Buying a Car Radio
August 17, 2006
This guide will help you choose the right radio, CD, MP3 Player or CD Changer for you and your car.
Considerations when replacing your car radio? If you are thinking of replacing or upgrading your original factory fitted car radio but are unsure of the options, benefits and technical considerations then read on, all will be explained. Factory fitted radios (standard fit radios) in the past had relatively low power outputs of about 3 to 5 watts RMS. However the latest factory fitted radios have improved vastly with power outputs of up to 100 Watts. These figures represent 25 Watts, ‘peak’ power per channel x 4 (this basically means x 4 speakers).
This actually translates to approximately 10 watts RMS x 4 channels, when used for any length of time (continuous). Is this power substantial to produce high quality sound? Yes and No...
Compare this to aftermarket radios (radios manufactured for retail sale), such as the best selling Alpine, Kenwood, Panasonic and Sony brands, where basic models start at a power output of 45 Watts x 4.
Why am I telling you about Factory Fitted radios if you are about to replace it? Because if you really wish to keep your radio you can, by 'adding a CD changer' on to the majority of Factory fitted radios, giving you the option of CD and/or MP3 at way below what your dealer would charge. This can only be done if your radio has a CD Changer output socket found at the rear of your radio. More on this later...
So here's what you need to consider: 1. Do you want to play, cassette, CD, MD and/or MP3? 2. Do you want a changer to play your CD, MD or MP3's? 3. Do you want to keep your existing Factory radio by 'Adding a CD Changer or MP3 Changer' or would you rather replace this with an aftermarket radio? Security considerations: Adding an aftermarket radio would give you the benefit of having a removable security fascia to take with you when you leave the car. Incidentally all new radios come with a robust case to store your removable fascia. If you keep your Factory fitted radio and add a CD or CD/MP3 changer there will be no visible signs of a changer having been added so the risk of theft will remain very low.
Why is a higher power output better? Aftermarket radios manufactured by leading brands such as Alpine, Blaupunkt, Clarion, Kenwood, Panasonic, Pioneer and Sony offer superb sound quality and sound clarity when adding to the most basic speaker system up to a full competition system. This will especially be evident at low volumes as the extra power will produce a more refined sound.
The advantages with aftermarket radios don't stop at power output, because you will also experience improved FM reception, and far better design and looks, not forgetting greater security, and the availability to expand your system if you wish to integrate other equipment such as CD, MP3 or MD changers and amplifiers, etc. Add to this, the savings when buying additional (add-on equipment) and you will see the benefits.
As you can see, even though your factory fitted radio seems relatively powerful, there are many more benefits by upgrading to an aftermarket radio.
Here are your options…
What are my Radio & CD Changer Options?
1) Replace your existing radio with an In-Dash Cassette-Radio, CD-Radio or CDMP3-Radio If wish to replace your existing radio and having a multi-disc changer is not a priority then an In-Dash Cassette-radio, CD-radio or CD/MP3-radio may be your best option, producing the best overall sound. If your car has steering wheel radio controls these can remain fully functional with the aid of readily available Installation Accessories. A Harness Adaptor and/or Fascia Adaptor may also be needed if your car does not have standard (ISO) fitments.
More on Installation Accessories in the Car Radio Installation Guide View the CD Players now at Car Audio Plus
2) Add a CD, MD or CD/MP3 Changer to your existing original Factory fitted radio These packages include a CD, MD or CD/MP3 changer and an Interface Adapter (where necessary) designed for specific vehicles and specific radios, that allow you to connect an aftermarket CD, MD or CD/MP3 Changer to your factory radio that has CD changer controls. With this option, you retain the use of your factory radio's controls to operate your new changer and enjoy your favourite artists in addition to an improvement in sound quality. And if your car has a dash display, this will remain fully functional.
View the Factory Fit CD & MP3 Changer packages at ADD A CD Changer
3) Add a CD, MD or CD/MP3 changer to your existing Aftermarket radio, i.e. Alpine, Kenwood, Sony If you want to add a CD changer to you existing aftermarket radio that has CD changer control, select the Brand of your radio from the list of available CD Changers. Please Note: You can only add a CD Changer of the same brand as your radio.
View the Aftermarket CD Changers now at ADD A CD Changer
4) Replace your existing radio with a complete Radio & CD, MD or MP3 Changer Package The vast majority of our customers choose to replace the factory radio with a radio & CD changer package (the two units must be from the same manufacturer) and when packaged together by the Leading manufactures work out far cheaper that if you were to buying separate. This is a great option if your factory radio does not have a CD changer available.
It's a little more work installing than just an In-Dash player, but you'll enjoy the superior performance of an aftermarket radio and CD changer. And you'll appreciate the ability to re-install them in your next vehicle. If your car has steering wheel radio controls these can remain fully functional with the aid of Installation Accessories. A Harness Adaptor and/or Fascia Adaptor may also be needed if your car does not have standard (ISO) fitments.
View the CD Changer Packages now at Car Audio Plus
5) Add a CD Changer to your radio if it doesn’t have CD Changer compatibility If you have a radio without CD changer control or if you are driving a leased car or classic you may not want to change the factory radio for a new in-dash radio. Fortunately, that doesn't mean you have to give up the many advantages of a CD or CD/MP3 changer. With an FM Modulator (add-on or RF) Changer Package, you can get terrific-sounding results playing an add-on changer through your existing FM radio and if your car radio has steering wheel remote controls and/or dash display these will remain fully functional.
Ben is a successful technical consultant on design of iPod systems and writes regularly for http://ipodcarkitdirect.co.uk
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