Car radios were first produced in the 1930s; the most notable developers were Brothers Paul and Joseph Galvin, who owned the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation. They made their first car radio under the brand name “Motorola.” FM was developed by Blaupunkt in 1952, which became the standard in 1961. Car radios would remain AM/FM stereo until the turn of the twenty-first century.
Once audio cassettes and compact discs came along, the in-dash car stereo became more commonly known as a “head unit”. Today, that receiver, much like a home receiver, is the “brains” of the car audio operation—allowing the user to control sound output and adjust it as needed. Manufacturer-installed in-dash systems are a marvel of computerization and function and aftermarket car stereos provide superior options and more features than the factory-installed head units.
Modern aftermarket car stereos feature enhanced graphics that include animated displays and customizable color schemes. The sound output of these units are generally louder and cleaner than factory-installed car head units and most have enhanced security features to prevent the head unit from being stolen. For the ultimate security features, these devices offer detachable face plates and stealth modes. When professionally installed, it is difficult to tell that a third-party car stereo wasn’t original equipment for the car.
Aftermarket car stereos come standard with controls for AM/FM tuning, volume, left-to-right balance, fader (front-to-back balance), tone, and source selection. They may also have CD, MP3, WMA, and AAC playback capability.
These head units add special skip protection, built-in crossovers and equalizers and even Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound decoding. At the top of the line, head units boast features such as DVD playback, satellite radio controls, digital HD Radio, internal hard drives, Bluetooth capability, GPS navigation and inputs for iPod and USB use.
Bluetooth-enabled car stereos give you the capability to play music wirelessly from your laptop, cell phone or other digital media players.
With 5.1 and even 7.1 Dolby digital and THX II Certified channel surround sound systems now integrated in newer cars, car audio from the 1930s has come a very long way.