New cars, custom audio, and my iPod

in General Discussion edited January 2014
(Disclaimer: I didn't put this in "iPod + iTunes" because while my iPod figures into it, it's more about new cars and customizing the audio in general.)

Are car makers deliberately making it harder and/or less appealing to customize the audio in your car?

I've just started to consider the idea of replacing my '98 Subaru Legacy. So far I'm thinking about replacing it with another Subaru Legacy (I've been pretty happy with the old one and the AWD), or maybe doing something like a Toyota Prius (the hybrid tech and the associated fuel efficiency really appeal to me). I'll happily entertain other suggestions for efficient and reliable cars -- I even sort of vaguely recall that there's some AWD hybrid out there, if someone out there can recall what that might be.

One thing that I'm noticing, however, in a lot of new cars that I've seen lately, is that the dashboards are often continuous molded pieces of plastic, vinyl, or whatever else they're made of, with nary a hint of a DIN slot for an after-market audio system. Often controls for heating, A/C, and other automotive functions are so mixed up with the audio stuff that there doesn't seem much chance that what's inside is going to be easily replaceable with an after-market head unit.

Looking at the description of a Prius, there are volume controls in the steering wheel and there's audio status information that appears in a general purpose car-monitoring display, features which will probably at best be useless with an after-market head unit, and, for all I know, might mean that the factory audio systems are hopelessly entwined with the rest of the built-in electronics.

I don't want a factory audio system. I want my Alpine head unit which controls my iPod. I don't use cassettes in my car. I don't use CDs in my car. Six disc changer? Big whoop. It's still just a CD changer, and doesn't hold a candle to the beauty of having my iPod tucked neatly away inside my glove compartment while a nice iPod-compatible head unit lets me flip through my playlists and my entire 4000 song library.

I don't want to give up using my iPod in my car, and I don't want to settle for crappy FM transmitters. I might, might grudgingly settle for a wired auxiliary audio input coupled with good iPod mounting bracket which makes it easy enough to see and control my iPod that the risk of driving into a telephone pole while doing so is substantially reduced (better go for those side-impact airbags, just in case), but I see little hint or hope that most of this factory-installed kit is ever going to sport external audio inputs of any sort.

Is putting in after-market audio equipment easier than I'm imagining from what I've been seeing? Are there simple replacement slabs of dashboard plastic available for at least some car models so that a simple DIN-shaped rectangular hole appears where the factory-made controls used to be?


  • Reply 1 of 1
    mikefmikef Posts: 698member
    I hear you

    I've often wondered the same thing about replacement dash panels but even then, the integration with the rest of the car's electronics would be lost. The dash panel is just aesthetic.

    Unfortunately, I think you're stuck with the factory audio system in the case where it's integral to the rest of the dash and electronics.

    It sorta makes sense in that the car manufacturers would much rather you pay their exorbitantly high prices for audio system upgrades than buy your own upgrades from your local car audio dealer.

    The only thing we can hope for in the future is factory audio systems that do allow expansion and are of decent quality to be worthy of expanding.
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