Car Charger and AUX Audio Cable

Insten USB Car Charger Adapter + 3.5mm AUX Audio Cable Cord

Question: Can I listen to music with a USB to aux cable in my car?

One of the guys I carpool with has one of those fancy factory radios that does navigation and all kinds of other things, and I don’t have much use for that, but one thing I do like is he can plug a USB thumbstick into it and it will play music right off the stick. My radio doesn’t have a USB plug, but it does have an aux input. Before I spend money on a USB to aux cable, I want to know if I can plug a thumbstick into one and then plug the cable into my aux input and listen to the songs on it.

Answer:

USB to aux cables do exist, and they do work for the purposes that they were designed, but they don’t work in the way that you are describing. If you plug a USB thumb drive into a USB to aux cable and plug the cable into your head unit, nothing will happen.

The same is true, in most cases, if you plug a USB to aux cable into your phone and connect it to your head unit. Some phones and MP3 players are designed to output audio signals via USB connection, like the original HTC Dream that used a single micro-USB connector for both power and audio output, but most phones and MP3 players come with a standard 3.5mm or 2.5mm TRRS headphone jack for a reason.

The Difference Between USB and Auxiliary in Car Audio

In simplest terms, USB is a digital connection that transfers digital information, and a standard 3.5mm TRRS auxiliary jack is an analog connection that expects an analog audio signal.

There is some overlap between the two, as USB headphones do exist, but USB headphones still require an analog input via the USB connection.

The main difference between USB and aux in car audio is that USB connections are designed to offload processing of audio data to the head unit, while aux connections are only capable of taking in an already processed signal.

If you couldn’t plug a set of headphones into a device, then you can’t connect that device to your head unit’s auxiliary input either.

There is a difference between headphone and line outputs, which is one of the reasons that people like to use USB to offload processing and amplification to the head unit. In most cases, when you plug a phone or MP3 player into the aux input in a head unit, you end up piping an already amplified signal intended for headphones rather than a line-level signal, which isn’t ideal in terms of sound quality.

If a phone or MP3 player offers a line output option, that will typically provide better sound, and USB will also provide better sound quality, but only if the head unit also has a USB connection.

Why You Can’t Plug a USB Flash Drive into a USB to Aux Cable

When you put music on a USB flash drive, or a phone, or any other storage media, it is stored as a digital file. The file is usually compressed as an MP3, AAC, OGG, or another format, unless you buy high-resolution digital music. In order to listen to those files, something needs to read the data and convert it into an analog signal that can be used to drive headphones or speakers. Whether it’s software on a computer, phone, MP3 player, or even the head unit in your car, the process is essentially the same.

In the case of a USB flash drive, what you have is passive storage media that holds song data but that can’t actually do anything with that data. When you plug the drive in the USB connection of compatible a head unit or infotainment system, the head unit accesses it just like your computer would. The head unit reads data from the drive and is able to play the songs because it has the right firmware or software to do so.

2 in 1 Lightning Cable Audio Cable USB Charging Cable 3.2ft Aux Stereo Audio Car Stereo Cable for iPhone 7 Home Auxiliary Audio Cable Car Stereos for iPhone 7 plus- Black
Wireless (CREATOR)
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  • PREMINU QUALITY High-strength aluminum alloy coat, ensure that the cable will last a long time. The high quality cooper wire allows a stable and original music...
  • YOUR GOOD FRIEND ON THE ROAD 3.2ft(1m)Long enough for you to use in car/home/outdoors. Built with a copper shielding inside of the jacket which can reduce the loss...
  • WARRANTY We love our customers and want them love us too! We will offer you a 100% satisfaction shopping experience in our store. We are confident with all of our...
Dreamvasion 2 in 1 Charger and Car Aux Audio Lightning to 3.5mm Male Headphone Jack Adapter Audio Stereo Cable for iPhone 7 / 7 Plus with USB Extension Charging Port - Silver
Speakers (HSMO)
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  • Design of fine aluminum alloy, effectively play its shielding effectiveness, enhance the ability to resist interference, to ensure high-speed signal transmission...
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SELNA Blue Tangle Free Braided Wire Car Audio Stereo Aux Cable Auxiliary Adapter for iPad, Air, Pro, Mini - iPhone 6 6S / 6 6S Plus 5S 5C 5 4S - Samsung Galaxy S6, Edge, +, S5, S4, S3, S2, Mini, Active, Sport - Galaxy Note 5 4 3 2 1 Edge - Galaxy Tab - LG G2, G3, G4, Vigor, Optimus L90 - Google Nexus 6, 5, 4 - HTC ONE M8 / E8 / Max / Remix / Desire
CE (Selna)
  • SELNA(TM) High Quality Tangle free Braided Cloth Stereo Audio Cable. Approximately 3 4 (1 Meter) long. Color: Blue.
  • Great for connecting your iPhone, iPad, Tablet or Smartphone directly to your car or home theater system, speakers.
  • Male-to-male 3.5mm connectors. Gold plated 3.5mm Audio Plugs deliver crisp sounds & minimal signal loss.
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Wireless (Comsoon)
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Accessonico 2 Pack USB Charger Data SYNC Cable, AUX Audio Plug 3.5mm Jack to USB 2.0 Male Adapter for Beats by Dr.Dre Studio 2.0 Wireless Headphones- 3.3ft
Speakers (Accessonico)
  • 2 Pack USB to 3.5mm Jack, Length: 3.3ft
  • Top quality design and High-quality materials to ensure reliability and provide superspeed charging and transferring. First Choice of High Quality with proper price.
  • 2 in 1 : Charge and Sync date transfer
  • Compatible With Beats by Dr.Dre Studio 2.0 Wireless Headphones.Easily charge your devices by simply connecting to the USB port of your PC or MAC
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