1990 MAZDA MX5, 1992 HONDA CRX
MP3 on Wheels
Reviewed May 17, 1999
n March 1998, Hugo Fiennes, a 28-year-old computer programmer, faced a dilemma. The owner of a sporty little 1990 Mazda MX5 (the English version of the car known in the US as Miata), Fiennes wanted to upgrade his car's cassette player but didn't want to lose any of the precious trunk space to a CD changer. Fiennes, drawing on his programming and engineering skills, developed a singular solution: He built what he reckons is the first in-car MP3 player. "A few other people had put PCs in their cars, but they were usually whole PC systems with screens as opposed to a purpose-built music player," Fiennes explains.
MP3 Killed the Car Radio Star
Although to the layman the idea might seem inconceivable, Fiennes installed his system in just about a month and at a cost of $600. The advantages of the MP3 player versus a conventional car stereo are numerous, Fiennes observes:
The system includes elaborate programming options available at the touch of a finger, such as sorting songs by artist or year. The display shows programmable song details, such as artist name and time remaining. "Loading" the unit with music is simple: Plug a laptop computer into the player and download the songs as much as 35 hours' worth directly into the unit.
Doing it Yourself
"The MP3mobile was just made for my own gratification I wasn't planning anything commercial at the time," Fiennes says. Still, by June 1998 Fiennes had registered a new domain name (empeg.com) and parlayed his pet project into a prototype for a commercially available product. He founded and is currently the technical director for empeg Ltd., a team of five that has developed the "empeg" player, currently nearing the final stages of production. "While the MP3mobile prototype was made with mainly off-the-shelf components, glued together with some custom circuitry and software, the empeg commercial product is a 100 per cent custom design."
Reported by Kara Reuter, cars.com
Get a peek at Fiennes' custom installation.
THE TECHIE DETAILS
Check out another homemade MP3 "car stereo" (and even buy plans to do it yourself!).
222 HP STEREO