Digital player for truck suggestions

'Sup, all?

My truck of the near future does not have a cd player included. Rather than go aftermarket, I figured I'd use this as an excuse to enter the world of digital media players beyond my iPhone. The truck does have Bluetooth capability, fyi.

Should I just stick with my iPhone and Spotify?
What about Pono? Or Astell and Kern?

I don't want to spend more than ~$500 or so on one. And I freely admit I know nothing about the genre.

Any guidance or cheerleading will be most appreciated.

Warm regards,

What are you using now at home to play your music collection?

What is your music collection? Mp3s? CD Rips?, iTunes Downloads? Hi-Res Downloads? Any DSD tracks? Or will you just be streaming via a cellular device (and using up data on your dataplan)?

Have you thought about how you’re going to transfer the music into the player?

Does the truck also have an aux input jack?

Bluetooth is okay and convenient, especially when it’s your phone because the music mutes when you get/make a call. No reaching for a mute when the phone rings. Safer. Some want better audio quality than what bluetooth provides but in a vehicle bluetooth audio quality may be good enough.

A player separate from your phone is also nice when you can let whoever is riding shotgun be the DJ. And you dont have to hand over your phone with its personal info.

If you’re an iTunes user like me, an iPod Touch makes sense. It has both bluetooth and an audio output. It syncs easily with your music library and offers models with varying memory capacity so you can load up thousands of songs. Since it also has wifi you could stream through your phone if its configured as a hotspot. (Again, data cap issues.)

It’s all good man. There are some sweet players available at your pricepoint. And Pono and A&K have excellent reviews, among others like Fiio, Cayin, Sony, Pioneer, etc.

Good luck and let us know what you decide and why.

Thanks for the reply. My serious listening is on the downstairs system: more and more vinyl and a static number or so of cd's.

The upstairs system is more casual - streaming from my phone; the occasional cd in the blue-ray player. I have about 200 tunes on my phone. I haven't bothered ripping any cd's onto my macbook pro yet. Now have I taken advantage of any download codes from the newer vinyl I've bought.

yes, the truck will have an aux jack as well as a USB.

I'll be looking for high quality files in my vehicle. I do serious listening when I drive, too. Not as serious or engaging as late-night sessions, but pretty intense.
So, my question to you is what is the car stereo you are considering?  Since you claim to want as high fidelity as possible in your truck, you really need to consider what DAC will be used.  That is a variable that you can control and need to consider.

Unless your truck is a 100k SUV, odds are the factory stereo with bluetooth has your typical crummy dac.  On the other hand, an aftermarket Alpine or Rockford has a much better DAC.  If you are going aftermarket, then bluetooth is better quality and easy.  If you are using a factory stereo with aux input, something in the lines of the Astell & Kern would be my first choice of quality in a car.
@elevick I would probably aftermarket both the car stereo and speakers. The company offers a $500 Bose 7-speaker upgrade package, but I doubt I would be happy with that And would be happy to spend more if it got me more.

And no $100K SUV; we're looking at a $32K pick-up at most. 

Start by ripping some CDs into an ALAC or AIFF format into iTunes on your Mac. Stay with AIFF or ALAC format because FLAC isnt compatible with iTunes. Pick your favorite CDs.

Sync them to your phone and play them via either bluetooth or with the audio/audio adapter on your iPhone depending on the iPhone model. Enjoy for awhile knowing you’ve spent zero $ to do this so far. Not counting the truck stereo. :)

Maybe get a Tidal HIfi subscription and use Tidal’s download feature to add music  to your phone via home wifi for playback later. This is a great way to listen to music not in your library. Heck, you could bag the CD rips and just do this but I’ll bet there’s an artist or two whose music you like who isn’t on Tidal. So there’s that.

Then, think about a player with lots of memory that’s compatible with Tidal and wifi and will hold a lot of your rips and Tidal tracks. An iPod Touch with, like, 128G of memory. Maybe something else but it has to have an operating system compatible with adding streaming apps like Tidal and plenty of memory.

