The Music Streamer improves the audio systems of older cars

Back when I was a teenager, there was only one more exquisite feeling than getting your driver’s license: singing along to your meticulously curated car playlist, which you had to burn yourself onto a CD. Today’s teenagers have it even better. They can sing along to Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License” – arguably the most perfect car song ever – and they don’t have to spend hours downloading songs to the computer to do it.

If you buy a new car in 2022, it will likely come with an in-console music player, which will sync with your phone for a (mostly) hands-free audio experience. But according to a 2021 report from IHS Markit, the average age of a car on the road in the US is now over 12 years old, which means most of the vehicles people drive require you to use an aux cord or Bluetooth adapter to play your music through the speakers. This, in turn, forces you to look at your phone to switch playlists or skip songs.

That’s why Spotify’s Car Thing, a voice-activated Bluetooth music player, was so highly anticipated when it became available by waiting list only in April 2021. And on February 22, Spotify made it available to everyone for $89.99, plus the cost of a Spotify Premium subscription ($9.99/month).

I took Car Thing for a test drive on a recent road trip in an ’06 Honda, and the experience certainly beat burning your own CDs.

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First things first: the basics

When you open up Car Thing, you get the device itself, a USB power cord for a car outlet (also included), and a variety of plastic end caps to mount the gadget on your dashboard, CD player or A/C vent. When you first turn it on, you’re greeted with step-by-step instructions for connecting it to your phone via Bluetooth. From there, Car Thing syncs with your audio system as easily as your phone, i.e. you need some sort of Bluetooth connection or aux cord. (My car is so old that I need a bluetooth band adapter for it.)

Using Car Thing is pretty much an upgraded version of using Spotify on your phone. You can say “Hey, Spotify” to ask it to play your latest album obsession or a genre you’re thrilled with, or select four favorite presets that you access with physical buttons on the top of the device. You can use the dial on the front of the screen or swipe and tap to browse music options.

Why am I obsessed

During my recent five-hour road trip, Car Thing quickly plugged into the sound system of my retro, almost vintage car. My road trip buddies cycled between Fleetwood Mac and radiolab easy episodes. From my position in the back seat, it took everything in my power not to use voice command to ask Spotify to play an album or joke playlist. (What can I say? I love pranks.)

That said, speaking as an earth sign, the main benefits of Car Thing, for me, are convenience and safety. This eliminates the need to wait until you’re at a red light to switch playlists, because none of us would ever flick through podcast episodes while driving, would we? On a busy stretch of highway, my fellow riders were able to skip songs or change albums without ever taking their eyes off the wheel or taking their eyes off the road. The device is essentially hands-free streaming for cars that were made before “streaming” existed.

I would be aware of leaving it visibly mounted if you tend to park somewhere burglaries happen, but you can easily store it in your glove box and plug it back in before you hit the road. Also, you need a Spotify premium account ($9.99/month for individuals) to use it, although support for free accounts will be added in the future.

The TL;DR

Car Thing is easy to set up and even easier to use. For anyone who is tired of spending half of their morning commute looking for the perfect playlist to start their day, the gadget is a must-have.

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