Car audio over the years (past, present and future)

Rudy

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Since we were having fun with this in another thread, I thought I'd start one here with all the gizmos we had over the years to put audio in our cars. Back in the early days, the AM radio was common, but as FM and tape came along, we had more options to play back music in the car.

DeeInKY said:
My ‘72 Malibu was a Chevelle with the Malibu trim line. Vinyl top, FM radio, rally wheels, 350 V-8. That was a cool car. :agree:
Rudy said:
FM radio in the car was a novelty back then. Our first car with FM and a rear speaker was in the 1971 LeSabre we got in 1973.
Harry said:
I used an FM-converter that I installed under the dash of my 69 Chevy. It used a special frequency on the AM band and fed the FM sound to that AM frequency. Hot stuff back then as FM was coming into its own.

Here's the old girl in her younger day:
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Michael Hagerty said:
My first two cars and my fourth had AM only radios, and I had an under-dash 8-track player for them. For FM, I had this, an FM stereo tuner that slid into the 8-track and played through its speakers. It actually sounded pretty good---better than factory FMs at the time because I went for (by 1972-1978 standards) a serious amp and speakers.
(this one's not mine, but a photo I found online).

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Rudy

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I inherited the '73 Catalina as my high-school ride, and it only had an AM radio. I first added an under-dash cassette player from Radio Shack, on sale for $19.99. I added some small speakers I had in the basement, and rather than cut up the rear trim panel, we built a thin carpeted fiberboard panel so I could mount the speakers in it.

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After upgrading my speakers to some shoddy 6x9s, I added an EQ/booster to the mix:

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I later changed to an in-dash AM/FM/cassette player, then after a couple of years, went all out and got one of the top Sony in-dash cassette players, Proton power amps (P222 rear, for some Advent 6x9s I had removed the power amps from, and P250 for some Realistic Minimus 7s I had mounted in brackets in the footwells, facing up), and a Sony EQ.

By the mid 80s, I ended up purchasing the first in-dash CD player, the Sony CDX-R7, which was a three-chassis unit. When the loading mechanism died, they replace it at no charge with a CDX-R88. Fast forward about six or seven years and I had added a subwoofer box to the trunk with a large Sherwood power amp, and was running as many as three EQs at the time. I was using Polk speakers on all four corners.

Currently it's a double-DIN Pioneer 4200NEX which supports Android Auto, plays from both SD card and USB flash drive as high-res FLAC files, and has built-in EQ and time alignment. Power amp is a small Kenwood class D "chip" amp that puts out 50 watts x 4 channels, and tucks behind the dash. Speakers in the four doors and tweeters in the pillar are Morels, and the powered subwoofer is an 8" Focal bombA I ordered from Europe (at half the cost of Crutchfield). I may add a MiniDSP in order to bypass the head unit's EQ and time alignment, so I can adjust it using software and a calibrated mic.

It's hard shopping for newer cars when many have integrated it into the car's electronics. But there are still a few out there. Many don't even have CD players anymore--I haven't used CDs in the car since 2012 or so, when I put a JVC into another car of mine, and started using a USB flash drive.

@Michael Hagerty Your 8-track device reminds me of a cool Radio Shack tape player my cousin had--it had the ability to play both cassette and 8-track. He also had it wired to all four speakers in my uncle's '73 Toronado, which was a beast.

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Mike Blakesley

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The first car I really "drove around" a lot in was my dad's Chevy station wagon. It had an AM radio in it. I used to ride to work with Dad in that same car. One day a friend and I plotted to install an 8-track deck in it, complete with new speakers. We didn't think Dad would want to have any changes made to his car radio, so we hurried to get it all done in one evening and I made sure to set it to his favorite radio station (at the correct volume) so he wouldn't need to adjust it when we rode to work in the morning. I figured we'd get by for weeks and he'd never spot it. So, we got into the car on Day One and the first thing he said was, "hey, I like the new stereo."

