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Sajeev
Community Manager

Community Question: Your favorite car stereo?

This week's community question centers around in-car entertainment. It's become a very important part of a car manufacturer's arsenal these days (thanks a lot, smart phones!) but but even an AM radio could make or break a car in the 1930s, FM was a big deal by the 1960s, 8-tracks in the 1970s, Cassettes in the 1980s, CD players in the 1990s, etc...you get the point. 

 

So what's your favorite bit of in-car entertainment? I have so many favorites to choose from, but perhaps the green buttons on an Alpine cassette deck inside a Lamborghini Countach is my top pick.  

Alpine advertisementAlpine advertisement

61 REPLIES 61
autowriter
Detailer

Engine, wind and road noise do not require a better audio system in a car than I have at home.  There should be a manufacturing standard that requires that at no time should a sound system be more powerful than the engine in the car.  Or that huge bass speakers should be rated on the Richter scale.  I tried several aftermarket sound systems years ago, and found them to be a money pit.  So I've stayed with the stock systems, even though it's sometimes difficult to maintain them properly.  But they provide pleasant background music while driving, and news broadcasts or audio books don't require high fidelity.  

Carfixr
Pit Crew

I agree, with the caveat that it is true of modern "stock" sound systems (last 10-15 years), but not so much before that. Upgrading the stock sound systems in say the mid 90's could yield amazing results. I'm not talking about license plate rattling bass or glass shattering tweeter arrays, but clear crisp sound. I had a "high performance" car audio shop as a neighbor to my repair garage in the early/mid 90's. The factory radio in my newish F-150 was deluxe - a cassette player and 4 speakers...but dismal at overcoming road noise on the highway. The shop next door "convinced" me to let him outfit my truck. He replaced OEM speakers with good aftermarket. Built a box behind the seat with small subwoofers and 2 amplifiers, added crossover circuitry to optimize speaker performance, all with used equipment he took on trade. The result was rich bass, crisp mid base snap and crystal clear highs, even with the windows down on the highway. I enjoyed my travels much more as a result, and at about the same price as the premium sound package on my '19 F150. Why suffer with poor quality sound if you spend a lot of time on the road? If all you do is shuffle bumper to bumper on the freeway to work, the AM radio in my 77 Ventura would suit, but just as with many options, we buy, build or modify to suit our needs and personality. I will add, however, that the premium OEM system in my '11 F250 was superior still to that system of the 90's, but that's not a fair comparison.

rbrianc
New Driver

Favorite car stereo? Had to be the Pioneer Super Tuner from the 70's. Being eighteen with that crazy love of my restored 1969 BMW 2002, the super tuner was the perfect interior lighting with that big round lit dial. It probably sounded great for the time but I'll never forget that glowing dial.

Tinkerah
Engineer

Yup, and they really did have extra sensitive RF sections that locked on well.

pickles_468
Pit Crew

Loved the Super Tuner! Swapped it into multiple cars over the yrs. My friend put an Alpine in his new 84 Bronco and it was amazing!

Having worked at a Ford Dealer in the 80's, I liked the JBL systems in the Lincolns etc....Good times

TinCanSailor
Intermediate Driver

I recently found a pair of them in my mom's garage... a cassette and 8-track versions.  Both of the under-dash units that were in my 69 Road Runner.  Unfortunately, the Road Runner was not found in her garage.  😞 

Rich
Intermediate Driver

You beat me to it! I put one of those YUGE Super Tuners in the dash of my 1st new "car" a 74 Dodge Tradesman. 2 Harmon Kardon home speakers under the bed in the back, facing forward, 2 door mounted Pioneer coaxes up front - and it had enough power to drive them. 🙂 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqtrE-iZsz0

Delaware_Doug
Pit Crew

I’m partial to the early C4 Corvette Delco/Bose system.  I special ordered a 1985 Corvette with, amongst other things, the Delco/Bose cassette stereo.  It was $895 option back then which was a pretty big chunk of change for the mid-‘80’s.  It was FANTASTIC!  Especially the Bose specific cassettes they sold for that system.  It was the only factory installed car stereo system that was designed & engineered specifically for the Corvette.  It mattered weather you ordered the cloth or leather upholstery, as it was tuned to the interior space with each speaker having its own amplifier.  You could play it at full volume without any distortion.  And those Bose cassettes were tuned to it as well.  Simply amazing. (for 1985)

ppointer
Detailer

The Bose system in our Infiniti is acceptable, with adequate clarity and satisfactory bass.  The stereo in every BMW we have owned has been crap.  Luckily the BMWs make some decent noises on their own to offset their awful sound systems.

