How to Stream High Quality Audio to an Older Car Stereo

Although it is tempting to buy a new car for in-dash technology, I’m still happy with my older luxury car that doesn’t even have an auxiliary jack or USB connection. My car has a Mark Levinson speaker system that can reproduce lovely nuances in music when played from a good source. While it was great with CDs when I first got the car, my listening habits lean more toward Deezer or Spotify streaming on my iPhone. Without the auxiliary connections of newer car stereos, I need an FM Transmitter to listen from my car’s sound system. It wan’t obvious that there would be a big difference in the quality of these car accessories, but it was clear that GoGroove’s Flexsmart X5 outperformed all of its competition. Its sound quality and other features places it far above the rest of its competition and yet it is moderately priced.

When my old transmitter died, I stopped by a local electronics store. A mid-priced model that cost $80 was a seemingly good choice. Before leaving the parking lot, I paired the bluetooth to my phone and found an available FM station, then streamed Spotify. It was immediately clear that if I listened to this device for more than a song or two, I would feel like my ears would bleed. It was tinny and the music was indistinguishable. Thinking it might be the song or Spotify, I tried the high resolution (their term) audio streaming service, Deezer. Still horrible. How could my sound system sound like an AM radio in a 1960s car? Immediately, I returned the device and bought another model. This one priced at over $100. Its signal wasn’t strong enough to overpower a radio station on a nearby frequency. Again, the music was muddy and did not reproduce either what Deezer or my speakers were capable of.

In the past I had GoGroove’s Flexsmart x3 but it was inherited by another driver who got their own car. The new model, the Flexsmart x5 was reasonably priced $59.99 MSRP (available for $49.99), and had new features. Fast to connect and pair, the Flexsmart could overpower the signal of a station on a nearby frequency. Immediately, the nuances and musicality was worthy of my car’s sound system. Deezer sounded as good as the CDs I played in the car.

The Flexsmart X5 can be charged to run on its own battery. A clip on the back can squeeze onto a visor. This brings the controls closer, but more importantly, because it connects to an iPhone via Bluetooth, the microphone is closer to my mouth when using the speakerphone capabilities on a handsfree phone call. The battery lasts about 5 hours, but the Flexsmart can also be used when charging on its gooseneck holder. When the charger is connected, there is a USB port to also charge a phone or tablet so you don’t arrive at your destination with a dead phone battery from listening to music on the way.

If you travel distances by car—road trip vacations, or business travel—be sure to download your favorite playlists to your phone. Cell phone coverage can be spotty outside of the city and its annoying to have the music stop when the signal is weak. Downloading music over your home wi-fi will also reduce cell data use when streaming music for long periods of time.

For now, the $50 investment of a new Flexsmart X5 brings me the streaming music I need and is better than buying a new car for new technology. Not all FM Transmitters are created equal, if you value your music (and your ears), the Flexsmart X5 is the way to go.