Later I had a '73 Mustang, which had an 8-track deck but still, just an AM radio. I had one of those 8-track shaped radio gadgets for a while, until I traded that car in for a newer one that had AM/FM/8-track.

I think the first car I had with a cassette in it was an '80 Thunderbird. From 1977 to 2011, I would always replace the factory stereo with a better one from our store. My first CD experience was via one of those cassette-shaped things that slipped into the player and plugged into a Diskman CD player sitting on the seat. That worked great until the battery went dead.

At one point, I had one of those Pioneer CD changer units that held six CDs in the trunk.

The last vehicle I replaced the stereo in was my 2011 Ranger, into which I put a JVC head unit with some JL Audio speakers and subwoofer. That was probably the best sounding car stereo I ever had.

My most recent vehicle is a 2016 Ford F-150. Car manufacturers have finally gotten to the point where the vehicle's resident stereo sounds "good enough" to me....it's not quite as good as I would like, but it's about 90% there, so at the moment I'm listening to the factory unit (until it breaks, or I trade the truck in... whichever comes first, I guess).
 

Michael Hagerty

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Given that I got my first job in radio before I even got my learner's permit, a car stereo was a must. My first two cars (1966 Ford Falcon, bought used in the summer of 1972 and 1973 Ford Pinto, bought new with the money I earned at KIBS as a 17th birthday present to myself), had only stock Ford Philco AM radios, which were very good AM radios, but I wanted more, so I bought the FM adaptor posted above and this (again, not mine---just a photo from the web of an identical unit:

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Muntz had an identical model that just had the "Muntz" logo, but mine was Clarion---the first time I'd seen that brand. But a fellow DJ also ran the local stereo shop in Bishop, said these were amazing and had put one in his car. Once he demo'd it for me, I was hooked and went for the same amp and speaker setup (which I can't recall) that he had.

When I traded the Falcon for the Pinto, the Clarion came along.

About a year and a half later, the Pinto was involved in an accident (lady ran a red light in San Luis Obispo and I hit her---thankfully, I wasn't rear-ended) and I bought a new '74 Capri 2800 V6. The dealer had already installed an AM/FM/8-Track in-dash, so I went with it, but it wasn't a very good system.

The Capri had all kinds of electrical issues and a lot of my friends in the record business had bought them a year or so before I bought mine. They said "it gets worse", so after a year and a day, I traded. At 19, I thought I'd discovered the "finicky European car" I'd been hearing about (the Capri was built in Germany), so I went back to good old Ford (I was raised in a Ford family---all the way back to the 30s except a couple of my Dad's cars before I was born) and bought a new 1975 Mustang II. Which was a far worse car than the Capri. I should have hung in and sorted the Capri out.

Anyway, the Mustang II was another Ford Philco AM radio, so I pulled the Clarion 8-Track and the FM adaptor out of the closet and had it installed in the Mustang II.

Four years later, I traded the Mustang II for a 1978 Toyota Corolla SR5 Liftback (second best car I've ever owned), which had a Fujitsu Ten AM/FM stereo as standard equipment. By that point, 8-tracks were clearly a dinosaur technology, but I wasn't totally sold on cassette reliability (too many friends who'd had tapes eaten---and this was the exact moment when LP and tape prices were soaring), so I just stuck with radio in the car and LPs at home.

Five years after that, I traded for the best car I ever owned, a new 1984 Honda Civic sedan. In those days, they shipped them over without air or audio, which was then handled by the dealer. I said yes to air, no to audio and bought an Alpine in-dash AM/FM/cassette unit with a good amp and speaker setup:

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LOVED that audio unit! I had it, and the Civic for 14 years and 144,000 trouble-free miles before I gave it to a friend who desperately needed a car.

Since then, I haven't owned a car that I wanted to upgrade the audio for---or that it seemed worthwhile to try to make an aesthetic fit. And thankfully, stock units---and especially the optional audio systems that some manufacturers are offering that I get to sample in my sideline as an automotive journalist---are really, really good.
 