dmopars
Intermediate Driver

The best sounding stereo I ever owned was the stock unit in a 1997 Integra GSR, but that was the most expensive car I owned. I now have a stock appearing AM/FM/AUX unit in my 72 Beetle. It’s connected to 2 coaxial speakers in boxes behind the rear seat. Not great, but allows me to plug up the iPhone and play some music on those early morning weekend drives. In my younger days, my stereos were all about the lighting at night; the headset, equalizer and power booster, usually all Kraco or Sparkomatic. None were good, but when I now see ads in old magazines, I can’t help but smile at the memories.

Thrillseeker
Intermediate Driver

My 2020 Scatpack Charger has an Alpine system that sounds great for a factory stereo.  I still remember cars with AM only radios and one speaker and in the 70's we were calling Crutchfield to order systems from the print catalog we got in the mail.  I've found Pioneer has never let me down in either the head unit or speaker categories.  Sony car audio is junk and doesn't hold up well.  My Kenwood system, I put in my 77 Monte Carlo in  1988 was rock solid.  My 70 Monte Carlo restomod has a bluetooth system in it that rocks.  I have to have my tunes going down the road!

FloridaMarty
Instructor

I second the Pioneer Super Tuner. I remember my first, I had to put it on lay-a- way at Gemco, because I didn't have the $149 all at once. 4 weeks later, installed, it was magic. 3 way, 6 x 9 speakers and cheap gas. Take me back.

Tinkerah
Engineer

I was going to mention the Super Tuner if no one else did. The under dash version right? I still have one though it's in the attic now, still on its slide mount.

CAN56
New Driver

Still have my Super Tuner, always meant to put in something old school. Stay may.

rdm101
New Driver

Hi-Fi systems in a car is very important to me. A great sound system in hot sports car greatly enhances the driving experience.

 

I presently have a 2008 Mazda MX-5, with GT package. This includes an amazing Bose system with 5+ speakers and a powerful amplifier. The sound is loud, clear, and greatly enhances the drive into a winding road. 

 

Yes there better after market systems, but this is my favorite factory OEM system.

jstarr111
Pit Crew

My current favorite is the factory stereo in my 2005 Lexus ES.  Beautiful sound from a factory setup.  Honorable mentions to my two other cars equipped with Kenwood headunits.  Kenwood makes great stuff.

 

I have had many cars thru the years, and have found the factory units not so great.  Usually the culprit has been the cheap speakers that we were subjected to as the "domestic" automakers seemed to always go cheap on those pieces of equipment.  I suppose, at the time, that audio wasn't that important to the general public at the time.  Maybe??

 

Love the Hagerty media.  Keep up the good work.  Best part of my policy!

DUB6
Specialist

   I can't tell you the name of it - but I'm pretty sure it was some cheapo unit that I bought at a K-Mart or Statewide Auto Supply.  But it isn't important what the stereo was anyway, 'cause what made it my favorite isn't the name or model of the player, but what it played.     So, here's the backstory: In the '60s, we used to cruise downtown, and it was a block wide by 10 (or so) blocks long course.  At one of the four corners was a movie house, with the ticket window in a small kiosk out front.  So, people waiting in line to buy tickets were queued up on the sidewalk out close to the street.  I got a copy of "The Crazy World of Arthur Brown" 8-track tape.  That cheap tape deck, volume turned to the max, with that tape pulled out (and thus stopped) at just the right spot, allowed me to come up to that corner with all the windows down on my '56 BelAir 2-door hardtop, and as I slowed to turn, punch the tape in and have "I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE!" blast at about 180 decibels out to the unsuspecting folks in line.  The jumps, ducks, screams, and epithets hurled my way were worth all of the hearing loss that I experienced, as evidenced by the fact that I remember it like it was last night and still laugh hysterically about it even to this day.   🤣

