My perfect in-dash receiver
Ken Nail has written about car audio for Crutchfield since 2003, after four years as Crutchfield Sales Advisor, and 10 years as a music teacher. He's an avid music listener, whose favorites are classical and film music. When not chained to a desk, Ken spends most of his time training for triathlons and marathons, and likes getting outside for backpacking, downhill skiing, and bicycle touring. He attended West Virginia University, where he received a Master's Degree in Music Performance and a Bachelor's Degree in History.
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Over the years I've had a lot of different car stereos. But each time I'm ready to get a new one, it's harder to choose. There are plenty of good models out there, and they all do a good job on the basics. Where it gets hard is finding a model that has the right combination of "extras" - things like auxiliary inputs, format capabilities, expansion opportunities, and the like.
I sat down one day and thought about what my perfect in-dash receiver would be like. Here's what I came up with:
Formats: My perfect receiver would play CDs, of course, but also CDs I've burned with MP3, WMA, or AAC files. No point in worrying about what type of file you're burning on the disc - it should play them all. As far as the receiver goes, it should cover AM and FM, plus HD Radio - as well. And since I get outdoors a lot, I'd like it to have a Weather Band feature as well.
Inputs: My receiver should have two auxiliary inputs. One connecting to the back, for permanent installs like my plug-and-play satellite radio, and one on the face, so I can connect up other players on the fly (like my wife's and son's iPods). There should be a front-panel USB input for using thumb drives.
I'd like to go wireless as well. My receiver should have Bluetooth® built in - it's a great safety feature for when you're answering a call while driving, and I'm sure that Bluetooth is certain to become very common for audio streaming.
Audio: Since I use external amps to power my system, my dream receiver will have three sets of high-voltage preamp outputs. A good EQ is a must as well, so at least a 3-band parametric EQ is called for. I'd also like digital time-correction, for that perfect stereo "sweet spot."
Looks: I want my receiver to have a sense of style as well. A motorized, fold-down face is a must, and a bright color display with customizable graphics will look nice in my dash. And just to be sure it all ties together nicely, the button colors should be customizable to match my dash.
And there you have it. Are you paying attention, car stereo manufacturers? (Oh, and did I mention it shouldn't be expensive, either?)