• Is the car cassette player dead
  • Is the car cassette player dead
    Written by battye
    Mon Sep 21, 2009 1:59 pm

    Cassette tape sales have been in decline since the format peaked in 1989 when 83 million tapes were sold in Britain alone. I was thinking about this recently, and came to the conclusion that while tapes are all but obselete there still may be a place for a tape machine... in the car. Intrigued? Read on.

    I've been fortunate enough to have used a few different types of car stereo systems:

    - Radio only
    - Radio/cassette
    - Radio/CD player
    - Radio/CD player/MP3 player/Auxiliary input

    At the moment I am using the 4th option, which I will get to in a minute.

    Obviously the worst car stereo to be stuck with is the radio only, because it gives you virtually no audio options if you don't like what the radio stations are playing.

    From the reports I've read (such as the thread eloquently titled "iPod FM transmitters suck" at Whirlpool) the iPod FM transmitter doesn't seem all that it's cracked up to be. Understandably, relying on the airwaves and taking account the variables of driving speed and atmospheric conditions is a bit of a gamble... only when you start paying the big bucks could you expect an FM transmitter strong enough to give a consistently good singal.

    But for the sake of this article, I decided to test the iPod FM transmitter for myself (a Digidock AC-2116). In what were, admittedly, quite bad conditions (raining and 60+ mph), it stood up to the test I thought. There were some obvious deficiencies, such as a noticible hissing and popping noises, but these were not as bad with a fully outstretched aerial. Regardless, there is no replacement for the auxiliary input in my opinion.

    When I drive I always connect my iPhone to the CD player using the auxilliary input (3.5mm cord from the headphone jack of the iPhone into the aux input). The luxury of choice - whether that be from a range of material on the iPhone, or from knowing that I can play a CD/MP3 disk or even the radio - makes the radio/CD/MP3/aux combo unbeatable.

    What may be surprising is what I rank as my second choice: the radio / cassette car stereo.

    Unlike the radio/CD player combination (assuming no aux input), a cassette player offers more flexibility. A tape machine can act as a middle man for a portable CD player, an iPod, iPhone, mini-disc player (not that I've seen one in the last 10 years!) or any other portable music device. This is done by using a blank tape with a 3.5mm jack attached (you can read more about cassette tape adaptors at Wikipedia).

    So in conclusion, long live the car cassette player... at least until you can get a unit with a line-in!
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