OregonJohn
New Driver

Sound-wise, the enhanced stock system  in my 2013 Tesla S is vastly superior than any other I have had.  This includes the $1500 setup [easily $5K now] I installed in my '82 Audi back in 1985, which had crossovers, bi-amped, and a separate subwoofer that I constructed.  

lohpilot
Pit Crew

I recently purchased a 2021 Corvette C8 Convertible with the 3LT trim level. The Bose sound system in this car is clear, crisp, and I have set this up for perfect separation of channels.  Every musical note is clear, and every musical instrument is easily recognized at any volume level and every input mode.

Rick2
Instructor

My 1995 MR2 had the optional $800 factory sound system with good speakers in the doors and sub woofers behind the seats. It could rock out so you could not turn the volume all of the way up unless you are into pain. It was built when we were transitioning from cassettes to CDs and this one played both.

tcchuck2005
Intermediate Driver

Spoiled by Apple car play with XM radio in my new vehicles.

mblk6062
Pit Crew

From the late 70's...Craig Power Play stereo with Jensen 6x9 Triaxial speakers. Rudimentary by today's standards but it was some apex hardware back in the day! I can still hear "Kashmir" and "Stranglehold" played at max volume, and I have the tinnitus to prove it!

Stradakat
Intermediate Driver

Bang & Olufsen in my last two Audis. 

 

Tomboy
Pit Crew

Remember when cars had an AM radio - pre-8-track, pre-cassette, pre-factory sound system?  To 'enhance your listening pleasure' - you bought - and self-installed A REAR SPEAKER with the control knob mounted on the dash below the ash tray.  If you went for the big bucks install - you also got a reverberator.

 

What made this the greatest sound system was - your friends that didn't have these 'options' - thought you were the coolest person in the parking lot.

SC56
New Driver

How about FM converters mounted under the dash?

Tinkerah
Engineer

Not my favorite but I freely admit having one in my past!

hyperv6
Racer

My favorites are.

 

My Fiero with a later Grand Prix head unit with CD player so it still looks stock. I added the Fiero factory sub. Roll this in with the speakers in the head rest make for a nice system. 

Right now I have a Factory Bose in my Canyon. It was just lacking so I added the GM kicker sub option and now it is right on the money sound wise. 

Back in the day my Chevelle SS has a pioneer radio with a Audiovox equalizer/Amp. I then put in two Pioneer Triaxle 6x9 in back and to wedge mount Coaxles on the floor in front of the seat where you never saw them. They had their own housings. Back in the day I had a decent sounding system for the Cassette era. 

hb
Intermediate Driver

Having two convertibles (XJS and MGB) the radio is deemed great by me if it simply works. No need for it when the top is down. Top up it’s handy. XJS has a stock Jag/Alpine system with cassette player and factory stock speakers. The MG has an aftermarket set with cd (wowzers)! For critical listening, I’m at home.

LoudV8
Intermediate Driver

The factory Bose systems in all my late model GM vehicles sound good to me and not worth an "upgrade" to aftermarket stuff. I would rather spend that coin on performance mods.

SilentBoy741
Instructor

My very favorite, but for a totally different reason, is the stock "digital clock" radio in my '75 Bricklin.  Not a digital clock the way we think of them now, but a true '70s effort with big  white numbers printed on 4 black cylinders that slowly turned around as the minutes passed.  It's so retro-trying-to-be-futuristic that it just makes me smile.

Ggeo
Intermediate Driver

Mine has the 75 version with the electric aerial 😉 hi fellow Bricklin owner

MARK400
Detailer

Actually I cant hear my radio in my non daily driver over the sound of my 2 chamber Flowmasters............ but that`s the way I like it.

Red79Benz
New Driver

I have a Blaupunkt SQR24 with external amp, circa early 80's that's about to go into my 79 450Sl.

Oddly enough I bought the radio about 40 yeas ago as salvage when my wife worked at an insurance company, it's been in my basement ever since. Bought the Benz.  a year and a half ago.  Premonition ?

smakowski
New Driver

Blaupunkt!!!!