Harry

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Other than the FM Converters that I installed in my 60s/early 70s cars, I've almost always relied on straight, stock audio in my cars. Two exceptions were in my 80s Maximas. In the 86 Maxima, I bought one of those cassette adapters so I could play audio from CDs in a Sony portable CD player. With the combination of the audio cable running from the cassette deck, and the power cable running to the cigarette lighter, it was an unwieldy mess, but it accomplished the task of playing CDs in the car.

In the 89 Maxima, there was an option for an in-dash Sony player, a really nice upgrade. Thereafter, CD players were pretty much standard. I know they've since disappeared from many models, but I'm still tooling around in my 2007 Maxima with its 6-disc in-dash player.
 

Rudy

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Five years after that, I traded for the best car I ever owned, a new 1984 Honda Civic sedan. In those days, they shipped them over without air or audio, which was then handled by the dealer. I said yes to air, no to audio and bought an Alpine in-dash AM/FM/cassette unit with a good amp and speaker setup:
I remember those Alpine in-dash radios! That and Blaupunkt. They had a distinctive style also. I think we put a similar Alpine in my buddy's '82 or '83 Camaro. Our '88 Accord DX Coupe came without a radio, so I purchased a Sony CD in-dash for it. The A/C on the Accord was a dealer-installed option on the DX but I think it was stock on LX and LXi models. My '92 Civic came with AM/FM/Cassette but I moved my system from my old car into that one right after I bought it. I still have that original Civic radio, too.

Alpine made OEM car audio systems for Honda, as our '97 CR-V's in-dash was built by Alpine, and they offered an under-seat CD changer. There was a trick to the changer, though. You could order an Alpine CHM-S601 that was wired specifically for the Honda, and pay half the price of buying it from the dealer. It used a long cable with an 8-pin DIN plug; I guess the wiring in the DIN plug was non-standard, hence the separate Honda-only model. The accessory tape player was made by Matsu$#!^a, although you could buy a single CD player instead of the tape player if you wanted. These also plugged into the main head unit with an 8-pin DIN plug.

I think my biggest complaints about today's in-dash radios are 1) not all have Android Auto yet, and that is a #1 priority with me. And 2), none will play FLAC files (or lossless WMA files), which I require for music playback; bonus points for high-resolution, so I don't have to waste time downconverting most of my recent purchases. There are aftermarket amps and speakers I can always upgrade with, but those two deal-killers prevent me from wanting to keep any stock radio in a car, and unfortunately, sound quality doesn't matter to the engineers, so car systems likely will never play FLAC files (at least in brands I would buy, which are very few).
 

Rudy

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Speaking of oddball radios, my buddy's dad worked for GM, so they would purchase what I think they called "executive cars," basically, new cars that were driven for 90 days by GM executives, then turned in for another new car for 90 days. They sold these cars at a steep discount to employees, at a specific lot on the GM Tech Center grounds (which we lived about a mile away from). There were several dozen on the lot at any one time.

In high school, towards the end of his senior year, my buddy wanted a new car as opposed to driving his grandfather's old '69 or '70 LeSabre, and picked out the only thing he could afford--a stripped-down Chevy Citation. And by stripped down, this car had manual everything--manual steering, manual transmission, even manual brakes. It had the most oddball AM radio in it--it was like a typical 2-shaft radio, but was mounted vertical. Radio Shack sold one of the only models that you could mount vertically--it had a separate faceplate with vertical lettering. I think for the rear speakers, we had to cut through the metal in the rear pillars to mount a pair.

And I remember when we disconnected the battery. Not remembering basic safety protocols, we disconnected the positive battery terminal first, which was tucked beneath the front fender. We burned a hole on a metal lip inside that fender when the ratchet hit it. And wow, what fireworks! 😁
 

AM Matt

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YEP, I did had an Alpine car stereo with a cassette player which I got back in May of 1986 for my Chevrolet 1977 dark blue Metro!! Matt Clark Sanford, MI
 

Michael Hagerty

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I remember those Alpine in-dash radios! That and Blaupunkt. They had a distinctive style also. I think we put a similar Alpine in my buddy's '82 or '83 Camaro. Our '88 Accord DX Coupe came without a radio, so I purchased a Sony CD in-dash for it. The A/C on the Accord was a dealer-installed option on the DX but I think it was stock on LX and LXi models. My '92 Civic came with AM/FM/Cassette but I moved my system from my old car into that one right after I bought it. I still have that original Civic radio, too.

