updated 03:10 am EST, Fri January 10, 2014
Bluetooth for aging autos
Expensive electronics gather the most attention at CES, but there are always a few seemingly small accessories that are worth mention. Ion Audio's Bluetooth cassette adapter fits into the latter category, addressing an audio compatibility issue that affects anyone with a car that is more than a couple years old. Recognizing its significance, we had a chance to check out the adapter at the show.
The adapter isn't much to look at, integrating a Bluetooth receiver and a battery inside a standard cassette that promises to work in any car with a cassette deck. A Mini USB port enables the internal battery to be charged, though the charge only lasts approximately six hours. Aside from music, the device also enables hands-free calling when paired with a device that has its own mic.
We've owned more than a couple cars with cassette decks or CD players, but we've long ago transitioned primarily to our smartphone to play music away from home. We've also owned a handful of cassette adapters, three of which quickly ceased to function due to cable damage in the cassette deck. Aftermarket Bluetooth decks have been available for years, but it seems silly to replace the entire stereo just to add wireless connectivity.
Obviously the audio quality from a cassette adapter, wether Bluetooth or wired, is going to be worse than built-in Bluetooth, USB or a direct 3.5mm auxiliary cable. We have also noticed a big difference in quality between different wired adapters, though we hope Ion's engineers have done a better job than the cheaper alternatives.
The Ion adapter clearly isn't for audiophiles, but it could make the daily commute a bit easier for many drivers. Adoption will be closely tied to price, which has yet to be revealed.