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Video: What are Digital Media Receivers?

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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Zak Billmeier grew up in southern Vermont and coastal Maine. After graduating from Mary Washington College with a Geography degree he still isn't sure quite what to do with, he eventually settled in the mountains of Central Virginia. He spends his free time chasing his daughter around, taking pictures, gardening and cooking. He joined Crutchfield's car A/V writing team in 2007 and is now a lead producer on our video team.

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Crutchfield's car audio experts Zak and Ken take a look at a new trend in car stereos: in-dash receivers that do not play CDs. They answer the obvious question: How do you know if one of these digital media receivers is right for you?

Video Transcript

Ken: Hi, I'm Ken.

Zak: I'm Zak.

Ken: Hey Zak, you got many of these in your car anymore?

Zak: You know what, Ken? I used to, but now they're all on here.

Ken: Yeah, the iPod's taking over from the CD, it seems like. I use one myself — so do a lot of people. Or people put their music on USB drives, other brands of MP3 players.... That's why we're starting to see these things come around a lot more: the digital media receiver.

Zak: Yeah, and one thing that all media receivers don't do is play CDs.

Ken: That's right. If you don't have a CD slot, you need to get your music from somewhere, so they'll have USB inputs, maybe an SD Card slot, auxiliary inputs, Bluetooth for music streaming. A lot of them also have built-in iPod controls or the option to add on an iPod adapter.

Zak: And one thing that's different that you can see right here is that since they don't have to build this around a CD slot anymore, they can play around with the form factor. They've moved the knob into the middle and changed the way these things look.

Ken: Yeah, it really frees things up. This model is very iPod-centric, for lack of a better word, and we have an iPod hooked up. You can see that you can go right through things like you normally would on an iPod. Work your way through and then drill down into what you're looking for, and check the options.

Zak: That's great. This particular model we're looking at is the Alpine iDA-X100, which is a popular model in this line. But we have more of these available at You go into the in-dash receivers and look for the category of digital media receivers.

Ken: It seems like we get more every day. So, if you're one of those people who don't use these as much, and maybe use those a lot more, digital media receivers are the way to go.

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