Can’t Anyone Make it Stop?

The one thing that probably bothers me the most about having a two year old, is that the songs that keep running through my head are no longer those with great guitar lines and thumping bass, but are now made up of nursery rhymes and, of all things, the alphabet song.

Do you know that there are now hundreds of different versions of the alphabet song? Gone now is the traditional version that I, and many others, grew up with. Replacing it is a cocophony of sounds and instruments that have changed the learning fields forever.

Okay, to be honest they’re not that bad. But I do find myself sitting in the office and humming these tunes instead of Metallica or AC/DC like I used to (yes you can really hum their music). Gone are the days when people would look at me with respect (no I’m not deluding myself…..much) for my choice in music, and arrived are the days when other parents (particularly the mothers) will look at me in that knowing way that says they know exactly what’s going on at my home.

Oh well, such is life. All I can do now is turn up the music on my stereo and try to blast away the sounds of counting and the alphabet. I think I’ll just focus on this Daughtry song I’ve just listened to and sing it to myself for a while.

A, B, C, D…..

Technorati Tags: ,

iOS 5 Bluetooth Support Good News – Sort of

According to reports from people who have got the new iOS5, it now supports sending ID3 tag data via bluetooth. This has been something of a bug bear for car audio enthusiasts who have wanted to display track infromation, such as album, song title and artist, but until now hasn’t been supported by Apple.

This latest update (when it’s released) seems to be good news for those who like to have that info in front of us. After all it looks better than just having “track x” on the display. But early reports suggest that it only currently supports a few models. And even those that it does support, some still have some bugs to sort out, such as displaying the first track details but not changing when the next track starts.

Hopefully these issues will be fixed by the final release and a larger range will be supported. Assuming of course that it can be fixed on Apple’s side, if it needs to be fixed by the stereo manufacturers though, we will need to wait for them to issue firmware upgrades.

Either way, this is a step forward and hopefully we will have more such updates in the future. Maybe there will even be more info about iOS 5 as the its features are released over the next few weeks.

Technorati Tags: ,

JVC KW-XR610 Double Din Car Stereo

The JVC KW-XR610 car stereo is certainly nice looking unit.The ability to change the colors is a great addition, so you can set it to match the rest of the lights on the dash if you want to go for a stock look. Or you can choose a different color to make it stand out more. I personally like the fact that I can set the lights to match my mood or the type of music I’m listenig to at the time.

The ipod/iphone compatability is simple to set-up and works flawlessly. The bluetooth (needs an additional adaptor) works well and it’s simple to hook-up a bluetooth enabled device to stream music or make and receive calls.This comes in handy for all of those non-apple owning people out there.

Sound quality is good even with the stock speakers, as long as the stock speakers aren’t absolutely terrible to start with. But as always, upgrading the speakers would only help the sound quality. Fortunately it’s not as necessary as with some other systems. So if you can only afford the stereo now, you’ll still get a great sounding system.

The controls are relatively easy to use and don’t require to much to get used to. One of my big things is when manufacturers make the control system overly complex. Luckily this isn’t the case for this unit.

One thing that may be a nuisance is that it only supports mp3 and wmv, so if you have a large collection of AAC format music, you’ll need to convert it so you can listen to it. In head unit mode with ipods it only shows numbers instead of the track names, although you can navigate the songs with the ipod, so it’s probably not that big a problem unless you’re the type that has to do it on the stereo itself.

Overall I would say this is a good buy, offering both good sound and looks.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Choosing The Best Double Din Car Stereo

When it comes to choosing the best double din car stereo, we are faced with not only an almost endless supply of choices, but so many different opinions about what is the best that it can be a royal pain in the you know what to sort through and make our own decision. I know when I first started looking for a stereo to buy (my first one was quite a number of years ago now), I had so much trouble making adecision I ended up just getting that seemed good enough.

Since those days, I’ve come up with something a a solution that has helped me to make an informed choice without relying to heavily on what others think.

