Car Stereos Shopping Guide

Pay attention to…

• All-in-one or separate head unit and amplifier

• Audio sources and compatibility

• Size of unit

• Power output and number of speakers

• Inputs (including Bluetooth, WiFi, and USB)

• Phone integration

• Touchscreen

• DVD & video output

• Ease of navigating user interface

• Adaptability and expandbility

A car stereo includes the receiver, speakers, amplifier, capacitors, and other components. Most people think of the receiver when they use the term "car stereo." This article will focus on how to choose the best after market car stereo. We will identify different receivers including everyday use, emerging technology and pricing.

The type of receiver you choose will depend on the audio sources you will use with the device. Always select a receiver based on your needs? Will you be using a CD player or a DVD player? If the car stereo you choose has a CD box in the trunk, the type of receiver you choose should have other inputs for other devices. A standard USB port will allow MP3 players, mobile phones and other hardware to interface with the stereo.

The receiver can also take advantage of technology such as streaming applications, Bluetooth, and WIFI. Pairing a mobile device can allow applications to stream Internet applications directly through the receiver. Bluetooth technology can accomplish this wirelessly. With the advent of safety laws in many states regarding cell phone use, choosing the correct receiver can allow your car stereo to become a hands free option. WIFI capabilities will allow the receiver to stream applications without the additional cost or need for another device. A standalone in-car WIFI service may cost an additional monthly or annual fee, so factor in this additional cost when making your final decision.

Satellite radio and GPS are also factors when considering a car stereo. Satellite radio has not risen to the level of functional usability many had hoped for, but there is still much more room for development for satellite stations to compete. GPS systems and navigators are also strong considerations to look at when selecting a receiver.

The user interface is also important, since this is how you will be interacting with your system on a daily basis. Receivers have advanced technology such as graphic user interface (GUI) touch screens. The touchscreen is navigated by directly selecting options, or buttons from the interface. Hardware knobs and buttons are replaced with virtual buttons and controllers powered by software.

It is important to factor in the receivers day-to-day use. Heavy users may opt for a traditional button and knob interface instead of a touch screen interface. Also, maintenance and cleaning of the car stereo is important to increase the life of the device. Durability and repair are other factors to think of when choosing a car stereo long term. The more technologically advanced the device is the more expensive it is to replace or repair.

Before purchasing a car stereo think of exactly how you will use this device. Many times there are features in more expensive devices you will never use & thus a deal can turn into a waste of money. At the same time, receivers without features such as input ports and Bluetooth can make your new device worthless in a future proofing sense. Finding the right balance for you in terms of lifestyle, compatibility, and budget will be the key in selecting the system that is right for you.