My new 2008 Saturn Aura changed my in-car listening choices by including a front-panel AUX jack on its single-disc CD/MP3 player. I have a Griffin iTrip Auto Universal Plus that I was using in the CR-V with my iPod Nano for podcast/MP3 listening, but I still listened to a lot of audio CDs.  I moved those same CDs (along with a few MP3 CDs) to the Aura, but the inconveniece of storing the discs was immediately noticable.  Other things that bugged me were that playback of MP3 CDs had gaps, and there was a small volume fade-in on every track.  To get the discs out of the car, I decided to make my Hi-MD Walkman (the Sony MZ-NHF800) my main in-car music provider.  I haven’t been using it for music listening or field recording, so this was a great use for it.

Because the Hi-MD won’t charge via USB during operation, the iTrip I had was pretty useless for this.  I decided to get a car power adapter for it.  I bought that and a soft MD case from MiniDisco.  What’s neat about the Aura’s center storage area is that it has a 12V socket inside, as well as dents in the sides to allow you to string cords out.  Once I transferred a bunch of CDs to some Hi-MDs I connected up the Walkman to power and routed the remote outside of the center storage on the passenger side.  The cord is long enough to allow the remote to slink down off the lip of the passenger seat, where it connects to the cord that connects it to the stereo’s AUX jack.  It’s a pretty convenient location and slack in the AUX cord allows me to place the remote in a number of accessible positions.

Performance of this config is pretty nice considering it’s connected to a stock stereo.  I like the fact that the stereo allows unique EQ settings for the AUX input.  Once I flattened the EQ on the Walkman and cranked up its gain I was able to tweak in a decent sound on the stereo.  I can’t tell that I’m not listening to the built-in CD player.  Because the Hi-MD has gapless playback and (to my ears) a transparent Hi-SP mode, it’s like having a multi-disc CD changer at my fingertips.  Seeking and album changes are quick and easy with the remote, and because I can squeeze 10 or more albums on a 1GB Hi-MD disk in Hi-SP mode (8 hours of music) disc changes are rare.

This setup is pretty good for now, but I’d love a solution that allowed me to automatically wirelessly sync content to the player.  A Zune with a car kit and a decent remote might fill the bill.  I was hoping Apple would add WiFi and wireless content sync to the Nano and/or Classic with their last iPod line updates, but they didn’t.  Keeping a small set of albums at my fingertips is cool, but having more music and podcasts available would be even better.