Everything You Need To Know About Bluetooth Devices For The Car 

 May 24, 2021

By  Jacqui Cheng

The love affair between a human and being and their car has been passionate, and one which has been around ever since the automobile was invented over one hundred years ago. If anything, the bond has become stronger over the years with advancements in technology and people’s heavy reliance on their vehicles to live out their daily lives.

For some automobile owners, the car is not just a mechanical object which gets them from point A to point B; it is an important status symbol which needs to be hooked up with the latest toys and gadgets to be fully appreciated.

Of course, these tech goodies are not just for showing off, some of them actually have practical applications and provide a level of utility and convenience for the car owner.

After World War II, the suburban population in North America increased significantly, mostly due to returning war veterans preferring to reside in a quieter place away from the loud and bustling cities.


To meet the increased housing demands in the burbs, homes were quickly mass-produced utilizing non-descript, unoriginal almost identical designs. This allowed for the mass exodus of humanity to the suburbs, which has its share of plus and minuses compared to city life.

Living out in the suburbs now meant that you had to commute to another city for employment, thus spending more time driving and sitting in your car than ever before.

Suddenly, people driving an hour or more to their place of employment became a common occurrence which was readily accepted. Long work commutes were something which was not the norm before the suburban population explosion.

Naturally, with people spending a lot more time in their vehicles, they now had a greater need for making those longer drives more comfortable and enjoyable. And nothing adds more enjoyment to your ride than some tunes blaring from the good old trusty car radio. For many years, the car radio was practically the go-to for listening to music while in your vehicle.

In addition to AM / FM, the radios later added 8-track players, cassette players and CD players to increase selection and variety of music which can be played. Thankfully today, you do not have to lug around bulky 8-tracks, weather sensitive cassettes or fragile CDs to listen to your music. Your smartphone or a tiny USB memory stick can do the job just fine.

Although the car radio has yet to become entirely obsolete, it is rather outdated and behind the times compared to Bluetooth and other technologies which have been recently developed and used for alternative ways to listen to music in the car. There is quite a bit to learn about Bluetooth and how it can add value for you as an automobile owner.

Within this article, we will explore many aspects of Bluetooth technology for car, and how it has changed the landscape when it comes to car owners. If you are passionate about music, as well as your vehicle, and are looking for a definitive upgrade from the old school car radio, the following information should provide some practical and useful insight about this issue.

What Is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a radio wave technology which permits devices to communicate wirelessly over short distances which are usually less than 30 feet. Electronics which interact in this fashion are designed with built-in radio antennas consisting of transmitters and receivers. This permits them to send and receive wireless signals between devices which are also Bluetooth enabled.

The unusual name Bluetooth comes from a Danish King by the name of Harald Bluetooth, who united the Scandinavian population in their 10th century. Apparently, the idea with Bluetooth is to unite electronic gadgets so that they can communicate without the need for any cumbersome and annoying cables to be involved in the process.

What Is Bluetooth Used For?

Some examples which use Bluetooth include downloading images from a digital camera to a personal computer, connecting a wireless mouse to a PC and hooking up a hands-free headset to a cellphone to talk or listen to music while being able to drive safely.


Since you do not have to use one hand to hold the cellphone to your ear, you can keep both hands on the steering wheel while using your device.

In essence, Bluetooth uses wireless radio wave technology and is a relatively simple way to network together over short distances electronic gadgets such as printers, cell phones, personal computers, digital cameras, gaming controllers, among many other devices.

One of the beauties of Bluetooth is that older electronics can be adapted for Bluetooth use with plug-in adapters such as USB sticks.

Car Radios And How They’re Very Much Behind When It Comes To Technology

As we touched upon in the introduction, the car radio has been a tried and tested feature of the automobile for a very long time. However, it is now showing its age, as it has had difficulty keeping up with the rapid-fire technological advancements the past few years.

Many modern vehicles have an audio system which is integrated as part of its more extensive entertainment and information operating system. The problem is that automobiles take several years to develop and manufacture, and their technology lags behind what is available in the latest and greatest phone features.

The audio system is a key element in automobiles and needs to be up to par with the other technological advancements. If you are unable to incorporate your technological upgrades in your phone to your car’s system, then you are at a severe disadvantage when driving. Having to rely on the automobile’s often outdated capabilities can certainly be a drag.

How A Simple Bluetooth Adapter Can Transform The Way You Listen To Music In Your Car

How It Connects To Your Car?

