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Answering All Your Car Questions

Tunes to go: Music from your computer to your car

(ARA) - The digital audio revolution is in full swing as music lovers worldwide are using their computers as high-tech jukeboxes.

But you're not just limited to listening to songs on your PC while you check your e-mail. It's easier than ever to manage your collection and listen to it in your car, whatever your destination.

"It's great to hit the road and hear hours of the songs you want, when you want them. You're no longer confined to hearing only the radio, or swapping CDs on the front seat," said Dan Hodgson, senior vice president of Merchandising at Crutchfield Corporation, the leading Internet and catalog retailer of consumer electronics.

Several innovative and easy-to-use products help you move music from your PC to your car's sound system. Here are some quick pointers for getting your "tunes to go."

First, get the music you want to your PC. You can download files from the Internet, most commonly in the MP3 format, or copy tracks from your current CDs, using widely-available music management software.

Once you've got your music library, it's time to make it portable. Popular options include using a CD recorder in your computer to "burn" a disc of MP3-encoded songs, or storing your files on memory card devices that link to your computer through a docking station.

  • Replacing your car stereo receiver with one that plays MP3-encoded CDs is a popular way to listen to your PC music on the go. Since an MP3-encoded CD holds about 10 hours of music, you won't have to be flipping through endless CD cases in your car.

Many receivers, especially older ones, don't understand the MP3 code. But almost every manufacturer now makes one or more receivers for MP3 CD playback. With these, you can record a CD at home and simply slip it into your car receiver. Most receivers will even flash the titles for you.

  • If you have a portable MP3 player (or an MP3-compatible CD player), you don't need a special in-dash receiver. Just look for one that has an "aux in" -- an auxiliary input where you can plug your player directly into the head unit using a mini-jack. You'll hear your music played from your player through your car's sound system, though most systems aren't set up to scroll through song titles.
  • For users who prefer even more songs and higher-tech equipment, Sony and Pioneer offer mobile hard drive devices. These products store massive amounts of music on their hard drives, like a computer. To move files from computer to car, they use a cartridge or other removable memory devices.
  • Another option is to use "mini-computers" that link to your receiver and your PC. For example, the Kenwood Music Keg (KHD-CX910) has a 10 gigabyte storage cartridge that can store and play back roughly 2,500 MP3-encoded songs through Kenwood car receivers. Blaupunkt has a compact MP3 drive (MDP01) that will hold about 18 hours of music. You'll be able to drive halfway across the country and never hear the same tune twice.

    Consumers can find complete information on mobile audio at