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How can I connect my iPod or other audio device to my car radio?

Streaming audio from a smart device, MP3, or portable CD player to a car radio requires proper connections. We discuss FM transmitters, cable adapters, interface kits & more.

When you're looking to stream music from an iPhone, iPod, Android smart phone, MP3 player, portable CD player, or other device to your car radio so you can hear it over the speakers, you need the proper connections. There are a wealth of kits on the market with cables, modules, and even transmitters to help you do just that. However, the choices can be confusing and overwhelming in many cases.

Here, a "USB" jack and port are shown, as typically used on a personal computer.
"RCA" type cables that transmit analog signals. These are typically used for home and car stereos.

In this article, we'll take a look at the types of portable device-to-car-radio connection kits offered to help you make an informed decision for yourself or someone you care about. FM transmitters, device-to-vehicle cables, full interface kits and more are all on display in our iPhone & Android Integration section. In some cases, you'll be asked for the specific model of your portable product to determine the jack size needed after entering the Product Options field. For devices which are vehicle-specific, you will be asked to provide the year, make and model of your ride.

FM Transmitter
The Naxa MP3 FM Modulator.

Why Are Adapters Needed?

Why are adapters needed? In short, most mobile devices are designed to be connected to USB ports (like those found on a computer) and most car stereos are set up for RCA cables (which feature white and red male ends similar to those found on a traditional home stereo). The two types of jacks are not the same, and they must be made compatible. Also, any conversion setup needs to change the digital signals from MP3s into analog types of signal required by most car radios. You’ll find a variety of adapter cables for Apple and Android smartphones in our in our iPhone & Android Integration section referenced above.

FM Transmitters

For those seeking simplicity, FM transmitters broadcast a signal to any FM station frequency of your choice. They plug into your cigarette lighter adapter, then connect by wire to your MP3, Apple, Android, portable CD player, or other audio device. Since the signal is broadcast to your vehicle's FM radio antenna nearby, there's no need to remove the radio for complex installation of wires. FM transmitters work on any vehicle with an FM radio, so it's easy to move them from car to car. For those seeking best value, the Naxa MP3 FM Modulator comes with a USB input jack for MP3 players and a 3.5mm input jack for other devices.

The iLive Digital FM Transmitter is designed to plug directly into the bottom jack of your Apple iPad, iPod, or iPhone, while PAC’s iSimple Aux Input comes with a universal 3.5mm jack male end that can plug in to the headphone port of any audio device. Many of the transmitters we offer are equipped to recharge your device, and some even offer an input jack designed to receive SD cards and play what's on them.

If you'd like to install a simple 3.5mm female input jack inside your car that can be used with iPods or other items, the Pyle iPod 3.5mm Stereo to RCA Adapter cable features a small housing to surround the jack on one end, and red and white RCA cables for your car radio on the other end. Also included is a male-to-male cord that connects the output port on your device directly to the new input jack for the car radio. This is a great way to enjoy music from your iPod at a low cost. Since it is a semi-permanent installation, it becomes super convenient to simply plug in your device. It provides a direct connection to the car while still allowing you to unplug and take your device with you.

For a low cost, basic iPod adapter cables increase listening pleasure and boost the value of your vehicle at sale time.
"Interface" kits allow you to add functions and features to your original radio.

"Interface" Kits

If you're into adding equipment (receiver modules, tuners, etc) to your vehicle for Bluetooth, satellite radio, HD radio, or other high-tech items, consider an "interface" kit. Many of these kits allow you to connect two of the following devices at once: satellite radio tuner, Bluetooth module, high definition (HD) radio tuner, iPod cable, or an auxiliary cable to convert digital signals to analog ones. With this kind of interface set up, it's possible to use these accessories on an older radio that doesn't have input jacks for everything - sparing you the expense of purchasing a whole new, more advanced radio. You can maintain the original look and feel of your dash, and all original functions of the factory radio are retained in most cases.

To benefit from an interface kit, your radio must be equipped with an XM, SAT, AUX or CD button, and if you want to have HD or satellite radio, you'll need separate tuners for those devices. After entering your vehicle's year, make and model, our website will highlight extra equipment you might need in the Product Options field.

These interface kits will give you outstanding sound quality. Many of them also give you the huge benefit of controlling your phone/MP3/iPod through the vehicle's radio and/or steering wheel controls. You can change channels, stations, move forward and backward through songs and songlists, etc. It's not only super convenient, it's also a safer way to drive!

Our goal is to provide our customers with the widest choice of iPhone & Android Integration products in the industry. These high quality items from manufacturers such as Axxess, Scosche, PAC, and Pioneer are designed well, built to last, and will surprise and delight you with what they add to your driving experience.

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All manufacturer names, symbols, and descriptions, used in our images and text are used solely for identification purposes only. It is neither inferred nor implied that any item sold by is a product authorized by or in any way connected with any vehicle manufacturers displayed on this page.