Cassette / Tape Adapters

The Basics

What is it?

As retro as tapes are these days there are many cars out there that still have tape players. If you own one of them then tape adapters can be a great solution for you!

What does it look like?

Funnily enough they look like tapes, but with a wire coming out to connect to your music devices headphone socket. Below is an example from IOMAX:

How do I connect to it?

Compatibility

Will it work with my iPod, iPhone, iPad, smartphone, mp3 player or tablet?

Tape adapters will connect to any media device with a normal 3.5mm headphone socket (which are fitted to nearly every modern media player).

Will it work with my car?

To use this method your car must have a cassette / tape player. These stopped being fitted to cars in place of CD players quite a few years ago now, but there are still plenty of older cars around which have them!

Functionality

Which of my devices' features can I use?

Tape adapters can transfer audio only from your media device to your car. This means you will be able to play music, audiobooks or podcasts through your car's speakers. You can also transfer the audio from phone calls and other applications such as Google Maps™ or Spotify.

Will I be able to see information from my device on my car display?

No. Tape adapters can only transfer audio signals. They won't be able to transfer song titles to your car's display when playing music, or show maps from your navigation app.

As a result when using cassette adapters, it may be helpful to still be able to see your phone display (hands-free). Car mounts such as Kenu's portable car mount? can help by safely placing your phone in your line of vision on the dashboard. If you use a mount please take extreme care to not allow your device to distract your attention whilst driving.

What if I want to make phone calls?

The most common way to make phone calls in modern cars is hands-free through Bluetooth®.

There is nothing to stop you using tape adapters for phone calls. If you make or answer a call whilst your phone is connected to the input, the audio from that call will be played through the car's speakers. The phone will then pick up your voice from its inbuilt microphone (which will normally be on a more sensitive setting if the AUX cable is plugged into the phone). You need to be careful not to turn up the volume on the car speakers too much however, as you may get echo / feedback effects from your phone microphone picking up the callers voice being played over the speakers!

Please remember it is illegal in the UK to use a hand-held mobile phone when driving. Again a mount can help you to use your phone hands-free, but do not allow your device to distract your attention whilst driving.

What about navigation?

Many modern smartphones have built in navigation (or navigation apps from third parties such as TomTom). If your phone is connected via a cassette adapter then the audio from these apps when in use will be played through your car speakers. You can use a mount so you can see the map in your line of vision.

Will I be able to select the music being played using my car's controls?

No. With cassette adapters you will need to select the music being played on the device itself. This may be preferable if a passenger is selecting songs to play. Alternatively you can always set up playlists before you set off. You will however still be able to alter the volume using your car controls.

If you don't have Bluetooth fitted to your car you can get it integrated into an FM transmitter via devices like Belkin's In Car Audio Connect. This device has an FM transmitter to connect to your car radio then connects to your phone wirelessly via Bluetooth (so your phone can stay in your pocket) It comes with a control button, allowing you to listen (and control your music) or make hands-free calls.

Will it charge my mp3 player / smartphone?

No. However because cassette adapters connect to the headphone socket of your phone, they generally leave the charging port on your device free. This means there is nothing to stop you charging your device simultaneously. You will of course need a charging cable and either a USB port or 12V-USB charger. There are lots of options to choose from!

What about sound quality?

Cassette adapters are sometimes susceptible to interference / crackling and many users find that the audio quality falls short compared to more modern options (such as AUX inputs, USB inputs and Bluetooth).

Summary

Tape adapters are a great solution for today's music devices in yesterday's cars. Sound quality can be patchy with some models so we would advise reading the reviews of specific models before you buy.

Pros

  • Compatible with any car with a tape player perfect for older models without Bluetooth or AUX inputs.
  • Universally compatible - will work with any media player with a standard (3.5mm) headphone socket.
  • Control is via your media player, making it easy for passengers to select songs.
  • Can transfer audio from phone calls and other applications such as Google Maps or Spotify.
  • Cheap to buy.

Cons

  • Will not integrate with car controls.
  • Will not transfer information to car display.
  • Will not charge your device (but leaves charging socket free).
  • Some cassette adapters are prone to breakage.
  • Will leave a trailing wire between your cassette player and device.

Products that may be of interest

IOMAX Car Tape
Adapter*

This 3.5mm tape adapter from IOMAX offers great value.

Sony Car Cassette
Adaptor

This is Sony's version of a 3.5mm tape adapter.

Kenu Airframe Portable Car
Mount

This mount is a great way to keep your smartphone in sight at eye level - allowing you to see what music is playing or follow navigation directions - all hands free.