Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Sunday, December 20, 2009
These days, we can integrate iPod control with almost any vehicle's stereo by using vehicle- or stereo-specific adapters. Sometimes, you'll have more than one adapter to choose from, and it's not always easy to know which adapter will do the best job.
What does an iPod adapter do?
iPod control adapters make it easier than ever to listen to your iPod in the car. In fact, a control adapter can make your whole in-car iPod experience better: better sound due to the direct audio connection, your iPod's battery stays charged, and it's safer because you don't have to play with the iPod. Different adapters offer different degrees of control. In the end, it comes down to the specific combination of stereo and adapter, but here's the lowdown on what you can expect from an iPod control adapter.
Basic features you gain from using an iPod adapter in the car
- Music controls — Use the stereo's controls to play, pause, stop, forward, and reverse the music.
- Access to playlists — You'll have access to playlists, but some adapters, especially those for factory stereos, limit the number of playlists you can get to. Many adapters allow song searching.
- Power — The iPod is powered by the adapter and the battery charges while connected.
- Locked iPod — In most cases, the iPod's controls are locked out — you have to use your stereo's controls, so you can tuck the iPod safely away in your console or glovebox.
Speed: How fast do the stereo and iPod communicate?
Speed of control mostly depends on the type of adapter you have.
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Use the cable that came with your iPod to control it with the Kenwood Excelon KDC-X493 CD receiver.
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The KCE-422i cable connects an iPod to most Alpines.
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USA Spec makes iPod adapters for factory stereos.
Functionality: How easy is it to control your iPod from the stereo?
Functionality refers to how easy it is to manipulate the iPod's functions from your car stereo. This factor is usually more dependent on the stereo than the iPod adapter, but, as mentioned above, adapters vary in how much access they grant to the iPod's features.
The large wheel mimics the iPod's click wheel on the Alpine iDA-X305 digital media receiver.
The stereo controls: Just as the display is important for being able to see what you're doing, having radio controls that are suited for searching and accessing a song library affects iPod control too.
When it comes to controlling an iPod, newer Alpine head units are among the easiest to use. Their "Percentage Search" feature uses the radio preset buttons to jump through playlists.
iPod compatibility and shopping for a new stereo
To help figure out what level of control a new car stereo is capable of, we added an iPod compatibility filter to the car stereo section of our web site. On the left nav bar, you'll see the following section:
- Built-in audio/video
- Built-in audio only
- Optional audio/video
- Optional audio only
- Optional audio only (no iPod controls)
The first two options are the best solution: these stereos have iPod connections built in; you don't need to buy any optional adapters and they tend to give you the best level of control.
The next two options represent the bulk of the car stereos. These are the stereos that require some form of optional adapter in order to connect your iPod. If the adapter is just a cable, iPod controls are built into the stereo, and control tends to be at full speed, so you get fast song-retrieval on par with the first two categories above. If the adapter is an outboard control box, communication can be a little slower, since the box is acting as a "middle man" between the iPod and stereo.
The fifth category consists of a small group of stereos that don't have control capability, but do have an adapter that offers audio input and also charges the iPod's battery.
Almost all stereos offer some for of iPod control, but you don't always know if the stereo does it in a way that's satisfying to YOU. By separating the stereos according to iPod compatibility, we hope that you'll have an easier time finding the right stereo.
Want your iPod/iPhone hooked into your factory or aftermarket radio?
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
There are no more "bad cars" on the market. Sure, there are clearly "better" or "worse" cars in any given segment, but even the "worst" new 2009 cars aren't truly "bad" (yes, that holds true for the Dodge Caliber too...barely).
So, if there are no more bad cars, how do you decide which one to buy? Put pictures of new vehicles on a wall and grab some darts?
Actually, if you simply wanted to avoid a bad car that would work. But if you're looking to find the best car for you, that's where a site like Edmunds comes in. We get to filter out and identify the "better" cars from the simply mediocre models, and one of the many areas we analyze is on-board vehicle electronics.