Alpine made OEM car audio systems for Honda, as our '97 CR-V's in-dash was built by Alpine, and they offered an under-seat CD changer. There was a trick to the changer, though. You could order an Alpine CHM-S601 that was wired specifically for the Honda, and pay half the price of buying it from the dealer. It used a long cable with an 8-pin DIN plug; I guess the wiring in the DIN plug was non-standard, hence the separate Honda-only model. The accessory tape player was made by Matsu$#!^a, although you could buy a single CD player instead of the tape player if you wanted. These also plugged into the main head unit with an 8-pin DIN plug.

I think my biggest complaints about today's in-dash radios are 1) not all have Android Auto yet, and that is a #1 priority with me. And 2), none will play FLAC files (or lossless WMA files), which I require for music playback; bonus points for high-resolution, so I don't have to waste time downconverting most of my recent purchases. There are aftermarket amps and speakers I can always upgrade with, but those two deal-killers prevent me from wanting to keep any stock radio in a car, and unfortunately, sound quality doesn't matter to the engineers, so car systems likely will never play FLAC files (at least in brands I would buy, which are very few).
Blaupunkt and Becker (especially Becker) were real disappointments to me when I finally heard them. High-end Sonys were good back in the day and Alpines were the gold standard in the mid-80s.

Android Auto is gaining market share---lagging behind Apple CarPlay by only a bit. I use an iPhone, so CarPlay is a similar deal-breaker for me. Fortunately, most automakers make both available.
 

Bobberman

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My parents old 1977 vintage family car had both an AM FM stereo radio which in my area at the time was a big deal as we only had 3 FM stations locally and several more from distant towns ( southern Idaho with Twin Falls and Boise in mind) it made traveling in the family car more fun and later in the early 80s they had a stereo cassette deck added and it made our thanksgiving trip to Tacoma where my sister was living at the time much more enjoyable when we were out of the range of radio stations we had a tape on standby ( Kenny Rogers 20 greatest hits) and I loved that album and coincidentally that Christmas I received that exact tape in my Christmas stocking this thread really brings back some wonderful memories.
 

Captaindave

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My early cars back in the 1960s when I first started driving all had AM only radios. All were cars that technically belonged to my father and were insured by him, since I was underage at the time. These were a 1966 (If I remember correctly) Ford Mustang, a 1965 Ford Galaxie, a 1967 Chevy Impala, and a 1971 Volkswagen fastback (the model with a hatchback). In late 1969, a friend installed an 8 track player in the Chevy for me. In the early to mid 1970s, I seem to recall having a Ford Gran Torino, but it also had only AM radio.

I don't recall having FM until the late 1970s. I think I had a cassette player by about 1980. So for quite a while, it was AM/FM/cassette - all factory equipment. I had a couple Buicks and a Mercury back then.

When CD players started becoming available, I found myself with the AM/FM/CD player set-up.

I have been driving various Honda models since the early 1990s - mostly with AM/FM CD - althought I think I remember a couple of those still having cassette players. A couple also had XM receivers and a sub-woofer, and I had that for a time.

Now, neither of my cars have a CD player...AM/FM only. Audio technology has rapidly escaped me and I don't really understand or make much use of any of it, especially since I do not use a Smartphone. I still wish for a CD player in the cars, but such is not to be had anymore.

I did actually load some music onto a flash drive, and it did work in the USB port.
 