If you need a way to transform that behind-the-times relic car radio into the modern age, you will need either an auxiliary input jack or a USB input and a Bluetooth drive. With this device, you can use your cellphone and other digital devices to not only take phone calls, but also to control the music in your car. Therefore, you will no longer be reliant on your outdated sound system.


By utilizing such a device, you are bypassing any complicated installation and wiring to upgrade your system. It does not get much more straightforward than just plugging in your Bluetooth adapter and completely transforming your car radio.

How It Gets Power

Depending on the Bluetooth adapter which you are using, it can be powered by a range of different things in your car. Other devices may work by plugging them into your car's lighter socket. Of course, there are other external portable power sources which can be used. However, it depends on compatibility with your Bluetooth device.

Type Of Bluetooth Adapters

FM / Radio Transmitters

An FM / Radio Transmitter is a low-power device that broadcasts a radio wave signal from a portable audio device to any standard FM radio. The transmitter works by being plugged into the audio device’s headphone jack, then broadcasting the signal over an FM broadcast band frequency, so it can be picked up by a radio which is close by.

This device permits portable audio devices to make use of a louder and better quality sound system, such as a car radio. FM / Radio Transmitters are often used as a viable workaround for utilizing portable audio devices on car stereos which do not have an Auxiliary input jack or Bluetooth audio connectivity.

Aux Jack Connectors

Aux Jack Connectors are also known as Auxiliary inputs which are audio connections which resemble headphone sockets. Used with an AUX-IN cable, they permit sound to be inputted from any electronic media device containing a headphone socket.

Automobiles are manufactured with two types of AUX inputs which include the 3.5mm and RCA. These inputs are normally labeled ‘AUX', ‘AUX-IN' or ‘Line In' and are usually situated in the glovebox, armrest or console. After 2007, many cars have these inputs fitted as standard.

USB Connectors

Universal Serial Bus (USB) inputs are digital connections made for the purpose of connecting and charging various devices. The USB ports contained in vehicles permit the charging of media devices, playing digital music files for a USB stick and to connect and play audio from media devices such as cell phones.

The problem with USB ports in vehicles is that not all cars support the same functionality. While some USB ports will integrate fully with your smartphone, others will only charge devices. From a visual standpoint, USB ports are rectangular and are sometimes found on their own. However, most of today's automobiles come with a USB port and a 3.5mm AUX input.

Other Ways To Access Music

USB Stick

USB Memory Sticks can be plugged into a USB port in a car for music playback. The USB Stick must be correctly formatted and also contain the types of files which are compatible. As a general rule of thumb, you should use a 32GB USB stick formatted with the FAT(32) file system with MP3 files.


After connecting your USB memory stick to the USB port in your car, the music content will be uploaded to your car's audio system. This process may take some time when you first do it; however, it should be quicker when you connect the same drive at a later time.

The next step is to switch your audio system source to USB, which will take you to an external devices / audio source menu. Within this menu, you will be able to cycle through a list of connection options which are available in your vehicle. Finally, select the music tracks you would like to hear from the list.

SD Cards

Many automobiles have inputs for SD Memory Cards which can be used to store and playback certain types of music files. The SD card input is a thin rectangular slot which has SD written adjacent to it. The SD cards are just like those which are used in your digital camera to store images.

Once you have uploaded compatible music files (usually mp3, WMA or AAC) to the SD Card, plug the card into the slot. Then you will have to select SD Card from the audio device menu, which should permit you to play the music tracks on the card.

Some of the automobile models which come fitted with SD Card slots include those manufactured by Alpha Romeo, Audi, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Renault, Smart, and Volkswagen.

AUX Ports

Using AUX Ports is one of the simplest ways to play music or any other type of digital audio media in your automobile by using them to connect a mobile device. The AUX port routes the signal directly into the car stereo for a cleaner connection.

You will need to connect your mobile to your automobile's AUX port utilizing a 1/8 inch to 1/8 inch audio cable. Plug one end of the audio cable into the headphone port on your mobile device and the other end into the AUX port.

Press the AUX button on your car stereo or access the input button to select the AUX input. You should put the volume on your mobile device about halfway up and then start the player. The mast volume is controlled by using the car stereo's volume control.

The Bluetooth Adapter As Hands-Free Call Device

Pairing (defined as connecting wirelessly) Bluetooth smartphones with a car stereo receiver allow you to engage in hands-free calling. This is done by opening up a two-way line of communication between your cell phone and your car stereo.