The first thing I now look at is my budget, how much am I willing and able to spend on the stereo and/or system? I remember going to shows and dreaming about getting one of those show systems, but it quickly became apparent to me that the prices, of no doubt very high-end equipment, can and do run into not just thousands of dollars, but tens of thousands, which in general are not just outside my budget but also outside my requirements. Who really needs a sound system that can be heard three states away?

Once I know how much money I am willing to spend, I then look at what functions I want (or need as the case may be). Do I just want something that has radio and plays CDs/DVDs? Okay stop laughing now, I admit I could never get such a simple stereo now, but if I was really strapped for cash I might settle for it, at least for a while. What about HD radio? Is it even available where I am? What about connecting to an iDevice? If I don’t have one, I don’t really need it. What about other phones or mp3 players? Can I connect them? The there’s GPS, do I need it for GPS or do I have a seperate GPS that I can use and so don’t need it to be in the stereo as well? I have a lot of songs in mp3 format that I’ve already burnt to disk, can I use those disks in the player? Or will I have to put them onto some other media, like an mp3 player or usb drive?

After going through this list, and whatever I can think of at the time (I should really write down a full list of everything modern car stereos can do) I can then proceed to looking at available stereos that meet these requirements.

Of course you can’t just take the manufacturers word for how good the stereo is or whether it can really do what it says. So where do I find reviews that I can trust? Unfortunately that’s not as easy to answer as it appears. So many sites today are just out to make a buck and not provide good information (hopefully I’m doing a better job than that). The place I usually look is Amazon, the reviews there tend to be of a higher quality than other websites and forums. You also know that the people who have written the reviews own the stereos since they have to have purchased from there before they can write the review. Click on the link to thr right and have a read through some of the reviews and let me know whether you agree with me, or if you know of a better place to get reviews from.

Technorati Tags:

Best DVD Car Stereo

It’s come up again. Just this last week I was sent an email asking me what I thought was the best DVD car stereo. It’s an interesting question, but what I’m not sure about is exactly how to answer it. My first impulse would be to just answer with what I thought was the best in my opinion without thinking about things like price, brand, functions, useability and so on.

The problem I have with doing that though, is that when people ask that question, what I think they are really asking is what car stereo should I get? And if I answered without any limitations I could give them what would most appeal to me, but maybe wouldn’t serve them in what they want from their stereo system.

And that’s another thing, are they thinking about getting a whole new system? Or just the head unit? Maybe they already have a pretty good unit, but are being let down by their speakers. Would upgrading the speakers produce the result they are after? A lot of systems could definitely benefit from better speakers, and it’s normally a cheaper and more effective route than going with a new head unit.

Or maybe they’ve already sorted the speakers and now want to get a better unit to go with their nice new speakers. Of course then you have to worry about compatability, if the unit and speakers don’t work well together, then you would’ve been better off without changing anything.

And what about connecting to your phone or ipod? In an ideal world this wouldn’t be a problem, but different systems do things differently and not always for the best. In this case it’s definitely a good idea to read around for some honest reviews. Click on the link to the right for amazon and you can see what real users are saying about the stereos, and what problems, if any, they came across.

A last thought. Always consider price when looking for an upgrade. The higher priced units will usually give better sound, but can you afford to pay that much? And will your speakers work well with it, or will they be underpowered and need to be upgraded as well? This will also cost if you want the best from the system. I wouldn’t get to hung up about getting “The Best”. Most mid-range systems now give great sound, along with functionality, connectivity and so on, and unless you’re going out for a competition machine you really don’t need to spends the highest prices for equipment. A simple system is quite often the best choice and will please all but the fusiest of users.

Technorati Tags: ,

Thinking of Buying New Car Speakers?

One of the most cost effective ways of improving the sound of your double din car stereo (or any car stereo for that matter) is by getting new car speakers.