It is my sincere belief that only two areas remain to truly differentiate modern cars from one another. One is exterior styling, the other is ergonomics/features. Basically, if a car looks good on the outside and has the features you want on the inside, you'll buy it. That first area is pretty tough to define, as vehicle styling remains a highly personal judgment.
But the second area is one we're happy to tackle in terms of testing and evaluation, and as such we've just launched our new Car Audio and Electronics Center.
This all-new section went live last week, and if you're into car-oriented electronic gadets you'll find plenty to read about here. I'm a certified gadget geek, so I'd be jazzed about this section even if it didn't represent the future of vehicle differentiation.
But as stated above, I see this as the last frontier in vehicle design. Safe? Dependable? Comfortable? Luxurious (relatively speaking)? All modern cars possess those traits. Seamless iPod integration? Ah-ha! Now there's a feature only a few automakers have mastered. Actually, "iPod Integration" as a term is sort of like "bailout." We all like to think we know what it means, but nobody's definition is the same.
That's why one of the main stories in this section defines the varying degrees of iPod integration. Read "The Four Primary Flavors of iPod Integration" and you'll know which automakers are getting it right and which ones are simply using it as a marketing phrase in their brochures.
Which brings me to today's question: What are the real "make it or break it" items you consider in a new car purchase?
Is it styling and/or interior design/features as I suspect, or are there more important items? Of course price and fuel mileage are biggies, but once you level out on those (for instance, "I need a car for less than $30,000 that gets at least 25 mpg"), what separates the wheat from the chaff when it's time to buy your next car?
Me? My next car will definitely have fully-functional iPod integration, hands-free (Bluetooth) phone capabilities and satellite radio.
Oh yeah, and it will look cool.
for more information about this article, please go to: click here
Sunday, August 10, 2008
It's not easy being a car audio engineer these days. You have to balance a fundamental commitment to sonic quality with consumers' ever-growing appetite for punishing sound. Add to that a shrinking amount of automotive real estate and the challenges multiply. Here's how some of today's top companies are responding.
Alpine's CDA-9815 CD head unit ($500) bundles a CD player that can spin conventional audio CDs as well as MP3 and WMA (Windows Media Audio) discs. To compensate for the loss of harmonics that occurs when music is compressed into MP3 or WMA files, Alpine adds a Media-Xpander circuit that boosts harmonic levels across all frequencies to make music sound live. The unit also has an AM/FM tuner and can accept the feed from an XM Satellite Radio add-on tuner.
The CDA-9815's 60 watts by four channels is considered high power for a head unit, although Todd Van Zandt, Product Promotion Manager at Alpine, notes that consumers should take all car-stereo amp ratings with a grain of salt since power can be measured and expressed in a number of ways. The CDA-9815 can reach 60 watts per channel at peak intervals, but its continuous power with low distortion is actually 27 watts per channel, compared with about 16 watts per channel for most amps. The 9815 also has three preamp outputs for add-on power.
Vehicle types and listeners' sound preferences vary widely so Alpine has added its iPersonalize feature to the 9815. You can boost or cut sound frequencies in the car to reduce unwanted resonances or to tailor sound to your taste. Another feature, digital time correction, allows you to control the arrival time of sound from the speakers so, for example, music from the passenger-side speaker can hit your ear at the same time as the sound from the driver side. You also can set the delay to make bass signals from a rear-mounted subwoofer arrive at the same time as the higher frequencies. The end result is a more cohesive sound. Alpine's iPersonalize Web site walks consumers through the process and allows them to store settings on a CD for uploading to the 9815.
The subwoofer plays a major role in today's car stereo. Driving bass lines in rap and rock music demand a big woofer that can reproduce frequencies well below the 100-Hz cutoff of most conventional car speakers. It's not just punchy pop music that benefits from low bass. Orchestral music and jazz are more satisfying when the full frequency range can be played back with ease.