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Michael Hagerty

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I don't know how long it's been since I cared or noticed whether the car I'm reviewing on any given week had a CD player. Since getting my first iPhone in 2011, it's been my favorite means of playing music of them all. 120 8-tracks or cassettes in the car at any given time? Lunacy. 120 albums on Spotify, plus podcasts, e-books, access to out-of-market (and out of the country) radio stations and airchecks? It all fits in a cupholder.
 

Carpe diem

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My first sound system was one I installed in my dad's old Ford Econoline van during the early 70s. I think it originally had an AM radio, but that wasn't "cool" enough. I put in a AM/FM/8-track stereo unit (can't remember the manufacturer) and cut two holes in the doors for speakers. As I recall he was not that enthused about the "upgrade" but I was investing my own money so it was OK with him (the van was a real piece of crap, but he let me drive it on Friday nights during my last years of high school). One day, when I was riding with him I put in my "Led Zeppelin II" cartridge to proudly show-off the new sound system. After about 5 minutes he said; "Jesus, can you turn that off!...it sounds like two cats have been tied by the tail and thrown over a clothesline!"
 

tomswift2002

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As I recall all the cars that parents owned and even in my first truck, have had AM/FM/Cassette & or CD. My 05 F150 has a GPS with AM/FM/CD/DVD. I forget the manufacturer, but I have driven around with a DualDisc or music DVD-Video in the DVD drive (but if I need the GPS, the GPS needs a special DVD-Data disc in the DVD drive).
 

Rudy

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Honda's GPS system used to use a separate DVD drive for the navigation--I think it was a separate slot, and/or tucked away somewhere. I think they do it all via SD card now. And we'd have to pay for updates. That's why I prefer using the phone's navigation--it's continually updated, and other than data charges, the live traffic information is free. (And it has saved me many times in my travels!)

One day, when I was riding with him I put in my "Led Zeppelin II" cartridge to proudly show-off the new sound system. After about 5 minutes he said; "Jesus, can you turn that off!...it sounds like two cats have been tied by the tail and thrown over a clothesline!"
"Whole Lotta Love"?? :laugh: I never played music when I traveled with the folks, but I was also an avid taper, so any of my louder music I would refrain from playing and home and play it only in the car.
120 8-tracks or cassettes in the car at any given time? Lunacy. 120 albums on Spotify, plus podcasts, e-books, access to out-of-market (and out of the country) radio stations and airchecks? It all fits in a cupholder.
With my data plan, I would have to pay for streaming the music, especially lossless Qobuz. Not a big deal, as the head unit takes both an SD card and has two USB ports--one connects to the phone, and the other can be used for a flash drive. So I use one large flash drive and a large SD card and probably have hundreds of albums just a few taps away. (I am even considering an SSD in a portable USB case, as I could use up to 1TB of space on it.) I could stream something with a low bitrate like Pandora and not burn too much data in a pinch. The phone I keep stored away in the console; in fact, I have a spare Pixel phone that I keep in the car at all times, just to stay connected and not have to plug/unplug my main phone all the time. (An extra data SIM card on my account costs nothing, other than the data I use.)

I'll never carry around CDs again. I have a few that still play, surprisingly, after being carried in the car for years and getting beaten up. I even had to replace a 4-CD set since carrying it around for so long caused their labels to peel, in addition to getting scratched. I have three unused CD wallets now. But I don't miss fumbling with them. A few taps on the head unit's screen is all I need to do, to list the albums and pick something to play.

And I certainly don't miss cassettes--without fail, every deck I owned needed an azimuth alignment every few months, and I would only pull it from the dash once or twice a year to correct it. (Other times, I'd jam some paper under the cassette to get it to align properly.) Even if I cemented the adjustment screws, these decks would always go out of alignment, even the expensive Sony. What I do miss are the mixtapes I used to make. I would do them live in a 45-minute stretch, cross-fading between two turntables.

One of Alpine's latest "multimedia" receivers is only about 2¾" deep:

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One of its features is a power amplifier that docks to the back of it, and it would still fit into the dash like a disc-based double-DIN receiver.
 

