Bluetooth vs AUX inputs in Your Car


Listening to music in your car used to be a pretty simple proposition. For the good part of a century, you had two choices of audio to listen to: the first was AM radio stations and the second was FM radio stations. That was it. Then the march of technological progress delivered us various prerecorded audio formats such as eight track tapes, cassettes and CDs. Today we still have AM-FM radio, of course, but prerecorded audio is generally enjoyed by capturing it via wireless Bluetooth connections or by wired AUX input ports. The question is: Which is the best way to listen to audio in your car? The sales staff at Kims Chevrolet of Laurel, a local Chevrolet dealer in Laurel, MS, say they get asked this all the time by prospective buyers. Let’s take a look.

Aux inputs 101

There are two general types of Aux inputs in automobiles. The first are the standard analog connections often called phone plugs or headphone jacks. While these are tried and true technology, there can be issues using this type of connector. Not because of the connector itself, mind you, but because the audio going into this connector. The audio signal coming out of some phones and MP3 players through the headphone jack is not terribly high quality. After all, the engineers who designed these devices, designed them to drive a set of earbuds, not a high-end audio system.

The other type of Aux audio input uses a USB connector. USB connectors process digital signals and digital audio, and when executed properly, can yield excellent, noise-free sound reproduction. If you have a digital device such as smartphone, MP3 player or even a thumbdrive, connecting that device via a USB cable to your car’s USB port is going to yield some pretty good audio.

Bluetooth 101

The other method is via Bluetooth wireless signals. Here’s how it started. Bluetooth was originally invented as a way to create secure, wireless, local networks. The basic idea behind the creation of the Bluetooth protocol was to come up with a faster, wireless alternative to the RS-232 serial port on the back of personal computers. It worked extremely well in that application and by the late 1990s, it was finding other uses besides mundane data transmission and started to be adopted by the telephony and consumer electronics industries.

Since Bluetooth also includes the ability for streaming audio, it was only natural that car stereo manufacturers would start to offer that option as well. With the right Bluetooth device, you can stream audio, video, and may even be able to control various radio apps right from your phone or other digital devices. The consumer electronics industry integrated it into quite a variety of devices in no time at all.

The main drawback of using Bluetooth to listen to music in your car is audio quality; the audio quality will typically be worse with Bluetooth than with an aux connection. The reason for this is that Bluetooth audio is compressed for transmission. This means that there will be some loss of audio quality when it is decompressed and played in your car.

So, which is better?

The question of whether Bluetooth is better than Aux in terms of listening to music in a car comes down to two issues. What is more important to you: audio quality or convenience?

From a sound quality angle, the digital signal going into a USB input is going to yield higher sound quality. Sure, you have to use a cable to hook it up but that effort is rewarded with great sound.

The main drawback of using Bluetooth to listen to music in your car is audio quality. While it may be more convenient in the long term, the audio quality will typically be worse with Bluetooth than with an aux connection.


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