If you’ve got an older car and you’re struggling to play audio back through it, because you don’t have the ability to connect up your phone via Bluetooth, or there’s limited connectivity, there are a few different options at your disposal – just because you have an older car, it doesn’t mean you need to be without audio connectivity!
We’ve covered this topic in depth plenty of times in the past on this website (you can check out our full guide here to the best options for improving the connectivity and audio playback options in your older car).
But let’s say you’ve narrowed it down to a Bluetooth FM transmitter vs cassette adapter (aka tape adapter) – which of these two options is better?
In this article we are going to explore cassette adapters vs bluetooth FM transmitters as choices for adding additional audio playback functionality to your older car.
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Cassette Adapter Is Generally The Better Option
In our view, it’s actually better to use a cassette adapter if you have the option. Although cassettes/tapes are very old school technology, these adapter products tend to be more reliable and provide superior sound quality to FM transmitters.
If you don’t want to beat around the bush and just want to find out what the best cassette adapters are, then read our guide here.
However, if you’d like more explanation as to our reasoning, then keep reading.
If you have a car that has a cassette deck or a tape deck, then your best option (if you don’t want to go down the path of adding in a new head unit or changing a stereo) is to look to use a cassette adapter over a Bluetooth FM Transmitter.
Why Aren’t Bluetooth FM Transmitters Generally As Good?
The reason for this is that Bluetooth FM transmitters generally aren’t so reliable as cassette adapters.
If you think about it this way, with a Bluetooth FM Transmitter, you’ve got two “components” that are not wired into the car.
- You’ve got the Bluetooth streaming from your phone to the device.
- Then you have the fact that your device the FM transmitter has to play the audio back over your cars radio, so you tune into a radio station.
So there’s really two weak points where there are no wires connected; there’s no physical connection between your phone/music device and the car. Also unlike modern Bluetooth car stereos, you aren’t interfacing directly with the stereo when using a Bluetooth FM transmitter. Instead, your audio is going through a “middle man” basically.
Now with the cassette adapter, what happens is you plug the adapter into your phone, and then the audio goes into that adapter and through your car’s stereo via the cassette player that’s already built into the stereo system.
As such, so what you tend to get is more reliable and superior performance from a cassette adapter versus a Bluetooth FM Transmitter.
Bluetooth Transmitters Do Have Merits
Now your mileage may vary, you might find that you buy Bluetooth FM Transmitter and you get really, really good performance.
If you’ve only got a radio in your car, if you don’t have a cassette adapter, well, you won’t have a choice anyway, you have to use a Bluetooth FM adapter, or you’ll have to look to change your car stereo.
With an FM transmitter you can often get superior features for things like call taking and answering as well – so if you are a “road warrior” you might prefer to use an FM transmitter even if the audio quality isn’t as good, or if the connectivity isn’t quite so reliable (provided it allows you to do the things you need to do)
So there can certainly be some arguments made for the benefits of using a Bluetooth FM transmitter over a cassette adapter, at least in certain scenarios.
Reasons Why We Prefer Cassette/Tape Adapters
Cassette adapters are a lot less expensive as a rule, especially the wired ones, and they tend to be more reliable, certainly in terms of actual playback, reliability and audio quality.
Some of the cheaper cassette adapters can definitely have problems in terms of the product actually lasting there’s moving parts within them. Sometimes there can be noises that you’ll get from the moving parts as well. That being said, oftentimes these moving part noises can actually be fixed with a bit of basic DIY, giving you reliable playback and quiet operation from the adapter itself.
If you read our guide to the best cassette adapters, you’ll see quite a lot more information around which ones to pick and which ones to avoid. But for sure, they tend to be better in terms of audio playback.
The only exception being Bluetooth cassette adapters, which are still generally more reliable than FM transmitters (as you don’t have the requirement to tune the adapter in to a radio station) but will not tend to perform as well as wired units for reasons similar to those mentioned above.
However, if you’re not an audiophile – if you don’t care too much about the quality of the audio you’re getting and you just want something that plays back and is as convenient as possible – a Bluetooth FM Transmitter is probably going to have acceptable audio and functionality for you as well.
The biggest issue is if you live somewhere where the radio frequencies are very crowded, or you’re frequently changing areas. For example, if you’re doing long road trips, where you might leave one area that has a empty frequency that you can use new drive into another area that frequency is occupied, you might find that your transmitter suddenly stops working to your satisfaction.
In our guide to the best Bluetooth FM adapters, we had found some pretty good options that work reliably, at least in our testing, and if possible, if not quite decent sound quality.
But once again, we come back time and time again to cassette adapters being a better option in the vast majority of cases. Unless you need superior phone call taking/receiving capabilities (which tend to be limited on cassette adapters) then you are better to try a cassette adapter first if music playback quality and reliability are your primary concerns.
Conclusion – Bluetooth FM Transmitter vs Cassette Adapter
To recap, if you’re weighing up between a cassette adapter or a Bluetooth FM Transmitter for your older car that doesn’t have any other kind of audio playback option, we would go for the cassette adapter in the first instance nine times out of ten.
The good news is that these devices are generally inexpensive, so you can play around as well if needed to see what works best for your requirements.
Don’t forget we also have a comprehensive guide on the different options for playing back music/audio in your older car. This is well worth a read if you’d like to see whether there are any alternative choices you could make that might provide superior performance.
If you have any questions or concerns, leave us a comment below – we would love to hear from you.