Cassette Players Shopping Guide
How to choose a cassette player that's right for you
Tim Sprinkle is a talented writer and car audio enthusiast who wrote for Crutchfield for several years before life took him away from Virginia to Colorado, and onward to greater things.
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Heads up!Welcome to this article from the Crutchfield archives. Have fun reading it, but be aware that the information may be outdated and links may be broken.
Car audio has come a long way in the last 30 years. First there was radio, then 8-track; now CDs and digital music players rule the day. But even with all the shiny, new developments in mobile audio, the reliable, old cassette hasn't quite fallen by the wayside. In fact, today's in-dash cassette players offer high-end sound, powerful internal amplifiers, and advanced tone controls for performance that was unheard of just a few years ago.
How do you know what will fit?
The first step in picking out a cassette player is finding the units that will fit perfectly in your dash. That part's easy — just go to Outfit My Car and enter your vehicle information. Or, pick up the phone and call one of our expert Sales Advisors toll-free at 1-888-955-6000. They'll look up your vehicle in Crutchfield's extensive database and tell you what fits, answer your questions, and even help you choose the best player for your needs.
What do you want to listen to?
- Cassettes: To make sure that library of cassette recordings sounds its best, look for stereos with a high signal-to-noise ratio (60+). It's a measure of how clear its playback will be — the higher, the better. And a cassette player with a wider frequency response (such as 30-20,000 Hz) will provide more detailed sound.
- FM radio: Radios with a low FM sensitivity do a better job of pulling in radio signals. An FM sensitivity of 8 or 9 dBf is among the best. Some stereos use digital processing to clean up the analog radio signal, so the music is clear and free of static.
- Satellite radio: If you want to add satellite radio to your new car stereo, make sure the model you choose is "satellite radio-ready." That means it can control an optional hideaway satellite radio. Most brands are compatible with radios from either satellite radio company (SIRIUS or XM), but some will only work with one or the other.
- MP3 players and more: A new car stereo's great sound isn't much good to you if you still can't listen to the music you want to hear. An auxiliary input connection will let you listen to your favorite portable music player through your car's speakers, and will allow you to plug in even more sources of on-road entertainment like:
- a portable CD player
- a plug-and-play satellite radio tuner
- the audio outputs of a mobile DVD or videocassette player
- the audio outputs of a TV tuner.
What else should you consider in a cassette player?
- High power: Most of today's in-dash cassette stereos have built-in, 4-way amplifiers that provide plenty of power for your speakers. Of course, if you're a true "lover of loud," or would just like more clarity and punch, consider adding an external amplifier to your system. And remember, when reviewing amp specs, be sure to check the "RMS" wattage — it's a more accurate reflection of an amplifier's real-world performance.
- Tone shaping: All cassette players have some form of tone-shaping, from simple bass and treble controls all the way up to advanced sound enhancements. And most cassette players will offer one or more of these features:
- loudness for fuller sound at low volumes
- bass boosts or bass enhancers for punchy bottom end
- preset EQ curves for one-touch sound contouring
- multi-band equalizers for precision tuning
- tape EQ for optimizing performance for normal, high-bias, and metal tape
- Dolby® noise reduction for eliminating tape hiss.
- Full-logic controls: Soft-touch control buttons that take the place of traditional spring-loaded buttons are easier to use and give your dash a sleek, finished look. All operations (rewind, fast forward, eject, etc.) are performed by touching the buttons lightly. Place a tape in the slot and the loading mechanism takes over, gently sliding it into the deck.
- Automatic Music Search: AMS lets you skip from song to song with the single touch of a button (some are capable of advancing several songs), just like a CD.
- Preamp outputs: Multiple sets of preamp outputs make it easier to connect component amplifiers and subwoofers. And the more power they offer your amps, the better your music will sound.
- Security features: To help protect your investment, many of today's cassette players offer detachable face theft-deterrence for take-it-with-you peace of mind.
Want to anchor an entertainment system?
For many of today's in-dash players, cassette playback is just the beginning. For example, if you choose a changer-controlling unit, you can add a CD changer and access up to 12 discs of music right from the driver's seat.
Now that you know what to expect out of your new in-dash cassette player, you're ready to peruse the models that fit your car. And remember; if you have any questions, don't hesitate to call us. Our expert Sales Advisors are on call and ready to help, 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.