New Cars: Branded Audio Is The Thing

Car manufacturers are usually slow to adopt new technology, but holy cow, do they love premium branded audio. 80% of 2007 models for sale in the U.S. will offer “branded audio” as optional or standard equipment up from 67% during the ’06 model year. Cars feature brands like Harman/Kardon, Bose, and Boston Acoustics. Car makers are crazy over ipod as well, From BusinessWire:

    “Consumers also want to transfer and play their personal digital media content from a PC, or portable media device, and the most sought after feature in cars is support for Apple’s iPod. Last year only 12% of vehicles for sale supported true iPod integration, while nearly 50% of the ’07 models support iPods. Meanwhile, auxiliary input is supported by nearly 60% of ’07 models.”

Does branded audio appeal to you? —MEGHANN MARCO

Branded Car Audio Hits Full Stride for the 2007 Model Year (Press Release) [Buisness Wire]

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  1. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I would like to see a car stereo with built in flash storage. So you could either put a CD in, and have it ripped, or connect a storage device via USB. 10GB would be fine.

  2. LintMan says:

    I really wish my ’05 Accord had iPod support. It has a built-in CD-changer, but can’t play MP3s, so I can get maybe 70 songs across the 6 CD’s, as opposed to hundreds if it had CD-MP3 support or 1500+ on my iPod. The car stereo has no cassette player or extern inputs, so I can’t even use one of the cassette adapters and my only alternatives are to use one of those crappy FM adapters or hack the thing to wire in the iPod myself. (I can’t even upgrade to a nice 3rd party stereo because it has a wacky dash layout and the car’s heat/AC controls are integrated right into the stereo display)

    As for branded audio in general, I have to say that “Bose Stereo System” sounds a lot more preminum to me than, say “Honda Premium Audio” or whatnot. When they’re trying to get someone to lay out maybe $800+ for the upgrade, that counts for something.

  3. bambino says:

    My 06 mitsu eclipse came with optional ‘sun & sound package’ that included a Rockford-Fosgate 6-cd in-dash changer as well as a 12″ RF woofer.

  4. thrillhouse says:

    I couldn’t care less about branded audio in a car. But an input jack on the front of a car stereo, now thats worth shelling out a few extra bucks for.

  5. wikkit says:

    I have a hard time understanding iPod connectivity in a car. That new car is going to have a 10 – 20 year lifespan. How long is the iPod interface going to remain unchanged?

    It shocks me that only 60% of new cars have something as simple and useful as an auxillary input to the stereo. I know my ’04 Subaru doesn’t.

    In the 90′s we swapped from tape decks to CD players, and then flash/HDD players in the 00′s. Any of these could be player through a standard head-unit with a 3.5mm aux-in. Instead those of us who don’t own a non-iPod player, or don’t have an input to the head-unit, spend $50 on poor-sounding FM transmitters. I’m amazed they didn’t become standard radio features in the mid-90′s.

    I shy away from gimmicks on a purchases as large as a car, but a little flexibility and future-proofing is always welcome.

  6. wikkit says:

    I appologize for the lack of cohesive thought in my last post, it’s riddled with flubs. Here’s the gist:

    iPod integration——>gimmicky

    aux-in—–>good! consumer choice and flexibility

  7. Sudonum says:

    Lintman, go to Crutchfield to research an adapter that will “hack the thing” cleanly and neatly. I bought one for my ’04 GM truck and it works great. In many cases the car stereo controls will also control the iPod, this includes the steering wheel controls, if you have them.

  8. Malaclypse says:

    You know what I’d really like to see? A car stereo with a damn line-in jack. 1/8″, RCA, I could care less- just give me something!

  9. The_Truth says:

    Wikkit – Part of the ipod appeal is that by paying license fees to use the connectors, Apple guarantees that the connectors will stay the same from generation to generation. With such market saturation they cna make that promise, and car makers will willingly pay for the product.

    So yeah, 20yrs down the line, we may be onto ipod beaming music direct to your brain, but you can bet your ass it will still be connected to the car by a wire!

  10. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    The ipod integration is fine and dandy, but the main appeal of the ipod is the convenience of the clickwheel navigation. Once you hook up the ipod and use the head unit to control the ipod, you lose that convenience. Now you’re using buttons to navigate through your music, and you’re using the head unit’s 1-line display to see the track info.

    What I really want is an easy way to upgrade the factory head unit with an aftermarket head unit of my choice. Or at least offer an option to purchase the car without a head unit. Coughing up $1000 for a Bose audio system is lame, considering Bose audio isn’t quite what it used to be. And most modern cars are making it more and more difficult to swap out the factory head unit with an aftermarket one.

