Connecting to an Existing Car Audio System
What do you do if you want to play your iPod in your car but don't want to (or can't afford to) purchase a new car audio system? Again, you have several options.
The preferred option, in terms of sound quality, is to make a direct connection between your iPod and your car audio system. With a direct connection, you retain the full audio fidelity of your iPod; this is not the case if you connect via FM modulation (which we discuss later in this chapter).
You can make a direct connection between your iPod and your car audio system in many different ways. Some car connection kits are mere cables that run between your iPod (either the dock connector or the earphone out jack, depending) and the auxiliary input jacks found on the back of many OEM and aftermarket audio head units. Other kits feature adapters that utilize the CD changer port found on the back of many car radios. Some connection kits provide dock mounts for the iPod, whereas others offer auxiliary controllers and displays. As is the case with aftermarket audio systems, I recommend you have a professional installer help you decide which kits work best for your vehicle and perform the installation itself.
One of my favorite direct connection kits is the Harman Kardon Drive + Play, shown in Figure 14.4. The Drive + Play's "brain" is a small box that mounts in the glove box or under a front seat and connects to your existing radio's auxiliary input. Connected to the main unit is a backlit LCD display that displays iPod-style menus and track info, and a mushroom-shaped controller unit that works much like the iPod Click Wheel. You mount the display on your dashboard and the controller on your center console. The whole system sells for $149.99 and is available from www.harmankardon.com.
Figure 14.4 The Harman Kardon Drive + Play iPod direct connection kit.
Not all direct connection kits are quite this sophisticated, and not all kits work on all vehicles. In fact, some "kits" are nothing more than connecting cables, like the Neo iON kit from Mp3YourCar, shown in Figure 14.5. Check with the kit manufacturer to find the kit that works with your particular vehicle and audio system.
Figure 14.5 The Neo iON direct connection kit.
Here are some of the more popular manufacturers of direct-connection iPod kits:
- Blitzsafe (www.blitzsafe.com)
- Mp3YourCar (www.mp3yourcar.com)
- PAC (www.pac-audio.com)
- Peripheral (www.peripheralelectronics.com)
- P.I.E. (www.pie.net)
- Smart Park iConnect (www.smartpark.net/iPod_iConnect.html)
- USA Spec (www.usaspec.com)
- VAIS Technology (www.vaistech.com/sli.html)
- Wire-Tunes (www.wire-tunes.com)
Expect to pay between $50 and $150 for these direct connection kits and cables.