Guide: what’s important when buying a new car radio

To the topic service report by Jochen Wieloch from August 4, 2016: Entertainment on the road: If you want to receive more than just FM, you should upgrade. Modern car radios can also play DVDs, navigate or wirelessly play music from smartphones. (Archived image from 07/26/2016/for editorial use by Theme Service subscribers only). Photo by Christin Klose

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.

Regarding the Themendienst report by Jochen Wieloch from August 4, 2016: CD, DVD, USB, FM, DAB+ - modern car radios process a variety of different media and reception paths. (Archive image from 07/26/2016/for editorial use by Themendienst subscribers only). Photo: Christin Klose

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.

Which connections?

The ten coolest Lamborghini models of all time

Lamborghini 350 GT: A dispute often has something destructive about it, but something special came out of the one between tractor manufacturer Ferruccio Lamborghini and Ferrari boss Enzo Ferrari. Lamborghini had bought a Ferrari - and was dissatisfied. However, the brand boss reacted so snobbishly to his criticism that Lamborghini decided to show Ferrari how to build a good sports car. In the mid-1960s, the first Lamborghini was launched - the 350 GT

Lamborghini Miura: In March 1966, the pioneering Lamborghini Miura P 400 with transversely mounted twelve-cylinder mid-engine made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show - a sensation! Suddenly the 275cc front-engined Ferrari didn't look quite so fresh. The original version of the Miura carried the designation P 400, it had the characteristic black surrounds of the exposed flip-up headlights, which became known as 'eyebrows'

Lamborghini engaged some of the best in the industry: The Miura was designed by Marcello Gandini, developed by Giotto Bizzarini (previously with Ferrari and Iso) and Gian Paolo Dallara (also Ferrari). They were joined by up-and-coming talent Paolo Stanzani and test driver legend Bob Wallace, whom Lamborghini had poached from Maserati. The front hood as well as the rear cover with its scale-like engine cover could be completely folded up, which guaranteed the Miura owner additional attention at refueling stops. The space-saving transversely mounted four-liter V12 produced 350 hp

Lamborghini Marzal: The team in Sant'Agata Bolognese presented a sensation with the Marzal at the 1967 Geneva Motor Show: a four-seater sports car with gullwing doors made of glass. Marzal was the name of the futuristic and opulently glazed vehicle in which the Monegasque princely couple took a lap of honor before the start of the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix

Visitors to the show and the press were thrilled. There was talk of 'perhaps the most extravagant piece of virtuoso design to be seen in Europe since the war.' Ferruccio Lamborghini, however, was said not to have been so taken with the four-wheeled revelation. A lady's legs could be seen by anyone

Behind the two rear seats was the halved 175 hp V12 engine from the Miura. This made the Marzal the only Lamborghini to date with a rear-mounted engine. A few weeks after its appearance at the Geneva show, the glazed gullwing was put into action: car enthusiast Prince Rainier of Monaco opened the Monaco Grand Prix in the Italian prototype with his wife Gracia Patricia in the passenger seat

Lamborghini Espada: Although the extravagant Marzal did not go into production, the prototype gave rise to the Espada in 1968. Twin headlights in the strictly vertical radiator grille and the unmistakable NACA air intakes on the hood gave the design, again drawn by Gandini, an aura of stylishly interpreted details. The V12 engine was also a matter of honor in the Espada, where the powerplant initially mobilized 325 hp

Lamborghini Countach: Shortly before the caesura caused by the energy crisis at the end of 1973, the Countach was another Lamborghini model that stole the show from Ferrari. Marcello Gandini had completely reoriented the design of Lamborghini's flagship, which now featured a longitudinally mounted V12

With its edgy, minimalist design, this Lamborghini looked like a fighter jet. The entrance was also spectacular: the two scissor doors, supported by oil dampers, jutted forward and upward. However, the first oil crisis and the manufacturer's financial problems delayed the start of production

When the first cars with 375 hp (later it had up to 748 hp) were finally delivered in April 1974, the experts celebrated a festival of speed frenzy: 295 to 300 km/h top speed was promised by the factory, and in some test drives even 315 km/h was said to have been reached. A new superlative on the sports car scene and a challenge to Ferrari

Lamborghini Urraco: By 1972, Ferruccio Lamborghini was already a force in the sports car business. With the Urraco, he wanted to offer a more affordable 2+2 coupe. Once again, Bertone designer Marcello Gandini was responsible for the design. The engine was a newly developed V8, which initially had a displacement of 2.5 liters and was increased to three liters in 1974

Lamborghini Espada: In 1968, Lamborghini showed that they could build more than just wedge-shaped supercars. The Espada entered the lineup in 1968 as a veritable four-seater. The 3.9-liter V12 engine produced 350 hp, and power was transmitted via a five-speed manual transmission

Lamborghini LM002: In the early 1970s, the oil crisis had almost brought the supercar business à la Lamborghini Countach to a standstill. Lamborghini urgently needed orders. When the US Army needed a new off-road vehicle, the Italians therefore applied for the contract and developed the LM002 - a bad decision. In 1977, the vehicle, code-named Cheetah, was tested by U.S. military personnel in the California desert. The dress rehearsal turned into a disaster, the car failed miserably and did not survive the desert test

Lamborghini Diablo: In typical Lamborghini fashion, the model name Diablo initially stood for a devilish kick in the back at every speed command. The 492 hp V12 managed the sprint to 100 km/h in exactly 4.09 seconds, and the top speed was stated as 325.2 km/h. Every digit behind the decimal point counted; after all, that's how the dramatically designed Diablo brought the coveted title of 'Fastest Production Sports Car in the World' back to Sant'Agata Bolognese in 1990

Lamborghini Veneno: Just in time for its 50th anniversary in 2013, Lamborghini unveiled its fastest ever road-going model at the Geneva Motor Show. The Veneno supercar produces 750 hp at an unladen weight of less than 1.5 tons. Only three vehicles were built. The price: three million euros plus VAT

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).

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