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Car stereos that bypass your iPod's built-in digital-to-analog converter

Heads up!

Welcome to this article from the Crutchfield archives. Have fun reading it, but be aware that the information may be outdated and links may be broken.

Crutchfield Hi-Fi 2.0

For some time now, we've been offering two tips to people who want to get great sound when they connect their iPod to a home audio system:

  1. Import (rip) your music at a higher bit rate, preferrably in the Apple Lossless format.
  2. Bypass your iPod's built-in digital-to-analog converter (DAC), by means of the Wadia 170iTransport. It's the only home dock that lets you send music directly to your receiver or outboard DAC in the digital realm. When the digital-to-analog conversion is done by the receiver's DAC or a high-end outboard DAC, you get much cleaner, fuller sound.

It's about time we offered the same advice to car stereo fans.

There are quite a few car stereos on the market now that come with a high-speed USB connection designed to work with most iPods. This includes many of the newer car stereos from Alpine, Pioneer, JVC, Eclipse, Kenwood, Dual, Sony and Clarion. Like the Wadia home audio dock, these car stereos bypass the iPod's built-in DAC, which does a decent job for listening with earbuds, but can't match the performance of the advanced DACs found in some car stereos.

Here are links to a few stereos that include both the high-speed USB connection for iPod and a high-grade 24-bit DAC:

Alpine iDA-X303
Alpine iDA-X305
Clarion VX709
Clarion Z709
Eclipse CD7200 mk II (After this post was published, we learned that this stereo does not bypass the iPod's DAC)
Kenwood KDC-HD942U
Kenwood Excelon KVT-819DVD

Editor's note, 11/30/10: Most of the items listed above are discontinued. Please see Crutchfield's current lineup of stereos that bypass your iPod's DAC.

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