Tuned to perfection: how to upgrade an old car stereo to stream music

Tuned to perfection: how to upgrade an old car stereo to stream music

It’s a fact that the average age of a car in the UK is almost eight-years old. Given that millions more motors will be older still, many drivers are singing along to car sound systems that pre-date music streaming using Bluetooth. Plenty more are driving cars from a time when an apple was something you ate.

If that sounds familiar, there is some good news: it’s possible to upgrade an old car’s sound system. This means you’ll be able to play your latest digital music collection, or even use music streaming services, such as Spotify.

A wide range of clever accessories is available, and upgrades start from as little as £10. You might be keeping an old car going to get maximum value for money from it. Or you may own a classic car that’s from a time before iTunes. Whatever’s the case, you can use modern technology to upgrade your car’s sounds. Here’s how to put an end to the days of doing the time warp.

How do you play music from a smartphone with a cassette player?

A quick browse of Amazon, eBay, Halfords or Maplin will reveal an exhaustive supply of pocket-size, affordable gadgets that can take music from a modern smartphone and play it through an old car sound system.

For example, the best-selling type of device at Halfords is a cassette adapter, made by Belkin. It looks like a tape cassette with a headphone wire attachment – because that’s effectively what it is. It plugs into any smartphone or MP3 player with an ‘Aux-in’ or headphone socket. The cassette then inserts into the stereo’s cassette player (it’s compatible with front or side-loading units). Thanks to the magic of technology your old car is then able to play your digital music collection. For just £13, and with a lifetime warranty, it’s possibly the best value music playing device drivers could own.

Bluetooth music streaming via an FM radio

Tuned to perfection: how to upgrade an old car stereo to stream music

Again, an online search will reveal any number of small, smart accessories that enable digital music streaming through an old car’s sound system. But a word of advice: always check the suitability with your make and model of smartphone.

Most do this using a combination of Bluetooth data streaming and the radio’s FM frequency. It sounds complicated but the units are surprisingly affordable. For example, Amazon’s best-selling product with the highest customer rating is the VicTsing Wireless Radio Adapter, which costs £16.99.

It’s powered by the 12-volt cigarette lighter socket, and has a digital screen that can be rotated to face the driver or passenger.

Impressively, the VicTsing can do more than stream digital music from a smartphone or MP3 player. It comes with voice recognition technology, so drivers can change tracks without taking their hands off the steering wheel. It’s also able to turn your old radio into a speaker system for a phone, so drivers can make hands-free calls.

Upgrade your car stereo to a digital unit

Drivers who aren’t concerned with maintaining the original fixtures and fittings of any old or classic car could consider having the stereo system upgraded to a digital unit.

It’s a more expensive approach, but it gives a finished look to the dashboard. It also means you don’t have gizmos plugged in to the 12v socket, which could be put to good use powering something else.

Prices start from less than £40. That buys something from Pioneer or JVC that will offer FM and MW radio. In addition there’s a simple USB cable port. This enables a smartphone or MP3 device to plug n’ play music.

Spend a little more, over £70, and you could afford a DAB digital radio player than can also be plugged into a smartphone or music player.


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