Monday, 22 October 2012

Driver's Seat

It might offer mildly inferior sound quality, but there are many advantages to Spotify over CDs. Not the least of which is the ability to listen to Nirvana’s Nevermind without those excruciating 16 minutes of silence separating the last track in two. At home, I’m playing Spotify wirelessly to two destinations; at work I listen to Spotify through a very nice pair of cans. That leaves me with a missing link: the car.
That problem was solved the other weekend through the installation of a new car stereo, one with a USB input. I could get a Bluetooth capable car stereo but chose not to: not only do they cost more, not only is sound quality slightly compromised, not only does it drain my smartphone battery, it was that constant pairing / switching Bluetooth on and off and the phone that I couldn’t stand. So we went with USB, which allows us to play music from our iPhone and Android phones as well as from USB sticks. The unit also features a microphone input, which pretty much renders it a universal player.
The thought of replacing the car stereo felt weird. Once upon a decade or two ago, car stereos were all the rage; one had to look after her stereo for fear of theft. Today, in this age of the smartphone, I guess no one cares anymore; you get the unit that came with your car and you live with it. Besides, it’s too much of a hassle to replace the existing car stereo with a new one, isn’t it?
Well, it isn’t. I used the services of an installer that came to my house and did all the work for me. The guy was an hour late on a Saturday and his eyes told me his previous night was far more exciting than mine, but he did a fine professional job. I have to say I was rather disappointed to see that car stereo installations still meant sticking bits of wire to one another with masking tape; I expected humanity to be better than that by this century. Still, all’s well, including the steering wheel controls.
Sound quality is quite good, for a car, and the presence of much powerful amplifiers to the ones our car came with is clearly evident in the tightness of sound and the ability to notice sounds that were never there before. On the annoying side, the stereo comes with an “iPod control” feature, that means my iPhone starts automatically playing iPod music when I connect it; only that I want to play Spotify instead, you dumb radio player, which necessitates a ritual of terminating the iPod app and starting Spotify instead. I could solve it by getting rid of iPod music altogether, but I would like to keep my Beatles + Pink Floyd + Led Zep on me at all times (you know, the music you can’t get on Spotify).
Quirks aside, I am very happy with the new car sound. My son is happy, too, with the flashy unit, so there you go: each for our own reasons, we are both looking forward to some long drives now. Perhaps most importantly, this investment we made in our car speaks of us intending to keep it for a few years more. I don’t see why we shouldn’t keep it: in its seven plus years of service, Our Car™ never gave us any problems. I know I’m going off subject here, but there are cars that can’t boast that achievement during the first year of their lives.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m a happy man, and with Spotify in the car I’m even happier. Music has a way of doing it to me.

Image: Sony

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