Cheap FLAC capable car stereo

So Kenwood have released some cheap, apparently decent FLAC capable digital media head units (i.e. car stereos).  Digital media means there’s no CD transport – they play back via USB or Aux-in only, and include iPod control.

FLAC capable head unit

FLAC capable head unit

The European version is the KMM-257, and in North America its called the KMM100. The difference is basically the tuner stepping as far as I can tell (Europe/Australia uses different frequency steps when tuning FM/AM radio).

When I saw that, including shipping, I could get one to my door from the UK for under $100, I decided to give it a shot.  Hoping to get the time to install it tomorrow, for first impressions.

Ok.. backstory time:

I converted my whole music collection to FLAC format about 9 years ago, and haven’t looked back.  All the CD’s sit on the shelf untouched (yes, I still buy CD’s.. compressed music sucks, but thats a story for another time).

Anyway, FLAC is good, and we’ve got a few sound systems around the house which play them very nicely (a couple of which are good enough to shame anything below 320kbps MP3’s).

The only problem with FLAC is portability – to take music in the car I’ve been relying on doing conversion of FLAC files to mp3, which has been irritating.  I’ve experimented with FLAC playback on my phone through the car stereo, but I’m not a fan of having to plug my phone in whilst in the car – its usually in a pocket or backpack, and while I’m driving, I prefer to watch the road and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Now, in addition to tech stuff, my other hobby is 80’s cars.  As a result, I have two of them, which I tend to alternate working on depending on which one is in one piece and can drive me to work 🙂  One of them needs new speakers as the 25 year old ones have no foam left and thus produce no low frequency noise, so I figured it is a perfect opportunity to try one of these cheap FLAC head units.

Freshly unboxed - man its short!  No CD means they don't have to make it long enough to hold a disc.

Freshly unboxed – man its short! No CD means they don’t have to make it long enough to hold a disc.

Its turned up, and I’m almost ready to start working on that car (I bought some cheap speakers from Parts-Express).  Handily, the car has an old Kenwood stereo in it already, so I’m hoping to get away without much wiring work to fit it.

It only has one set of RCA pre-outs, but thats fine as all I want to power is the stock 4 speakers, which I can do from the head unit, and possibly add a cheap powered subwoofer in the trunk if I need a bit more bass (I’m not into doof-doof, I just like decent audio quality over the whole audible range).

I’ll post install impressions once I get it done and have had a chance to listen, I just thought I’d post about it as every 6 months or so I do a search for FLAC car stereos and was pleased to find a cheap option.

Note they also make a version with an SD card slot in addition to the USB – but I figure a tiny low-profile memory stick like this Kingston 64GB Micro USB 2.0 one will be unobtrusive enough to not bother paying the extra $80 for the SD card slot.


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