Harry

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Since I still own CD player-cars, I'm not as up on the latest technologies. Am I to understand that I can put a bunch of music files on a thumb drive and then play that in the car? What types of files do these things play? Can they play WMA?
 

Michael Hagerty

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Since I still own CD player-cars, I'm not as up on the latest technologies. Am I to understand that I can put a bunch of music files on a thumb drive and then play that in the car? What types of files do these things play? Can they play WMA?
It depends on the audio system. Most can play mp3s. Beyond that, it's hit and miss as to whether it can play WMA, .wav or anything else---and nobody lists it in the owner's manual or the sales brochure.
 

tomswift2002

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Honda's GPS system used to use a separate DVD drive for the navigation--I think it was a separate slot, and/or tucked away somewhere. I think they do it all via SD card now. And we'd have to pay for updates. That's why I prefer using the phone's navigation--it's continually updated, and other than data charges, the live traffic information is free. (And it has saved me many times in my travels!)


"Whole Lotta Love"?? :laugh: I never played music when I traveled with the folks, but I was also an avid taper, so any of my louder music I would refrain from playing and home and play it only in the car.

With my data plan, I would have to pay for streaming the music, especially lossless Qobuz. Not a big deal, as the head unit takes both an SD card and has two USB ports--one connects to the phone, and the other can be used for a flash drive. So I use one large flash drive and a large SD card and probably have hundreds of albums just a few taps away. (I am even considering an SSD in a portable USB case, as I could use up to 1TB of space on it.) I could stream something with a low bitrate like Pandora and not burn too much data in a pinch. The phone I keep stored away in the console; in fact, I have a spare Pixel phone that I keep in the car at all times, just to stay connected and not have to plug/unplug my main phone all the time. (An extra data SIM card on my account costs nothing, other than the data I use.)

I'll never carry around CDs again. I have a few that still play, surprisingly, after being carried in the car for years and getting beaten up. I even had to replace a 4-CD set since carrying it around for so long caused their labels to peel, in addition to getting scratched. I have three unused CD wallets now. But I don't miss fumbling with them. A few taps on the head unit's screen is all I need to do, to list the albums and pick something to play.

And I certainly don't miss cassettes--without fail, every deck I owned needed an azimuth alignment every few months, and I would only pull it from the dash once or twice a year to correct it. (Other times, I'd jam some paper under the cassette to get it to align properly.) Even if I cemented the adjustment screws, these decks would always go out of alignment, even the expensive Sony. What I do miss are the mixtapes I used to make. I would do them live in a 45-minute stretch, cross-fading between two turntables.

One of Alpine's latest "multimedia" receivers is only about 2¾" deep:

View attachment 3381

One of its features is a power amplifier that docks to the back of it, and it would still fit into the dash like a disc-based double-DIN receiver.
I bought the truck second hand and a previous owner had taken out the factory radio, so I have an aftermarket radio/CD/DVD/GPS. Apparently it can accept Bluetooth, but it requires a second part for it to work. But the radio hasn’t been made in years and I haven’t bothered to look for the piece.
 

Mike Blakesley

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It seems weird to think about now, but by far the best selling car stereo thing we ever had was the Pioneer TSX-6 surface-mount speakers. They were wedge-shaped plastic boxes, but man did they sound good. The big secret was, they had a passive radiator, which was an additional woofer cone on the top of the box in addition to the "active" woofer. So the effect was basically double the woofer surface.

At that time, a "good" set of car speakers were around $40 from most manufacturers (I'm talking the mainstream ones, not the high-end). The TSX-6's were $129 retail. I thought there was no chance in the world they'd ever sell.

The Pioneer salesman told me, "All you have to do is set-em up and play 'em, they'll sell." I was skeptical. Finally he guaranteed that if I'd buy 3 pairs, he'd take them back if they didn't sell. So I caved in, but I decided to sell the speakers for $99.99 because I just couldn't imagine anybody paying $130 for a pair of car speakers. At $99.99, we would make about $12 per set.