To determine if your phone and car stereo are capable of engaging in hands-free calling, you must find out if each device is compatible with specific Bluetooth protocols.


As mentioned in the introduction, the hands-free call function is vital for the safety of a driver who is using their personal device while driving. It will dial a phone number, answer a call and permit a two-way conversation between you and the person on the other end.

The driver can do all this safely without having to touch the phone, take their hands off the steering wheel or their eyes off the road.

Other significant advantages Bluetooth has as a hands-free device is that incoming telephone numbers pop up on the stereo's monitor display and you can hear the callers over the car's speakers. With hands-free operational, Bluetooth designates your car stereo as a hands-free unit and your phone as a gateway.

The way it works is your voice goes into an external microphone, to your stereo, to your phone and finally onto the caller. The caller's voice passes through the phone and then gets sent to your car stereo, and hence you can listen through the car speakers.

Depending on the Bluetooth stereo, some come equipped with built-in microphones, while others come with external mics which are mounted nearby such as on the visor.

Difference Between Bluetooth Versions And How They Affect Sound Quality

Bluetooth was developed for users speaking over the phone without using their hands. One of the design choices made with Bluetooth was to have a narrow bandwidth which reduced the device's energy consumption.

Unfortunately, this made audio compression a must, which was entirely fine for uses where high-quality audio was not required, such as phone calls.

However, when Bluetooth headphones and speakers started to be manufactured, it was rather evident that the early versions of Bluetooth, such as 1.1 and 2.0, were not capable of providing sound quality capable of competing. Therefore, Bluetooth 3.0, 4.0 and 4.1 were designed with an increase of bandwidth up to 25 mb/s or even more.

Even with the significant increase in bandwidth, the lower quality was still evident in Bluetooth audio. For audio to be transferred with Bluetooth, it must first be compressed; and therein lies the problem.


Bluetooth uses the Low Complexity Subband Coding (SBC), which was designed to be efficient when using power. Being frugal in its power consumption means that there is a loss of information, which equates to a loss of quality for the audio.

The breakthrough in Bluetooth audio quality was provided by aptX, a codec which was developed to provide better quality compression for Bluetooth audio. Although this led to a significant increase in quality, it is still not comparable to making a transfer which is wired.

Another issue which affects the sound quality is the quality of the speakers which are being used to reproduce the sound. The higher quality Bluetooth speakers support the code aptX and are the best choice if mobility is required. Although there may be a slight loss in audio quality, it should be tolerated and not create much of a problem.

Are FM Transmitters Legal?

In the United States, there are severe penalties for producing and selling overpowered FM transmitters. However, these penalties only apply to the manufacturer and not the consumer who purchases and uses it.

Due to the high number of FM Transmitters which are used and the mobile nature of using it in your car, it is improbable the FCC has the resources to find you, and this is even if they did care to do so. It is the use of a powerful and stationary transmitter which usually gets people into hot water.

If you do use one, it is best if you and your fellow commuters to tune your FM transmitter to a frequency that is unused. This will make the sound quality of your music much better; you will not have problems with interference and the occupant in the car adjacent to you will not have issues either.

There are some transmitters on the market which can automatically scan for an empty frequency. If your device is not capable of that, there are several steps which can be taken to improve the entire experience of using one.


There are many positive applications when using Bluetooth for car or any other type of vehicle. Since Bluetooth is radio wave technology which permits two-way communication between devices, it can be used for driving safely while answering calls, talking on the phone, playing music and others.

The fact that it works as hands-free and allows you to complete all these functions while still having your hands on the steering wheel is not only safe, it is convenient and efficient.

There are numerous Bluetooth devices which can be used in your automobile. Deciding on which device is best for you depends on the Bluetooth features of your car, what purpose you intend to use these devices and your personal preferences, of course. The technology is continually evolving and doing the proper research should pay off for you in the long run.


It should also be noted that due to the process of compressing the information which Bluetooth is transferring from one device to another, the quality of music may not be equal to a wire transfer.

The earlier original versions of Bluetooth suffered greatly in this respect since Bluetooth was designed to be power efficient, which means they drop information when transferring audio files. However, significant advancements have been made in recent years where the difference in quality has narrowed substantially, making easy to ignore the difference.

Within this guide, we have touched on Bluetooth and how it can improve the quality of your car stereo function and how it can be used for safe driving purposes. If you would like to continue further, please have a look at our buying guide where we will showcase some of the best Bluetooth devices on the market. We wish you all the best in your Bluetooth search!

Jacqui Cheng

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