Design Crimes: Crap car stereo

My Miata, sadly, came with the worst car stereo I’ve ever encountered. I hope that it didn’t cost more than $50, although I find it insulting that someone paid anything for such a worthless POS.

I’m currently searching for ideas on killing this thing. I don’t want to imagine anyone else having to use it. My ideas so far:

  1. Axe murder
  2. Driving over it

The second photo is my new radio. It’s still not 100% perfect, but far far better.

I used to be big into competitive car audio systems, and have gone through dozens of in-dash CD receivers… I’ve yet to find one that makes any sense.

They all have ridiculous animations of dolphins swimming for no reason, impossible non-intuitive controls, and super bright blue back-lighting.


+/- Volume buttons

Up/Down buttons

Menu button

Left/Right buttons

basic display with one-touch dimming (think MINI Cooper)


Taylor: I prefer a knob for volume. I feel like I can quickly turn it up or down as need be.

I agree with you about the animations. The high end units are all disgusting like that. Luckily, the JVC I feature here doesn’t have that. Neither does the Sony I have in my Focus. They simply clearly display song playing or time.

Notably, my Sony has a button to dim the display that is easy to reach. Unfortunately, the JVC buries the dim function into submenus that require a lot of attention to reach. Fortunately, I find the display to be the perfect brightness: legible in the sun, not distracting at night.

a ten year old model fits the Miata even better.

I’m currently searching for ideas on killing this thing. I don’t want to imagine anyone else having to use it. My ideas so far:

It’s just a shame that you do not have another five or six hundred thousand more of them … you could convert them into an artificial reef (which was my plan for old VW Microbuses).

:exclamation: In lieu of that, there is always the old penny-on-the-railroad-track treatment.

aftermarket car stereos are a furtil ground for design crimes… I took a spin by and even their stuff has gotten so crazy.

I’m actually filming a demo for a TV version of “Design Crimes” major cable network in June… so don’t be surprised if you see some “Penny on the tracks” solutions LMO!

I agree that many car stereos are awful. Here’s my head unit, a cheapo ($120) stereo made by pioneer. It has basic features and the menu is large text only (no Dolphins) with a dim blue backlight that’s not overly bright. I think it’s actually not too bad, compared to most. The large analogue knob IS volume. It can be pushed to cycle through input modes (radio, cd, aux, etc) and the four directional buttons around it do different things depending on the mode, explained via a small diagram in the LCD.

I’ve got a crappy aftermarket stereo too. I want to find the person responsible for it and beat them about the head with the faceplate. Volume is controlled by +/- buttons that BEEP really loudly (far more loudly than the music emitted by the stereo itself) every time you press them. If you’ve got the volume up a bit and the phone rings, you have to hit the minus button about 30 times before you can answer it. Oh, and you turn it on by pressing a button labeled “Off.” Well done.

Yo: good luck!

A few additional notes: I got the JVC because it has USB on the front. I keep everything I want to listen to on a couple USB keys now, so this is ideal for me.

Another feature I like on the JVC is that I can pause by hitting the volume knob. I’ve never had a pause button on a car stereo before (I think). This is so great for when I listen to long podcasts and need to talk to someone.

Benny: I like that Pioneer too.

It seems for some reason that the entry level brand names are decent designs. They are also dirt cheap now. The generics are so crap as to be unusable. The high end are so over-designed as to be unlovable.

Is it just me or has every single one of these units i’ve every used feel creaky when you press buttons, maybe because it’s that they had removable face plates? A lot of OEM stereos seem to integrate better with the interior design. Ford pushed this a bit too far with the “stereo bubble” in the mid-late 90’s Taurus, it fit the interior design, but wasn’t the best if you wanted to install an aftermarket.

I don’t know a whole lot about car stereos, but isn’t it more the type of amp and speakers that up the audio quality. What is it about aftermarket in-dash receivers that makes them better than an OEM? Equalizer, output, dolphins?

With the Mini it is pretty impossible to have an aftermarket system, it is integrated into that central speedometer thing…

Nope, not just you Greenman. My Alpine squeeks like a mofo too, but this is the least of its design problems!

My thoughts exactly, I can’t exactly hear the squeakiness of the buttons over the stereo. :laughing: Though OEM quality has come a long way in the past 10-15 years, they don’t allow you to add more speakers and amps. They tend to be an integrated system. Do any new car OEM stereos come with pre-amps and extra output channels?

What about SYNC? I haven’t used one yet.

mo-i and engio: those are nice. I really like the Mac. Very retro cool. That would be perfect for a throw-back like the Miata. My only hang up is that I want front USB.

engio: where’d you find the MacIntosh?

It’s probably expensive as hell thou :frowning:

The Mac is $1500 + depending on the condition. Right up there with the Denon. The biggest problem with the original deck in this thread is that its a dual. What more do you expect out of a $20 player?

I love mine: Nakamichi 45Z, one of the best sounding decks you can get, and plain as you can get.

I remember the true Audiophile guru guys were always using and swearing by “Eclipse” head units… must be for superior SPQL (sound quality) because the design also sucks.

some other examples of state of the “art”