Simply speaking there are 2 basic types of aftermarket car speakers that you can get, full range and component speakers. So which one is better? First let’s look at what each one is. Full range speakers include all elements that produce sound, including woofer and tweeter in the one unit. Component on the other hand have the woofer and tweeters as seperate parts, but designed to work together.

Most factory units come with the full range option, so if you just want a simple solution, these aftermarket speakers can usually just be installed in place of the oem speakers, which will improve the sound without much effort. On the other hand, component tend to give a better sound and allows you to place the woofer and tweeters in different places that will provide an even better sound.

So, after deciding which of the above options you’d like to go for, what else should we look at? The material that is used in the speakers will effect both the sound quality and how long they will last. The material used in tweeters especially can make a big difference in the sound they produce, and can be made of either hard or soft materials. Hard materials such as ceramic, graphite or metal give a sharper and crisper sound, whilst softer materials such as poly, silk or textile blends will give a sound that is more mellow and refined.

A good woofer should be made from a lightweight and stiff material to produce the low notes effectively. Polypropylene is probably the most commonly used material, but a polypropylene mixed with mica, or other similar material, will give a better more accurate sound. Another option is woven fabrics covered by metals such as titanium or aluminum, which are also strong and lightweight, giving an excellent sound.

The surround on the woofer also plays a big part in the quality of sound produced. The woofer needs to be able to move freely so that it can perform at its best. A popular choice is for cloth and foam surrounds because they are a cheaper option, but going for rubber will give better performance and last longer.

Okay, there’s probably more I can (and will) say on choosing the right aftermarket speaker set-up. But I’ll leave it there for now and maybe come back with more at a later date.

Technorati Tags: ,

JVC KW-NT3HDT Navigation & Multimedia Receiver

The JVC KW-NT3HDT is without a doubt a great system. The user-friendliness of this unit is simply great. It’s easy to find your way around and the turn by turn GPS directions are simple to follow. To many of the gps units I’ve seen give strange directions when approaching intersections, but I’ve found this unit provides simpler and easier to follow directions. The only thing about the gps is that there is no single button to press to get back to the map screen from the a/v screen. This would be a plus and improve the useability and be less distracting when trying to drive and navigate in a strange area. This was the only thing I didn’t like about its user friendliness though.

For sound quality, if you’re moving up from a standard unit you are going to notice the improvement immediately. However I would also recommend at the very least changing stock speakers for better quality ones. Going further will improve the sound quality, but if you can’t afford it all in one go, start with new speakers and add the other parts in stages.

If you have an iPhone 4, it’s a simple matter of connecting via bluetooth to listen to your tracks. Which means you don’t even have to take the phone out of your pocket when you get into your car, except for the initial pairing of devices. Most of the features lacking in the bluetooth connection, such as song data transfer and full control of your ipod, are a reflection of Apple’s software though and hopefully they will improve these abilities in the near future. Some people have complained about the lack of a usb port on the back of the unit, but that doesn’t bother me. But if you don’t like having the wire sticking out the front then it’s something to keep in mind.

The software on this unit is fully updateable, and from what I understand JVC have already issued 2 updates.

This is probably one of the best GPS units on the market today, and would look great in any car. And also give some great sound.

This unit has a RRP of $1299.35 but at the time of writing is almost half off at Amazon

Technorati Tags: , ,

Blaupunkt New York 800

Here’s another nice looking blaupunkt double din car stereo, the New York 800. This Blaupunkt gps is another fine example of Blaupunkt’s quality stereo equipment.

Starting at the top of the list, this unit has a 6.2 inch display with an 800×480 pixel resolution which gives a nicely clear and crisp picture. Whilst it’s still a fair way from HD quality, with this size screen you won’t notice much, if any, real difference. The TFT screen is a touchscreen and settings such as brightness, display switch off timer, wallpaper and clock display can all be adjusted

The Blaupunkt gps uses iGo primo, which whilst not as widely known (at least to me) as TomTom or Garmin, does provide a similar quality of gps detail and operation. It provides all the standard features such as voice directions, 3D views, POI and so on. The data is stored on a micro-sd card and can be easily updated via the net.

