CDs to Bluetooth: Everything you Need to Know About Upgrading Your Old Car’s Audio

Whether your old car still has a cassette deck or a CD player, bringing it up to speed with the current times is easy. It doesn’t matter if you want a simple plug-and-play option or would rather go all-out with a completely new system, the sky is the limit – provided your wallet can afford it. Here is a breakdown of everything you need to know about upgrading your old car’s audio system.

Installing an aux adapter if your car has a cassette deck

An old Alpine cassette deck against a black background
An old Alpine cassette deck | Getty images

Are you still rocking out to that INXS cassette that you bought from Tower Records back in the 90s? We hate to break it to you, but it’s 2022 and your car could use a little bit of an upgrade. One of the easiest ways to upgrade your car’s cassette deck is to completely replace it with an updated unit complete with Bluetooth, satellite radio, and a CD player.

However, if you just can’t bear to lose the cassette deck, then you can simply use an aux adapter. These adapters are cheap and easy to use as you’ll only need to push the cassette adapter into the deck and then connect the aux jack into your phone or portable device. Just keep in mind that the sound quality may not be that great, but if you’re used to listening to tapes, then you probably won’t mind.

Adding an aux adapter to a CD player

A portable CD player plugged into a car radio.
A portable CD player plugged into a car radio. | Michael Stuparyk/Toronto Star via Getty Images

If your car still has the factory CD player intact, then welcome to the early 2000s. It’s too bad CD players are pretty much obsolete. But if you really want to hold onto that slot that accepts shiny discs, then one way is to add an aux adapter. Review Geek notes that to add an adapter, you may need to disassemble most of the car’s center console area to access the back of the CD player.

You also may need to drill a hole for the actual adapter, but this is on a case-by-case basis. Either way, by installing an auxiliary adapter in your car, you’ll be able to connect your phone, portable audio device, or a Bluetooth adapter to get your car’s audio somewhat up to speed. Otherwise, you can also replace the whole head unit for an aftermarket one that has all of the updated features for an even easier and more complete upgrade.

It’s easy to add Bluetooth if your car has an aux input

Inside view of a Chrysler automobile featuring a digital dashboard. | Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

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If your car is already outfitted with an aux input jack, or if you used one of the solutions mentioned above, then you can now add Bluetooth to the system. There are plenty of Bluetooth adapters on the market, most of which cost around $20. However, it’s important to note that different adapters will have different sound qualities, so be sure to shop around for the best one for your application and budget.

By using a Bluetooth adapter, you’ll be able to make hands-free calls and play songs from your phone completely wirelessly. If you really want to step it up, then Review Geek recommends the Amazon Auto device that acts as a virtual assistant when you connect it to the Alexa app on your phone.

If all else fails, replace the entire system with an aftermarket head unit

Detail of a Pioneer head unit fitted in a Subaru BRZ
Detail of a Pioneer head unit fitted in a Subaru BRZ | Will Ireland/MacFormat Magazine/Future via Getty Images

As mentioned above, if you don’t want to add adapters to your car’s old audio system, then you can always purchase an aftermarket audio system to completely replace the old unit. There are plenty of head units on the market that comes in different sizes to fit nearly any car. They also come complete with features like Bluetooth and many of them have Apple Carplay and Android Auto phone connectivity.

By using those systems, you won’t need to look at your phone when driving and you’ll be able to use apps like Spotify, Waze, Google Maps, and more, right on the car’s head unit. Setting up your car’s audio system is easy and can be done for cheap with the right parts. Be sure to shop around online on sites like Crutchfield to see what works best for your application.

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