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Well I plugged those things into a stereo, and couldn't believe how good they sounded. Needless to say, they sold like hotcakes. I have no idea how many pairs we sold but it had to be in the hundreds. I even plugged them into a home stereo and had people guess which speakers were playing...they'd always point to the larger, home-style speakers and be amazed when I showed them these small plastic car speakers. One friend of mine had a pair in his Ford Bronco which he accidentally drove into the river one day... the speakers got soaked, but he dried them out and they still played just fine for years.

The 6's were eventually discontinued and replaced with newer models, but none ever sounded as good as the 6's. I kept thinking Pioneer would do a "classic" thing and remake them, but they never did. Of course now, cars don't really have enough room for them anymore, but the other great feature of the 6's was you could just stick'em anywhere... under the seat, in the back seat on the floor, wherever you could find space, they'd sound just fine. I had lots of customer who would just toss them in their back seat.

Our second best selling item was the Pioneer TP727 which was an under-dash 8-track player. This was in the era when everybody HAD to have an 8-track in their car or they just weren't cool. We sold dozens and dozens of that thing for about a hundred bucks each....once again, it was more expensive that the popular units of the day, but people paid for quality. It sounded really nice for an 8-track; it had bass and treble controls in an era when most car stereos only had one knob called "tone." It also had a fast-forward and a loudness enhance button...also both kind of rare at the time.

poster2.jpg

We were also a dealer for Lear Jet Stereo before they folded their tent.... we sold bunches of Lear Jet Stereo car, portable and home 8 track decks. (Wow, I'm really dating myself here.) My own first piece of stereo equipment was a Lear Jet portable unit that I got for Christmas... it played 8-tracks but you had to change the channel manually. I listened to a lot of Herb and Sergio on that thing.
 

Rudy

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The 8-track actually held on quite a bit longer than we would have thought. I guess in the trucking industry, many of the 18-wheelers still had 8-tracks when the rest of us had moved to cassettes, so there were still some tapes sold at truck stops over the years. That is one area where Columbia House had strength--they would sometimes manufacture those older formats that the major labels had abandoned.

@Mike Blakesley Those Pioneer 6s sound like they were a winner! I would bet they would fetch a few pennies on eBay these days. Those would have been ideal back in the day, when we couldn't cut holes in some of the panels to install speakers.

Today, some of the better speakers are available as component speakers, where the tweeter and woofer are separate. The tweeter installs in the upper dash or in the pillars, and the woofers in the doors; the crossovers are usually tucked behind the dash somewhere. (Funny thing is, the two crossovers were nearly as big as the Kenwood 50w x 4 class D power amp I installed--I had more problems finding a place to tuck both of the crossovers than the power amp, which I zip tied to a support behind the dash. It's that small!)

Subwoofers are a thing these days also. I've had a Bazooka in my old '97 for many years and last time I tried it, it still works. It was only a 6.5" woofer with a 50 watt amp, but it filled out the bass well enough, and it fit beneath the picnic table in the back. My Focal sub in my current daily driver is a box with a built in class D power amp, and is held in place by large velcro strips. (They stick to the carpeting behind the rear seats, and the box is covered in a black carpeting as well.) A few cars have custom built subs that integrate with the interior, but not many...and they are not cheap. ($700-ish. I'll live with a box. :D ) I had tried a Pioneer spare tire sub--it fits inside the spare tire, but since it only uses two 4-inch drivers, it doesn't take much to overload it. (I had to import that one also, since it is not a US item.) I still keep it there, however, since I occasionally need to haul larger loads, and can take out the Focal and switch the wiring to the Pioneer.

@Harry I've found that our three in-dash players handle WMA as well as MP3 (two Pioneers and a JVC), and I think even our stock Honda radios can handle both MP3 and WMA from a data CD. Some will also handle AAC files. The Pioneer 4200NEX can also play most video files, although it's illegal to have them playing within the driver's view while the vehicle is in motion. (The player has a parking brake lockout, but you can buy a device to override that, as I found that most adjustments on the head unit, and even searching in Android Auto, was prevented when the nanny feature was active.)

