How to play MP3’s on your old car stereo

Nobody buys cassette tapes these days and it’s annoying to switch CD’s every now and then if you want to listen to your music in your car. Replacing your car stereo with new ones that can play mp3’s can put a dent on your wallet.

If you’re stuck with an old stereo but want to play your mp3’s while on the road, check out these two cheap alternatives (some costs less than $10) that can help you.

Cassette Adapter

How it works?

This cassette tape has a dangling wire that connects to the earphone jack of your music device (iPod, mp3 player, MD player, Discman). Plug it in, insert the cassette into your tape deck and listen to your music from the car speakers.


Make sure to check what kind of tape deck you have before buying if its side loading or front loading. You don’t want the wire portion of the tape facing the wrong direction.


  • It’s very easy to use
  • Doesn’t consume added power
  • Sound quality is consistent


  • Device is mechanical so cheap versions might loosen up easily and will give out rattling sound.
  • Those without some sort of shake resistance give out poor sound quality.
  • Your tape deck might not be compatible with the one you bought. These adapters hate players with skip function and no way to turn off auto-reverse.

Liane is an avid user of the cassette adapter and she’s already gone through a lot of them. She highly recommends the Philips brand that gives very good sound quality.

FM Transmitter

How it works

The FM Transmitter device has a wire that will connect to the earphone jack of your media player. You will set the frequency where it will broadcast the music coming from your player. Using your car stereo, you tune it to that frequency to listen to your mp3’s. Perfect if your tape deck is busted.


Some models are battery operated while some are plugged into the cigarette lighter of your car. Some also have a built-in player and all you need to do is connect your removable disk.


  • Lifetime is longer than the tape adapter
  • You can share your music to others who has an FM radio
  • You don’t need a separate mp3 player if you get the one that already has a built-in player


  • Sound quality is dependent on the signal so you may have to switch frequency from time to time.
  • Cheap models can only accept a couple of pre-set frequency which sucks if they are already being used
  • In some areas you might hear things broadcasted from nearby frequencies

If you want the FM transmitter, look for those that can accommodate at least 4 programmable channels. Mik who’s using FM transmitter on his car recommends CD-R King. Cheap bastard.

So there you go. These devices are pretty cheap so don’t expect them to last the lifetime of your car. Don’t expect superior sound quality as well. It will not be the same as that of car mp3 stereos but you usually don’t need high-quality sound for your car music right?

Oh yeah, this technology is pretty old (like 4 years old) but I’ve just learned about it recently. Hehehe.

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2 Responses

  1. I always wondered how this worked! my gf has one and I love it!

    calvin: thanks for dropping by. i checked out your site and i learned a lot of cool tips for the ipod touch!

  2. katrina says:

    ooohhhh….plan ko pa naman magbuy ng fm transmitter for car i just don’t know which is a good buy.

    calvin: ok daw yung tape. well kung ayos yung tape deck.

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