For those of us with iphones or ipods, it supports, as far as I can tell, all of the various versions out there, and so far I haven’t come across anyone with problems with regards to connecting or compatability. Just plug your idevice in via usb and everything should work as expected. Hands free calling is also supported as well as phone book access of up to 1,000 entries. You also have missed, dialled and received calls history lists which can come in handy.

For play back abilities, the New York 800 doesn’t miss much. For video it can playback AVI, DivX, MP4, MPEG, MPG and Xvid, all via usb, sdhc,sd or mmc. Phot display is limited to jpeg and jpg, but I don’t really see this as a problem since they are the most common formats used. For sound/music, it supports mp3 and wma. You can browse and do file searches without interrupting playback and will also display album art when connected to your iphone/ipod.

As well as the above media mentioned, this unit also supports DVD, +/-R, +/-RW, -ROM; VCD; CD, -ROM, -R/-RW; with all the related functionality you would expect.

The radio supports both AM and FM wave bands, as well as radio data system, alternative frequencies, clock time, enhanced other networks, program service name, program types, radio text, traffic announcement and traaffic program. It only has 30 station memory, but this will probably be enough for most people.

Overall this is not just a nice looking, but also functional double din car stereo and would look and sound great in any car system.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Unbranded Double Din Car Stereo All in One System Review

As a follow up to my article on unbranded double din car stereos, I thought I’d take a closer look at one of the systems currently available. In this case it’s the All in One Multimedia System Notebook In-dash, and the name goes on from there. That’s one of the funny things about being unbranded, they throw as many words as they can into the title to catch your eyes, since they don’t have a name brand to draw you in.

This unit has all the things you’d expect like GPS navigation, voice guided no less, 6.5 inch touch screen with 800X480 resolution, Bluetooth is built-in with handfree capabilities, iPod connectible, AM/FM radio, DVD player, usb jack and a range of languages that you’ll never need. Oh, and it has a Windows CE 6.0 operating system.

So what does that all mean? Should we be rushing out and grabbing these instead of the name brands? That’s up to you really. The sound quality is quite good, but I find it’s not as clear or crisp as the more expensive units. It does function well though and does exactly what it says it does. It also looks nice, and probably 90% of people who listen to it won’t know it didn’t cost over a thousand dollars.

I think it really depends on how serious you are about your music. The more serious you are, the more willing you will be to pay the higher prices to get the likes of a Sony stereo. But if you just want something to play in your car and does what it’s supposed to you can’t go too wrong with one of these.

Technorati Tags: ,

Just Cruisin

I had the opportunity the other day to just go for a drive. It wasn’t without purpose, I had to drop off some things about a 2 hour drive from home. But what those things were is irrelevant, because it gave me a chance to just take off in my car and engulf myself in music and the solitude that comes with driving alone.

I know a lot of people won’t get it, but for me having that time alone and just listening to my music without the interruptions that come with everyday life was like a small piece of heaven offered to me on a plate.

On finding out I needed to do the drive, I did what most people would and tried to find a way to get out of it. But that just couldn’t be done this time. So, I loaded up my songs and set off on my way with the music cranked up and the peace and emotions which come through the music washing over me. After the two hours in getting there, I found myself in a more relaxed and peaceful state of mind than I have in quite a while.

Later on arriving home I felt as if I had been on vacation and decided that the next time an opportunity like this came up, not only would I do it I would welcome it. In fact over the last few days I’ve been looking for excuses to do more of it, even just to make a simple trip across town has become afresh and new for me. And all because I look at it as more of an opportunity to reconnect with both myself and the music that effected my life and brings forth the rich memories and emotions from the past.

Give it a try sometime, cruising with just yourself and your music. Leave the friends and family behind and experience it for yourself.

Technorati Tags: