It is now a well known fact that car stereos are moving to digital media at an ever increasing pace. 10Years ago a car stereo that did not play CD’s or even cassettes would have been a ludicrous idea, nowadays its what people want. Why carry a large wallet of CD’s that will get scratched and damaged when you can have your whole music collection on a card the size of your thumb nail?
There have been two major developments in the last 12months in the way we connect digital media to our vehicles, namely our iPods. Sony released their latest concept, the TuneTray, last September. This was met with much anticipation from the industry and public alike, featuring full speed digital media control and a connect anything attitude, Sony have had a big success with the DSX range. Starting at only £100, the TuneTray is not a technology that is exclusively for the rich and famous, it is available to everyone.
You may have never heard of Oxygen Audio. They were a fairly small French audio manufacturer until they had an idea that will again change the way we use our digital media. The O-Car is Oxygen Audio’s take on how we should integrate digital media into our daily lives. It features a similar concept to the TuneTray in that it only caters for the digital world of music, leaving CD and Cassette firmly behind however it currently only for iPhones. What it does with the iPhone is why I am sat here today comparing these two innovations. Conventional stereo’s will connect your iPhone via a cable or USB port, the O-Car allows your iPhone to BECOME the stereo.
I have had chance to use both systems recently, below are my findings.
The TuneTray was and still is a fantastic and innovative idea. The ability to connect any piece of USB hardware and hide it away within the stereo is unrivalled. No other stereo on the market can do what the TuneTray range can.
The O-Car is also innovative in how it turns your iPhone into a car stereo. This is easily the best way to integrate your iPhone into your car. The down side to this particular idea is that it has to be an iPhone 3GS or newer and has to be plugged into the stereo for anything to be heard. The radio tuner is an app that you can download for your iPhone.
The TuneTray range has a huge list of features including bluetooth, multiple USB ports and high end equalizer controls. It comes with everything you would expect from a high end car stereo.
The O-Car allows you to provide the features! It comes with the standard RCA pre outs and high power amplifier that you would expect but it also enables you to use any features or apps that you have downloaded to your iPhone. You can use a TomTom sat nav app with it whilst listening to music, or make calls using a connected microphone. You can even turn your car into Digital Radio using apps such as Pandora or Spotify. The possibilities are only limited by the apps you buy.
Sony have been very clever in the way that they have branded the TuneTray. They haven’t just made it exclusive to a single, high priced model in there range, they have created a whole range around the idea. Starting at only £100 for the basic model and reaching £200 for the best, Sony have made the TuneTray accessible for everyone.
Oxygen Audio do not have the luxury of having multiple models due to the concept behind the unit. They have however priced the O-Car at a price that is very affordable. At £250 the O-Car is towards the top of the Single Din price range but for the features and quality of the unit I would still class it as very good value for money.
Ease of Use
This is where the Sony TuneTray is at a disadvantage when compared to the Oxygen O-Car. Displaying the full iPod menus on a 4line display is tricky and to do it right, Sony have had to make the control a little complicated at times. It is still a case of Albums, Artists and Playlists but there are hidden features like the searching by letter and quick search that when pressed by accident can throw you off target. When combined with the fiddly thumb stick control this accounts for a sometimes frustrating user interface.
The O-Car is the complete opposite, simply insert the iPhone into the dock and use it in as you would naturally. The O-Car does not impose onto the iPhone, even the Radio and Equalizer settings are altered using Oxygen’s Apps that were developed in house specifically for this stereo.
When put side by side these two huge step forwards are both equal to one another. The only difference is that they are two huge steps in slightly different directions. If you have an iPhone, you will want the Oxygen O-Car, it is simply the best iPhone compatible stereo on the market. If you have an iPod or any other USB device, the Sony TuneTray range is easily the best choice for you. No-body will be disappointed with either of the stereo’s I have featured in this article, it will be purely based on your own personal preference as to which will suit you best.