Taking MP3 (and Other Digital Formats) On the Road
OK, so it's the new millennium. In this bright new era, digital music is everywhere. For many folks, it's become a personal listening choice; for others, it's a matter of great import to take burgeoning digital music archives everywhere they go. For those with automobiles, this means figuring out the best way to audition digital music in your car. There are more ways to achieve this goal than you might thinkall with related costs, pros, and cons. Let's investigate so you can decide which option works best for you.
Piecing the Digital Audio Car Playback Puzzle Together
As far as I can tell, there are at least four approaches to listening to digital audio in your car. All have associated costs, pros, and cons; and all are probably worth considering as you determine which approach works best for your needs. I'll simply list them here and then knock them off in the order in which they appear:
Do nothing (use your current headphones).
Take the auxiliary input route (connect a player directly to your car stereo).
Use an FM modulator (broadcast your player into your car radio).
Use a car player that supports digital audio CDs (MP3 or WMA).
Because it involves changing nothing and buying nothing, this is by far the cheapest and easiest approach. It does, however, assume that you've got a portable digital audio player, and that you'll continue to use your headphones or earbuds for listening. Alas, this is illegal in most states (and for anyone operating a motor vehicle for the Armed Forces). Please check all applicable driving rules and regulations before taking this easy way out! As former audio engineer (as well as a concerned fellow driver), I have to add that anything less than professional audio headphones won't provide a very good listening experience against noise levels typically encountered while driving. These headphones are likely to restrict your range of motion and may even interfere with peripheral vision to some extent, so they're even more likely to be illegal than ear buds or smaller headphones. Too bad!
Pro: Easy and free
Con: Illegal in most places