Ironically, while vehicles have become bigger on the outside, the amount of interior space has shrunk. Until now, if you wanted a subwoofer box in an SUV or minivan, you either had to relinquish storage space or mount a 6-in.-deep speaker into a 2-in.-deep door panel. Blaupunkt's OverDrive ODw1200 Saucer subwoofer ($299) solves that problem. The Saucer is half as deep as conventional 12-in. woofers and can tuck into spots where other subs can't go.
Tom Breithaupt, Engineer and Product Manager at Blaupunkt, calls the Saucer a nice compromise because it reproduces low bass by combining a large cone with a shallow cone. As a result of the shallow depth, the woofer can easily fit into a side door, kick panel or center console. Blaupunkt recommends using the Saucer with a 200-watt amplifier and doubling the subs and amps to achieve the deepest lows down to 20 Hz to 30 Hz.
Amplifier makers also face space constraints--thus, multichannel amps are a good fit in most vehicles. JL Audio's model 500/5 5-channel amplifier ($900) shoots 100 watts to the left and right front speakers, 25 watts a side for "fill" to the rear speakers, and a beefy 250 watts to the subwoofer channel.
The JL 500/5 features the company's Regulated Intelligent Power Supply (R.I.P.S.) system, which delivers the same power regardless of the impedance, or resistance, of the speaker it's matched with. "That gives consumers all the power they paid for," says JL Audio President Andy Oxenhorn.
The amp is a hybrid design. It uses a Class AB amplifier, which has superior sonic performance but gives off a ton of heat, for the front and rear speakers and a Class D amp, which is more efficient by nature for the sub channel. The hybrid approach brings audio fidelity to the sonically critical mid and high frequencies. At the bass level, where sonic performance is less critical, the Class D amplifier runs cooler, requires a smaller heat sink and can fit into a smaller space.
Many head units tout high power, but typically those specs measure peak levels and don't include distortion measurements. JL's power specs represent low-distortion power at continuous levels. If you try to push a typical head unit to its maximum power level, you hear a flapping or warbling sound because its amplifier can't sustain that level for extended periods. An add-on amplifier like the 500/5 gives you space to crank up the volume without producing the distortion of an overtaxed system.
Consumer demand for volume puts pressure on speaker companies too. "The biggest thing the consumer wants to do is to play his system louder," says Chris Dragon, Director of Car Audio Brand Marketing for JBL. "Engineering speakers that will play loud yet maintain sonic decorum is one of the big challenges we face."
JBL's P652 loudspeaker ($230 a pair) uses its Plus One cone technology, which has enabled engineers to increase the size of a cone while fitting it into a standard-size enclosure. A cone on a typical 6-in. speaker is actually about 5 in. in diameter, says Dragon, but JBL retooled the cone's housing to fit a 5.75-in. cone in the same amount of space. "More cone area means more bass output, higher efficiency and less power required to drive them," he says.
Like many of today's speakers, the JBL P652 features a pivoting tweeter, allowing installers to control the direction of the high frequencies for better stereo imaging of the left and right speakers. JBL's ratchet design holds the tweeter in place during bumpy rides.
If CD head units, amps and speakers are the foundation of car audio, hard-disk audio players are the way of the future. Rockford Fosgate's OmniFi offers a glimpse of the custom entertainment options to come. OmniFi lets you download music and other audio programming from your PC and bring it into your car. You'll still use your head unit for control and CD playback, but the OmniFi 20GB hard-disk recorder gives you a daily refresh of music and Internet audio.
Tom O'Mara, Managing Director of OmniFi, sees this product as the great liberator of consumers' music collections. "People have these great libraries of music on PC but that's not where they listen to music," he says. "We used to be limited to a 10-disc changer and awkward navigation in the car," he says. "Now you can get text information about the music, and you have access to thousands of tracks."
