On the Road Again

Beating the ennui of car radio with technologies latest musical developments.

By DAVID SHAMAH
September 24, 2005 16:08

 
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Uh oh looks like trouble up ahead. Construction, maybe an accident whatever it is, you're going to be stuck on this portion of road for awhile. A good time to turn your attention to the one thing in you car that keeps you sane the stereo. Moving along down the dial, you notice that all the stations on the bands, both AM and FM, have a common denominator they're boring! You have the chat shows with their daily diet of scandal and vituperation, the oldies station with nothing new to say, and that one towards the middle that sounds like they put a microphone in the middle of a gang fight! With the advent of MP3s, it's been easy to declare your audio independence anywhere there's a LAN connection or wireless Internet node you just set your computer's music player to listen to an on-line station and enjoy. Of course, you don't even need the network; any MP3 music or talk files already on your computer will play just fine without the Internet. Everywhere, that is, but in your car; there, you're still a prisoner of the commercial radio stations. Or maybe you have a cassette player bundled with your radio. That helps, especially if your musical tastes were developed and set in stone sometime before the mid 1990s, when record companies stopped widely distributing music on cassettes, abandoning the format for CDs. All your new music is in MP3 format, or maybe on CD; either way, it's a hassle to get MP3 files on cassette; you either have to put the recorder's microphone up against the computer's speakers (not a good way to record music), or first record it on CD and then record from the CD to tape. Meanwhile, there's that traffic jam to deal with and as your mind drifts because there's nothing to do but reflect and wait for things to clear up, you begin to realize that far from being an afterthought, your vehicular audio experience should be a priority because you probably spend as , if not more time, listening to audio in your car as you do listening elsewhere, like at home or the office! Fortunately, the digital revolution has reached the automobile - and prices on the equipment you need to play MP3s in your car have sunk in recent months, to the point where you can get an in-dash MP3/CD player plus AM/FM radio for as little as NIS 400 or even less. Players like these, available at almost all car part stores at many Web retail sites. One I saw on the Netaction site (http://www.netaction.co.il http://www.netaction.co.il/), sold under the brand name SuperSound, plays CDs, CD-Rs and CD-RWs the latter two discs you burn at home for your MP3 or WMA files. It also displays the name of songs, based on the ID tag of the file. Seeing the name of an MP3 file as its playing in your car is one thing, but if you really want to impress people, you'll want a combo CD/MP3/AM-FM radio that supports digital terrestrial radio broadcasts. While satellite radio like Sirius or XM (not available in our area yet) has gotten a lot of hype in the press, digital (also known as high-definition, or HD) radio is little known, but available now, here in Israel. Digital radio on AM especially enhances the sound, eliminates static, and makes music and talk crisp and clear and, music stations that support digital radio broadcast ID tags for music as well. All of the government owned radio stations here Reshet Bet, Gimmel, Galgalatz, etc. support digital transmissions. Desktop digital radios are available as well. What if you want to have it all, in terms of playing music in all its forms, both digital and analog? Well, there are also car units that will play digital music, as well as old-fashioned cassette tapes. These items are hard to find, though, as manufacturers move away from serious production of analog music players. Playing digital files on devices other than computers is an investment, as we have seen in past weeks you need iPods or other portable music players, or other gadget like an AirPort Express device in order to hear music untethered from your PC. Unlike the various "philes" (audio, video, or whatever), though, you don't have unlimited amounts of cash to buy all the latest and greatest stuff; in fact, you're drawing the line, right here and right now! Enough spending money on the "digital revolution!" You'll make do with the old cassette player, and when it breaks down, well, you'll just sing to yourself! Actually, there is a far cheaper way to play digital music on your existing equipment meaning you don't have to spring for a new player and pay for installation. For far less than NIS 100, you can get a cassette adapter that you plug into your car's cassette player - and attach to it the digital personal stereo you already have. The digital files get piped through the adapter, and your car stereo thinks its got a cassette tape inside it and starts playing the music being fed from your player! Of course, it works with any cassette player, not just the ones in your car so it's also a cheap way to get your MP3 files to play through your living room stereo system's speakers, a la' AirPort Express (see an example at http://www.jr.com/JRProductPage.process?Product=3707971). There are a number of variations of this item available, including devices that transmit digital files to your car radio wirelessly (http://www.shoptronics.com/wimptofmraca.html), a self-contained wireless transmitter which connects to your cigarette lighter (http://www.psism.com/mp3onchannel.htm), and a self contained "cassette" shaped device that goes into your car stereo, but doesn't require you to connect your player, since it has all the music you'll be playing (www.dansdata.com/dah220.htm). But forget all those wires and gadgets - pretty soon, you'll be able to listen to wireless, networked "radio" broadcast by your fellow drivers! The Roadcasting project (http://roadcasting.org/process.html) http://roadcasting.org/process.html) will let you listen in on what other drivers in a several kilometer area are listening to - and let you pick and choose the songs you want, "training" your Roadcaster device to select the music you like. Amazing! It's almost like when a song you didn't like on the radio, you would press a button, and change the station! Ds@newzgeek.com



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