Bluetooth phone and audio adapters for older vehicles, Solix C1000 high-power power pack (Week 41, 2023)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 41, 2023

Q. We just purchased a 2005 Acura TLX for our son and he would like to be able to play music from his phone over the car audio system. I received a $350 quote from a car stereo shop to install a device that will play the music from his iPhone over Bluetooth, using the auxiliary port. Do you think this is a good buy and do you have any experience with such devices?

-C.R., Reading, PA

A. I am not familiar with the device you are referring to, but it seems awfully overpriced to me and the idea itself makes no sense. The first problem is if you want to play music from your phone through the auxiliary port, it is kind of silly to do so over Bluetooth. You can use the same headphone adapter dongle that comes with an iPhone to connect to the auxiliary port with a 3.5 mm cable. This will play music over the car’s audio system. Just be sure to turn the phone volume up to maximum before you connect it to the auxiliary port.

I recommend using a Bluetooth adapter that will send music over the car’s audio system via FM. Plug the adapter into the cigarette lighter socket and it will turn on every time you start the car. You then set the adapter to an FM station, for example 89.9 FM, then tune the car radio to 89.9 FM. Pair the device to the phone and it will take the audio signal and play it over the car radio. It can also be used to make hands-free phone calls, which is becoming in necessity in many states. For example, in Ohio you can no longer use a handheld phone to make phone calls while driving.

There are many such devices available. I have tried quite a few of them and my favorite is the Nulaxy Wireless In-Car Bluetooth Transmitter Radio Adapter, which sells for $18.99 on Amazon. It has an integrated USB charging port and can also play music from a TF card. I use one in an older car and have always been pleased with the reliability and performance.

Another possibility is a wireless CarPlay and Android Auto accessory. Think of it as an old-school dash-mount GPS, except that instead of a map it is a CarPlay or Android Auto touchscreen with full functionality. They play through the AUX port or over an FM station the same way as the device detailed above. These devices can be purchased for under $100 on Amazon, though the better ones cost $125 or more. I have tested a few but have not yet found the one I want to recommend to my readers. Hopefully I will find one I can hang my hat on, but in the meantime if you want to try one it is probably the best way to use a Smartphone with an older vehicle lacking Bluetooth.

Q. I saw your recent article about emergency backup battery packs for using in an emergency or outdoors, camping, etc. I need more power than the 300W unit you wrote about. Any recommendations?

-D.C., Plantation, FL

A. I would check out the $749 Solix C1000. It has 1056Wh, recharges in less than an hour and can accept a second battery to double the capacity. If you want the very best, I have yet to see a better product in its class.

Affordable whole-house battery backup is quickly becoming a reality and may soon be a viable alternative to a natural-gas powered standby generator. I am watching developments carefully and will report as I learn more.