Automotive & GPS
A Black Friday car stereo buying guide
Aftermarket car stereos have made a big comeback in recent years, after sales receded in the wake of the iPod/mp3 player boom. While most auto manufacturers now make iPod/mp3 player compatibility a standard feature, you may want to upgrade your car speakers to enjoy a superior in-vehicle music experience. Also, the advent of satellite radio and HD radio are major draws for people who spend a lot of time on the road, as these improve both the quality and selection of your radio programming options.
Buying an aftermarket car stereo can be a daunting experience, particularly if you haven't purchased one before. There are a few common-sense tips to keep in mind as you shop, which will help you invest in the right car stereo and avoid overpaying for one you don't really need.
Your Guide to Today's Car Stereos
Nowadays, car stereo manufacturers pack their products with advanced features never before seen in the world of aftermarket audio. One key feature is the ability to transfer audio files from external devices to your tuner. The major reason you might want to do this is because a specialized car stereo has superior equalization options that afford you precision control over the relative bass and treble levels. This results in superior playback quality and a better listening experience. If you have music stored on an iPod or mp3 player, you'll want to select a car stereo with wired or wireless file transfer capabilities.
Additional features to look for in an aftermarket car stereo include:
- Hands-free calling support. Some higher-end car stereos actually offer Bluetooth support for hands-free calling. You can save yourself some money on a hands-free set if you opt for a car stereo with this feature built in.
- GPS navigation. Today's car stereos also double as GPS navigation devices. All manufacturers had to do was add a navigation chip and create an interface!
- Touch screen and voice-activated controls. It can be dangerous to fiddle with knobs and tuners while driving. Thanks to innovations in the car stereo industry, that has become a thing of the past. Most car stereos manufactured today feature touch screen and/or voice-activated controls for easier, safer input.
- Auxiliary input jacks. If you want to transfer files to or from your car stereo, you can get wired options that don't rely on Bluetooth technology.
Car Speaker Systems
Car speaker systems have two main components: subwoofers, which render the bass tones of your music with power and accuracy, and the speakers themselves, which play back music in full detail. Some manufacturers group these two components together, while others sell them separately. In fact, buying your speakers and subwoofers separately gives you enhanced control over the sound of your system. For example, a certain company might produce great subwoofers but below-par speakers, while another might offer great speakers but underwhelming subwoofers.
Generally, you're best off sticking with well-known manufacturers, as they tend to offer superior products with better warranties and customer service. Some of the most trusted brand names in the world of car speakers include:
- New Boss
- Polk Audio
You should always have a car speaker system demonstrated for you before you buy it. For this reason, many people prefer the in-store shopping experience when it comes to car stereos. However, if you're going to shop online, there's a simple way to enjoy a demonstration so you're basing your purchase on firsthand information. Simply do your consumer research, identify the speaker systems you're most interested in, then head to a local retailer to have each of them demonstrated for you. Based on those demonstrations, finalize your decision then complete your purchase online. This can save you a lot of time and money, especially on Black Friday!