K one question: The music plays in the car. The figures from the current DAT report leave no doubt about this. In 2015, 84 percent of all new cars were equipped with a radio ex works, and the proportion of used cars was even somewhat higher at 86 percent.
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Source: Die Welt
In times of streaming, navigation and digital radio, however, there are numerous reasons, not only for owners of older vehicles, to remove the radio and replace it with a newer device.
Due to the enormous number of possible options, however, it’s not easy to decide on the right equipment – and at the Berlin electronics trade show Ifa (2. up 7. September), even more new car hi-fi products are coming onto the market.
Navi? CD drive?
"The first big question is: Navi yes or no?", explains Elmar Michels of "Car& HiFi" trade magazine. For frequent drivers, fixed navigation is the most convenient and best solution. "Those who can do without it save money, but have to find their way more awkwardly with a smartphone or separate suction-cup navi."
In the second step, one should think about the way of listening to music: Do you still need a CD drive? Should the music come from a USB stick or a smartphone, for which a suitable connection is required? Anyone who likes to listen to the radio should now go for a device that supports DAB+ digital radio in addition to FM.
Because sound perception is very subjective, you should listen to your desired device before buying if possible. Higher demands on sound, volume and dynamics can be met by retrofit amplifiers and extra speakers, which are available in almost every price range.
Beware of no-name solutions
While the retrofit models from brand manufacturers usually have an output of around 15 watts per channel, caution is advised with no-name solutions, however: "The 15 watts of a brand product are sufficient for the factory speakers or for high-efficiency retrofit speakers," knows Michels. "If you need more power, you can’t avoid buying an aftermarket amplifier."
To control music playback or even talk freely on the phone, it makes sense if the smartphone can communicate with the car radio. "A good smartphone connection is standard with all aftermarket radios from brand manufacturers, neither iPhone nor Android users need to worry about this," says Michels. Upscale models already offer Apple Carplay and Android Auto standards, which allow smartphone functions to be used.
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On the other hand, buyers should very well deal with the question of which connections they need: Is Bluetooth sufficient for free speech and audio streaming?? Should it also be a universal USB socket for memory sticks with music and for charging the smartphone – or even an HDMI port for mirroring the complete smartphone screen onto the car radio system?
In the meantime, depending on the device, it is also possible to play movies from DVD or USB stick on the displays of the entertainment systems. With devices installed in accordance with the regulations, this is only possible when the car is stationary. Families are likely to be pleased, especially on long vacation trips, when their offspring are entertained via optional headrest or ceiling monitors.
"Some upscale retrofit models can even display navigation in the front while playing a movie in the back," Michels knows. The Blu-ray never really made it into the car, there are only players to install in the glove compartment.
Attention with the radio exchange
In older vehicles with simple equipment the radio exchange is not a big problem. No matter whether a device with 1-DIN or with 2-DIN slot – the latter is also called double-DIN slot – is to be installed. Here, only the existing plug connections have to be reconnected to the new radio.
With new vehicles, however, the world looks different. "Only dedicated hobby mechanics should dare to do it themselves, amateurs are more likely to fail," says Arnulf Volkmar Thiemel of ADAC Fahrzeugtechnik. In addition to knowledge of how to remove the original radio, special tools and sometimes instructions for disassembly, such as the glove compartment, are often required.
If you still want to try it, you should choose a vehicle-specific radio if possible, or at least a ready-to-plug-in cable set and, if necessary, suitable adapter panels. According to Thiemel, however, work on the airbag is taboo, as is the use of a luster terminal or cable tapper (current thief).