Auxiliary vs USB in Car Audio

When playing music in your car, if you are not using a CD you are probably connecting an iPod, flash drive, or other storage device with either a USB or a 3.5mm auxiliary connection. One of these connections is digital, while the other one is analog which can result in a differences in sound and how the device interacts with your stereo. Each of the two connections can serve different purposes, and both are equally important.

Difference In Quality

At the end of the day, USB will always make for a better quality connection than an auxiliary input will for the sole fact that it is digital. When you play music off your iPod into an aux input, it is amplified by the iPod’s internal amplifier, fed into the input, and then amplified once again by the head-unit. When you use a USB connection, the stereo will read the music off the iPod and process and amplify it without the support of the internal amp that iPods use.

Benefits of Auxiliary Connections

Pandora StereoAuxiliary inputs are considered universal amongst the electronics industry and there are thousands of portable media devices and MP3 players that have a small 3.5mm connection for plugging your headphones into. Auxiliary is very convenient for having full control over your audio directly off the MP3 player as opposed to using the stereos controls.

Benefits of USB Connections

Pandora StereoUSB offers the ability to digitally read music off a flash drive, iPod, cell phone, or other devices that store music. USB has the ability to charge the device while simultaneously playing music. Since the transfer of music is digital, many car stereos on the market are able to control Apple devices directly from the head-unit itself. USB also eliminates a lot of distortion and clipping that commonly occurs through an auxiliary connection. Typical devices that are more commonly connected to a stereo by USB include the iPod, iPhone, Zune, Flash Drives, and Android.

The difference in quality between USB and Auxiliary is subtle, but it is noticeable. Use whichever method you prefer and is most convenient to you. There is no wrong way to connect your portable device, just so long as you have music coming out of your speakers! Let us know what you think of this article by commenting below in our Facebook comment box.

About Harry Donihue

Harry's passion for car audio began at 16 with a single subwoofer and an amp. In years to follow, he greatly developed his love and knowledge of the car audio and electronics industry by means of installing, researching and opinion writing. In his spare time he enjoys playing music, eating grilled cheese sandwiches and snowboarding with his pals.
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