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iPod® Car Stereo Adapter Shopping Guide
How to choose the iPod adapter that's right for you
Integrating iPod control with almost any vehicle's stereo can be made simple 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. Most new aftermarket stereos have iPod and iPhone controls built in, so you don't need anything more than the iPod cable for basic audio control.
What does an iPod adapter do?
iPod control adapters make it easier to listen to your iPod in the car. In fact, a control adapter can make your whole in-car iPod experience better, with improved sound due to the direct audio connection, charging of your iPod's battery, and safer operation because you don't have to touch the iPod. Different adapters offer different degrees of control. Ultimately, it comes down to the specific combination of stereo and adapter; here's a look at some benefits from using 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 rewind 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 you to search by song.
- 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. And of course, some stereos give you the option of switching to the iPod's controls. This is often referred to as "Passenger Mode."
- App control — Many newer stereos let you access specialized apps on your iPod from the stereo. The most basic of these is Pandora controls that let you access your Pandora account (select your channels, rate songs, skip tracks, etc.). But other stereos have far more advanced app controls, especially if the stereo has a video screen.
Speed: How fast do the stereo and iPod communicate?
Speed of control mostly depends on the type of adapter you have.
Use the cable that came with your iPod to control it with the Kenwood Excelon KDC-X397 CD receiver.
The Kenwood KCA-iP102 lets you leave your original iPod cable at home.
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 control knob mimics the iPod's click wheel on the Kenwood KIV-BT901 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.
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:
- App Compatible
- Audio Playback
- iPhone 5 Compatible
- Video Playback
The Pioneer AppRadio 3 is designed to integrate smartphone apps
App Compatible: These stereos give you access to one or more apps on your iPod or iPhone. On more advanced receivers, like Pioneer's AppRadio, you might get access to many apps that have been tailored to the stereo.
Audio Playback: This option refers standard audio controls. You can use the stereo to access the audio content stored on your iPod or iPhone. You usually don't need to buy any optional adapters and they tend to give you the best level of control.
iPhone 5 Compatible: These stereos are specifically compatible with the iPhone 5, which features a "Lightning" connection in lieu of the traditional 30-pin connection. Certain app and video functions that are readily accessible from older iPhones may not be available through the iPhone 5, or they may require special cables or connections.
Pandora: This is a subset of the stereos in the above iPhone categories that specifically have the ability to control Pandora Internet radio through your iPhone.
Video Playback: This option means that the stereo can play video content from your iPod or iPhone. This includes streaming video content, such as YouTube and Netflix. Keep in mind that viewing videos on your car stereo's screen requires that the vehicle be stopped and the parking brake be engaged. This feature usually requires that you purchase a special adapter cable (you can use the standard iPod cable for basic audio controls, just like the "Audio Playback" category above).
Here to help
If you have any questions about how to add iPhone or iPod control to your current stereo, or want help shopping for a new stereo, send us an email, chat with us online, or give us a call. Our Crutchfield advisors are always ready to help.