There are a few things to watch for with flash drives and SD cards. First, you have to see what format the player can handle. Some will only work with FAT32. The Pioneer 4200NEX on the other hand can read NTFS. There is also a limit to the number of folders and files you can have on a flash drive or SD card--I think the limit on my Pioneer is well over 10,000 of each (might be 15,000). Finally, some players are fussy about the MP3 or WMA format--if the bitrate is too high, or sometimes if the original sampling rate wasn't 44.1kHz, the files won't be seen by the player. But once that is figured out, it's easy to whip together folders and files to organize the music. I usually create a hierarchy of artist/band, with subfolders for the album names, and each album of course would have the album's music files in it.

I would think many of the manufacturers use head units made by well known electronics companies. I know Honda still uses Matsu$#!^a for some of their units, and they have also used Alpine for electronics, and Pioneer for speakers. The upscale systems, of course, often have brand names like Infinity, JBL, Mark Levinson, etc.. Worst sounding "premium" sound I ever heard was the Bose system in the Acura--horrible, smeared sound due to using $2 paper cone speakers and forcing them to sound better by using very drastic EQ on all of them. (The only clever thing about it was the flat subwoofer in the rear deck.) Had it not drowned, I was prepared to put a custom system in it, since it was a blast to drive.

And while I don't think they do it anymore, Acura used to be known for the Panasonic/ELS Surround systems in their cars, with the ability to play DVD-Audio and DTS discs. That would have been fun! The systems I believe even had a center channel.
 

Michael Hagerty

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Rudy, actually, Acura still does the ELS thing, and as recently as a year ago, I had an Acura as a test vehicle with ELS and with the demonstration disc curated by Roger Nichols. In the big Acura (the RLX) you can now move above ELS to a Krell system which is astonishingly good.
 

Rudy

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Rudy, actually, Acura still does the ELS thing, and as recently as a year ago, I had an Acura as a test vehicle with ELS and with the demonstration disc curated by Roger Nichols. In the big Acura (the RLX) you can now move above ELS to a Krell system which is astonishingly good.
The Krell system would be impressive. Krell is a high-end manufacturer that was founded by Dan D'Agostino many years ago. I don't know if our local dealer has the RLX Advance--I should pay a visit next time I am up that way. (They don't have an NSX, dang it. :D But their Honda dealer next door does have a Type R.)

I checked the current ELS system but the best it can do today is a faux surround (called DTS Neural Surround, creating a fake 5.1 surround from stereo audio), vs. being able to play DVD-Audio or DTS discs with true 5.1 surround as the older Acura ELS systems used to. A few guys over at the Quadraphonic Quad site (including our pal @JonUrban) were buying Acuras for the ability to play their discs. (They are able to record quadraphonic tapes and records to digital, then author DVD-Audio discs with 4.0 channel surround.) It's too bad they can't tweak the head unit by adding a couple more DAC chips so it can play 5.1 from FLAC files. I don't think even aftermarket head units offer that.
 

Rudy

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I tried a record player in the car, but it kept sliding off the front seat every time I stopped. :D

CBS and RCA both offered under-dash record players back in the day. The CBS version used a special record cut at 16-2/3 RPM with very small grooves, giving the record a running time of 45 minutes. It was only available as "Highway Hi-Fi" from Chrysler for a brief time until it was discontinued.

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RCA's version was an adaption of the Victrola 45 for car use, and took standard 45 RPM singles in a changer. It played the 45s upside down, with the tonearm on the bottom facing up. Have a look:



Philips Norelco also offered a slot-loaded 45 RPM record player as well.

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Mike Blakesley

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Technics eventually invented a turntable that WOULD have played in a car...it was a vertical model where the stylus tracked across on a sliding bar. You could pick it up, turn it sideways,, do whatever and it would just keep right on playing. It sold for around $600 and then they came out with cheaper ones later on.
 
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