM Transmitter—This is identical in operation to the wired FM transmitter, except that it modulates the audio to the FM frequency and then broadcasts it within a short range (usually 3–6 ft.) so that it can be picked up by your vehicle's antenna. Notice that this device does not switch off the vehicle's antenna, because it requires it for operation. Although most used, this option has the lowest audio quality because of the large amount of interference introduced by the wirelessly transmitted FM signals competing with other local FM stations.
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