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Photo by Erik Mclean / Unsplash

Your car might not be equipped with Bluetooth or an AUX port, especially if it’s not a recent model. In that case, playing music from your phone will be challenging. Fortunately for music lovers, there are easy solutions.

In this guide, we’ll cover a few simple methods on how to play music in a car without AUX or Bluetooth. Soon enough, you’ll be enjoying your favorite tunes.

How to Use an FM Transmitter in Your Car

An FM transmitter is a wireless solution for playing music, like a bridge between your mobile device and your car’s audio system. It plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter socket and connects to your device through a cord or Bluetooth. It broadcasts the audio from your phone over a short FM frequency, and your car radio will pick up the signal.

Here’s how you power a transmitter:

  1. Connect the transmitter to the power outlet (cigarette lighter). If you need to power multiple devices at the same time, consider using a separate splitter.
  2. Choose an FM frequency on the transmitter (e.g., FM105).
  3. Tune your car radio to the same frequency.

If your transmitter offers Bluetooth connectivity, pair your phone with the transmitter through your device’s Bluetooth settings, and this will enable the transmission of radio waves. Sometimes, strong local radio waves can disrupt the signal. If that happens, just change the FM frequency on the transmitter and match it on your car radio to fix the problem.

Good sound quality from the transmitter depends on its quality and potential interference. The number of FM stations around you and the model of your phone can also affect the audio.

How to Play Music Using USB or SD Card in a Car

Many cars have a built-in USB port, so you can connect one end of the cable to your phone and the other to the car’s USB port. This makes it possible to play music with better sound quality, keep your phone charged, and take hands-free calls while driving.

If your car has a USB port, here’s how to play music in a car without AUX:

  1. Copy music to a compatible USB drive.
  2. Insert the USB drive into the car’s USB port. It could be on the dashboard, head unit, center armrest or compartment, or glove compartment.
  3. Car stereo detects the driver and plays the music.
  4. Control tracks, volume, and skip songs using car stereo controls.

If you prefer an SD card:

  1. Put your songs on an SD card.
  2. Insert the SD card into your car’s SD card slot.
  3. Your car stereo will find the SD card and play the music.
  4. Use the car stereo buttons to control audio.

The steps might be a bit different depending on your car model. So, check your car’s manual for specific instructions on how to play music using a USB or SD card.

How to Connect and Use a Cassette to AUX Adapter

If your car still has a cassette tape player (which is cool again), you can enjoy your music with a cassette tape adapter. Here’s how:

  1. Buy a tape adapter that connects to your phone either via Bluetooth or a 3.5mm audio jack.
  2. Put the adapter into your car’s cassette player.
  3. Connect the adapter to your phone.
  4. Find the Tape mode on your car’s audio system menu. If not automatic, activate it manually.
  5. Play your music, and you’ll hear it through your car’s speakers.

If you have an iPhone without a headphone jack, think about getting a tape adapter with Bluetooth. To improve sound quality, clean the adapter’s head or replace it if needed. Finally, check reviews because not all cassette players may work well with every adapter.

How to Use Sound Routing Apps for In-Car Music

Your car might have hands-free Bluetooth for calls but not for playing music, which is common for models built between 2000 and 2013. This is the time for sound routing apps. They let you play any music through your car stereo using the same mode you use for calls and with better sound quality compared to transmitters.

To use sound routing apps, complete the following steps:

  1. Make sure your phone is paired with your car’s Bluetooth.
  2. Download and launch a sound routing app like Mono Bluetooth Router or BLE Auto Connect.
  3. Open the music app on your phone, and the sound will route to your car.

One thing to note here is that sound quality will be in mono (one signal channel) rather than stereo.

Use a Portable Speaker As an Alternative

Another good way to play music without AUX is to use a portable speaker. It’s one of the most convenient options where you connect your phone to the speaker using Bluetooth or a cable. Just make sure to place the speaker securely in your car to prevent it from moving around.

Although, keep in mind that this is a pricier choice compared to other methods. Also, it will be important to take precautions to secure the speaker in your car because portable speakers are more vulnerable to theft.

Do These Methods Result in Any Loss of Sound Quality?

In general, using an AUX connection in your car produces better sound quality compared to other methods. This is because AIX maintains high fidelity, which closely resembles the original audio recording. Most people may not notice the difference, but those who are passionate about sound quality may prefer AUX connections because they are analog end-to-end.

Another consideration is audio syncing. Alternative methods involve more data translation, and there is a delay in transmission between devices. Again, this delay may not be noticeable.

But with all that said, using alternative methods in your car is still better than driving in silence. With time, you’ll likely get used to any minor issues, and it won’t bother you at all.

Which Method Provides the Best Sound Quality?

You can get the best sound quality with USB. This is because a direct connection allows uncompressed audio data to transfer from your device to the car stereo, and this results in superior sound quality with minimal distortion.

Keep in mind that the actual sound quality is affected by many factors. It can be everything from the quality of your device and car stereo and the car’s interior acoustics to the type of cables used and the audio file being played.

Tips for an Enhanced In-Car Music Experience

Before we sign off, here are a few tips to ensure great tunes and crisp melodies:

  • Opt for higher-quality music files.
  • When playing music from your phone, fine-tune the sound settings for better audio.
  • Use an amplifier to make the sounds extra crisp and enjoyable.
  • Place speakers strategically in your car and try to optimize sound distribution and minimize distortion.
  • Adjust the volume levels of individual speakers.
  • Explore additional soundproofing options, such as adding insulation to doors.
  • Keep your car audio system in top condition — clean connections and ensure all components function correctly.

Each car has its own way of connecting your phone. You may be fortunate to have an inbuilt AUX or cord. In other cases, you’ll need to make some tweaks. For more detailed instructions, read the full article and the car’s manual.