  11. etinterrapax says:

    I’d love aux-in, but I’m not dissatisfied with my current setup–I have a Toyota Matrix with both a CD and a cassette player. I always found it a little iffy to use an FM adapter with my iPod, so a cassette player is convenient. I’d burn discs, but audiobooks are too big for them. I’d have a million discs around.

    That said, branded audio might be something to me if I were quite a lot richer than I am now. Until then, it’ll just be another option I wouldn’t spend the money on.

  12. HawkWolf says:

    I bought an ipod interface to a new alpine head unit. it wasn’t really that much more money on top of the head unit, and it allows me to control what song is playing without holding up the ipod and swirling my finger around endlessly, which is useful when I’m actually driving.

    It also has an aux in at the back, which I can break out with a cable.

    It seemed a reasonable thign to do, since I had a car, an ipod, and wanted to connect them in the most verbose way possible..

    I’m surprised no one’s gone, “wow, bose sucks” or something yet. Just ‘not what it used to be’ ;)

  13. DeeJayQueue says:

    I mostly drive junkers or beaters around. My current Jeep YJ has a JVC head unit in it with an 1/8″ jack in the face for my iPod.
    My only new car I’ve had was an 04 SE-R SpecV, which came from the factory with the same jack.

    As far as branded audio goes, until about 10 years ago most car stereos were crappy. Some were better than others but when you trust same people to make a speaker as you do a steering column, well it probably won’t sound very good. I like the idea of branded audio in cars because it puts someone else’s reputation on the line. I know Bose makes good kit, so I’d trust that they wouldn’t crap out when it comes to my car, likewise with Boston, H&K et al. These days though most factory systems sound very good, go very loud and people put lots of thought into them. I don’t know if branding is necessary other than for just the name value.

  14. B says:

    When my car stereo’s head unit died, I replaced it with one that has an ipod jack. Previously I had been using a tape adapter and controlling the iPod with the click-wheel, but using the stereo controls is a lot less dangerous. Now, if I replace my car, I’m either bringing that stereo with me, or getting one that has iPod integration. As for branded audio. With just replacing the head unit and the old speakers, my stereo sounds a lot better than it had before, so I think branded audio is worth it. However, I’ve always though Bose stereos are overrated and overpriced.

  15. Frank Grimes says:

    Having worked for Bose for (8) years I can attest how important it is to the COMPANY. Bose started the whole 3rd part branding thing with Delco, hence Delco/Bose being available in Buicks in the early 1980′s, and then other GM Models. Amar Bose essentially bet the company that this would work. He went to Delco (at the time still owned by GM) and said that he would make an Audio system for Buick. They really didn’t want to partner but agreed that if the system passed their standards, they MAY partner with Bose. Bose then, using their own capital, put together a system with NO agreement that they would sell even one of them. It worked well and the relationship was born. For almost 20 years Bose even had a factory in Michigan making the head units (now in Mexico, go figure). Eventually it branched out beyond Delco and is now in many GM models, Mercedes, Acura, Mazda, and other, mainly premium, autos. Bose is still unique because they make the entire system, the head unit and the speakers. This causes some issues because the speakers are self powered so swapping out say the tweeters in the door isn’t possible, rip it all out or keep it all.

    For Bose, the deal is sweet on many levels. The OEM division is relatively small but produces hundred of millions in revenue annually. It also drives thousands of consumers a year to purchase other Bose products. I believe the average price of an car with a Bose Branded system in it is close to $50K, then you have a built in marketing tool that you were paid for and will drive consumers (I thin the cus sat for Bose Audio is well over 90%) to your other products. I guess I am partial and think for the most part they sound fantastic nut agree that installing a simple stereo pin adapter should be pretty simple.

  16. mhleung says:

    I have the Bose “Studio On Wheels” system on my new 2007 Infiniti G35. It is pretty good, but people are saying that there are better systems out there.

    For me it is already great, with 10 speakers (3 of them woofers, 2 in the front!).

    Shame it does NOT come with ipod integration. Well, I am happy with my mp3 CDs.

  17. Trai_Dep says:

    Having firmly crossed over to the iPod scheme (it brings tears to my eyes to have to burn CDs to play small snippets of my music library), I’m on board for this trend.

    Question, though. Before, I always bought after-market CD players. The decks have better CD playing, anti-skipping, etc. In the iPod era, exactly what does buying a deck DO for the sound, anyway? It’s simply piping in the iPod signal. It seems like I’m asked to pay, say, $2-500 for… An LCD panel and a slider bar interface?!

    Are high-end decks pointless if all they’re doing is driving your iPod?

    (of course this doesn’t account for the amps, speakers, etc. They’re definately still worth it. I’m asking solely about decks in the iPod era)