AH3K
Intermediate Driver

Having been a Service Manager in consumer electronics "back in the day", I can tell you honestly... the PIONEER gear was THE most reliable, had some of the best output audio (quality, not just power), and was fairly easy to install.  We got so we wouldn't even work on foreign stuff (excluding National/Panasonic)... parts difficulty, service info, and other factors.  Of course, I'm one of those guys who cannot understand filling your boot up with speakers and liquid-cooled amplifiers, so you can rot your eardrums out (that's what open pipes on a Cobra are for!)

 

AH3K
Intermediate Driver

Of course (I forgot)...the REALLY COOL "upgrade" to the AM/FM radio (it wasn't stereo yet) in my '64 Chevelle SS convertible, was a chrome-faced Motorola "reverb"... Slight blonde girls LOVED it, but owing to the construction (basically a phono-cartridge on the end of a screen-door spring), if you went over a railroad track, it sounded like somebody dropped a set of box springs in an echo'y garage.

 

fstntq
Pit Crew

If not this one then definitely the Nakamichi that physically flipped the taped before reversible heads hit car audio.

Panasonic overhead car stereoPanasonic overhead car stereo

AH3K
Intermediate Driver

The Nak' was indeed THE coolest mechanism ever.  ONE of my techs could fix them when they got "out of time"... Paul B. was the king.

Ggeo
Intermediate Driver

I have one and they are a real party trick machine

wdb
Advanced Driver

Not to be silly, but, my phone. In fact my phone for all of the in-car electronics that don't actually operate the vehicle. Stop putting a bunch of stuff in there that I don't use, like built-in navigation and satellite radio, and just give me a clean interface to my phone. Don't make me pay twice for the same thing.

 

 

starvinmarvinpb
New Driver

Three: The sound system in my friends Bentley GT was off-the -charts...listening to Stephen Stills 'Treetop Flyer' sounded like he was in the car with an amp.  The Bowers and Wilkins system in my M850 is amazing.  But the best is my '75 Bronco - it has a 351 crate motor and no stereo - haven't bothered to put one in because the engine is a symphony.

Bluskye
New Driver

Blaupunkt Berlin which I had in my 74 Porsche Carrera.  The radio was on an adjustable stick which you could position next to the steering wheel.  You could control the radio, cassette player, and equalizer from this control.

 

 

 

 

joenumeruno
Pit Crew

My first car was a then-5-year-old 1963 Corvair Monza convertible, in which the original owner had replaced the stock AM radio with a Muntz 4-track tape deck--not great and it was hard to find 4-track tapes in 1968.... My recent favorites are the HK systems in 2001 & 2006 BMW 330 CiCs--not overly powerful, but good, clear sound.

Buggy
New Driver

I had a 1986 Berlinetta Camaro.  It had the coolest stereo of the time. 🙂

 

It stood on a pedestal on the center console. It could turn in either direction and had a vertical cassette door. 

Future tech at its best!

AndrettiGTO
Pit Crew

That was going to be my pick too!  They looked awesome and loved that swivel head design.  Digital Readouts were the future!

26CD1C4B-3B4B-4D0E-B9AB-4E68E2D2AC4B.jpeg

3Deuces
Pit Crew

OK, so it's not technically a music audio system, but the exhaust note from my '65 GTO's stock dual (a/k/a "stereo") exhaust system is my fave! 

dward
New Driver

I think it was a Philco in my 60 Falcon.  AM, Rear speaker and a Reverb!

 

Orict0015668
Intermediate Driver

While I enjoy all of the modern day conveniences of modern day entertainment systems, there is something to be said about enjoying driving down the road in your old ride, and if you are lucky enough, to have what was at the time, the top of the line system available when the cat was manufactured. When I restored my 1970 Chevrolet, I resisted the urge to replace the original radio, an AM FM 8 Track four speaker stereo system. I had the unit serviced and reconditioned along with new speakers. I always keep a few old 8 tracks handy for demonstration purposes, but I am happy listening to a few select FM stations that sound perfectly fine, especially when it gets drowned out by the roar of the LS5 454 under the hood!

38Chevy454
Intermediate Driver

The old pushbutton AM in my 68 GTO and it's corresponding paradise by the dashboard light.