I was looking for the perfect Christmas present for my 19-year-old brother last year. He is one of those guys that is hard to buy for because he doesn’t have a lot of stuff, and when he wants something he usually buys it for himself as soon as it comes out. It makes birthdays and Christmases very difficult, and sometimes I resort to gift cards.
I knew that his CD player in his car had stopped working a few years ago, and he played his iPod via a cassette tape adapter. He also had to have a separate cord to charge the iPod that plugged into the cigarette lighter. Because he has one cigarette lighter hookup and he also has a cell phone charger he often would have to choose between charging his phone and having music to listen to.
I went to crutchfield.com and put in the year, make and model of his car. It was really easy to do and I got several pages worth of compatible options. I knew I didn’t want to spend over $200, but I also didn’t want to compromise quality or features for a difference of a few bucks. This is one of those maybe once-a-decade type purchases, and I wanted to do it correctly.
There was a large range of units available, from models well under $100 all the way up to a thousand dollars plus. I picked out a Sony model that had an iPod connector. It had a CD player but no tape deck. My brother is a bit too young to have ever used tapes so I didn’t think he’d miss that feature. It also had a clicker that could be used both for the regular controls like volume as well as skipping songs on your MP3 player. I was pleased to see that all the required hookup cables were supposedly included free of charge with the purchase of a stereo.
About a week later the stereo arrived. I opened it up and was pleased to see everything I’d been promised. The included wiring harness eliminates the need to cut and splice wiring: it plugs into the existing wiring and makes it easy for do-it-yourselfers. I’d arranged to have my mechanic install it in my brother’s car when he had it dropped off for an oil change, and I couldn’t wait to see how surprised he would be.
He went out to his car when I took him by to pick it up. I tried not to obviously watch him, and I was curious when he opened the door and started the engine, then picked something up and took it inside to the receptionist. The clicker had been left sitting on his console so he’d see it, and he was taking it inside because he thought someone had left something in his car! The receptionist was in on the surprise and she just smiled at him and said “No, that’s your Christmas present.” He hadn’t seen the CD player yet, but he went back out to the car and took a closer look.
Because this was replacing an in-dash unit that had a radio, a tape player and a CD player there is an open space left just below because it is smaller (no tape player). This hole is perfect for storing the remote and whatever else someone might need to have handy. Crutchfield included the piece that was required to finish off the open space so that it wouldn’t be a messy hole, and it looks like it’s supposed to be there.
There is a cord that the mechanic ran out just underneath the player that connects to the bottom of my brother’s iPod (it’s a Dock connector made to fit only the iPod type of MP3 player). It both charges the iPod and plays the sound through the car’s speakers. This was a great feature because it frees up the cigarette lighter for my brother’s cell phone charger.
The song title is displayed on the digital screen when the iPod is playing. If the title is too long it just scrolls across the screen. The screen lights up in a blue color and is easy to see both during the daytime and at night.
The controls were a bit confusing to me, but my brother picked them up within minutes. If the iPod is plugged into the connector the controls on the actual iPod become inactive and you have to either use the clicker to find a song or unplug the iPod so you can find what you are looking for. I think that would be annoying to me, but my brother doesn’t seem to mind.
When you turn off the car there is a beeping sound that comes from the stereo, and it beeps about four times and then goes silent. I’m not sure what the purpose is, but it startled me the first few times I drove my brother’s car after the player was installed. You do get used to it fairly quickly.
The CD player also plays MP3 files and WMA files, which is nice since everyone has more burned CDs than store-bought ones these days. Overall I'm happy with my purchase and I hope it will last my brother for many more years.