But right now, you have everything you need to get started. Except, maybe, the connecting cable/adapter to the aux input.

Keep on trucking baby.

Some automobile manufacturers offer WiFi connectivity service - I think GM does, and that allows you to stream music for playback on your audio head unit. I don't have first hand experience but technically this functionality should allow you to listen to Tidal HiFi (via subscription) in your truck/car. Not sure how the data usage charges are calculated.
@simao I would be absolutely stunned if any current vehicle came without a USB port and the capability to play digital files from a flash drive.  I wouldn't spend any money until I learned the capability that's built-in.  You should also have the ability to connect your phone via Bluetooth or a cable from the headphone jack (using the aux input), assuming your phone still has one :).  I personally wouldn't get THAT worked up about sound quality.  Unless your sitting still with the vehicle off, I doubt you'll hear much difference.  I use FLAC in my main system but convert them to 256 kbps mp3s for the car and they sound fine.

Regarding aftermarket replacements for the Bose system that comes installed - you may find that it's near impossible or at least VERY expensive to do so.  I have a 2013 Honda Accord and the sound system and multi-function display are completely integrated into the innerworkings of the car.  I'm not sure it could be removed and have the car still run.  They wouldn't do this on purpose would they??? :)

Simao & DJohnson,
I just completely reworked a disgusting Bose system in my Infinity.  If you want to talk about complicated messes...this wins.
1-Bose BLOWS.  When we ripped out the speakers, we found that there wasn't a single tweeter in the whole vehicle.  Bose has now invented the newest audio bullcrap a "Twiddler".  I kid you not.  This doesn't go as high as tweeters and is definitely not a mid range.  They figure that since the amp/head can't reproduce full frequency responses, why try.  Thanks Pandora & XM for continued low fidelity.
2-Did I say Bose Blows?
3-The bose amp was terribly underpowered.  Even though we had dual subs, there was nothing to push them.
4-Most car USB ports are crap.  Not only are you stuck using the built in DAC, you are usually forced to use MP3/MP4 or similar quality.  Any of us that have tried to use flash drives in cars will testify to how unreliable this can be.
My friend Chris who is an installation genius did have some solutions.  First, Alpine, Rockford and a few others make very nice processors that actually work in line with the factory unit to take out any lame bose equalization to get you full flat frequency repsonse.  This is an intense install that is an all day job at a shop and will run $600-$1000.  If the processor doesn't do it for you, you can always add an amp or two (or three...).  DO NOT SKIMP.  Many car audio amps are full of hot air.  My Class D Alpine puts out real wattage.  
Replacing factory speakers may help but just how much???
Sorry to rant :-)
Go see an aftermarket installer to see what they have to say.
@elevick I understand the disgust!  I'd have to spend WAY more time in my car to justify that kind of expense.  As it is I spend a grand total of about an hour a day commuting to the office so I spent a little money to put together a decent office system instead.  All in all, mp3 works fine for me in the car.  Glad to know there are solutions though.  Dick
I do appreciate all the advice you've given me on this. @djohnson54 You have a point about not getting too worked up about sound quality - especially in a truck where road noise is going to be a bit more than in a more sealed sedan or coupe. I think I'll invest in a good digital media player - an iPod 6; an Astern; maybe an Onkyo or a Sony - and work on ripping and downloading in ALAC, as @dbtom2 suggested.

the vehicle in question can function as a wifi hotspot, so that's a bonus.
For years now I've been using my iPod via Bluetooth into my car audio system. It works great. We also sometimes use my son's iPhone the same way when traveling. I rip my CDs to iTunes using AIFF with error correction turned on and sync to my iPod. It sounds surprisingly good in the car.

You can also listen to any other digital source that you can access on your phone. I sometimes cache 4 hours of Radio Paradise on my iPod and listen to it via bluetooth in the car. Uses none of your data plan that way.



@simao I think that's a sensible plan.  With the external player you can take it with you and enjoy the better sound quality when your in quieter surroundings.  Enjoy the new ride!