For 'burb dwellers, the OmniFi never has to leave the car if the receiver is within 150 ft. of the home PC, because the unit packs an 802.11b wireless receiver that can network with the PC. Or, you can remove OmniFi from its car dock and connect via USB to a PC. With the OmniFi service, you schedule a sync to occur each morning, and music you've stored in a queue--along with news or sports updates--is downloaded to the unit.
The OmniFi system--including the player, housing, cables and a dash-mountable controller with 3-line LCD readout--is priced at $599. A subscription for news feeds is $5 per month, or $50 a year.
Tired of the same old factory radio? It's time to pump up the volume and take your tunes on the road.
For more information click here - http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/upgrade/1279681.html?page=1
Sunday, December 30, 2007
MACWORLD EXPO, SAN FRANCISCO—January 11, 2005—Apple® and Mercedes-Benz USA today announced the iPod® Integration Kit for Mercedes-Benz, making Mercedes-Benz the first automaker to provide full iPod music navigation for drivers to listen to their entire iPod music collection through the Mercedes-Benz audio system, as well as select their music using artist, album or playlist with the multifunction controls on the steering wheel and the integrated multifunction display on their instrument cluster. The iPod Integration Kit for Mercedes-Benz will debut this April in the US with the newly redesigned 2006 Mercedes-Benz M-Class, and for most other 2005 and 2006 models later this year.
“Music lovers want to listen to their digital music in their cars, and we’re delighted to be working with Mercedes to offer a fully integrated solution,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “The iPod Integration Kit for Mercedes-Benz features the quality and attention to detail Mercedes is famous for, perfectly complementing Apple’s innovative iPod.”
“We are very excited to partner with Apple to deliver this wonderful solution,” said Paul Halata, president and CEO, Mercedes-Benz USA. “Bringing motorists the world’s most elegant iPod offering with full navigation and display continues the Mercedes tradition of offering our customers the innovation and premium quality they expect.”
The iPod Integration Kit for Mercedes-Benz provides outstanding sound quality while charging the iPod, and conveniently connects and stores in the glove compartment. The solution also allows the driver to “See What You’re Hearing” with music title or playlist information shown on the integrated multifunction display on the instrument cluster. Drivers will be able to easily access their entire iPod music library, shuffle songs and skip between tracks and playlists.
Pricing & Availability
The iPod Integration Kit for Mercedes-Benz will be available to customers for the MSRP of $299 (US) plus installation from authorized Mercedes-Benz dealerships. The iPod Integration Kit for Mercedes-Benz will debut this April in the US with the newly redesigned 2006 Mercedes-Benz M-Class, and for most other 2005 and 2006 models later this year. In addition, the solution can be retrofit to many model year 2005 Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Please visit www.mbusa.com/ipod for details. iPod products, sold separately, are available in the US through the Apple Store® (www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers.
MBUSA, headquartered in Montvale, New Jersey, is responsible for the sales, marketing and service of all Mercedes-Benz and Maybach products in the United States. In 2004, MBUSA achieved an all-time sales record of 221,610 new vehicles, setting the highest sales volume ever in its history and achieving eleven consecutive years of sales growth. Over the past decade, the company has introduced a number of new models, many of them in new market segments. The Mercedes-Benz family currently consists of the mid-size C-Class sports sedans and wagons; the highly acclaimed E-Class sedans and wagons; the SLK roadster; CLK coupes and cabriolets; the flagship S-Class sedans and ultimate CL coupes; the renowned SL roadsters; the sport-utility M-Class line; and the G-Class sports utility vehicle. Separately, MBUSA oversees sales and marketing of the super luxurious Maybach 57 and Maybach 62 in the US. More information on MBUSA and its products can be found on the Internet at www.mbusa.com and www.maybachusa.com.
Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Today, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovation with its award-winning desktop and notebook computers, OS X operating system, and iLife and professional applications. Apple is also spearheading the digital music revolution with its iPod portable music players and iTunes online music store.