Sony is launching an in-car CD tuner and MP3 player. The Sony MEX-BT3600U is designed to be a neater way of pumping music from iPod or Walkman MP3 player to car stereo speakers.

Unlike other in-car MP3 player hookups which generally involve tuning in to an available FM channel, the Sony MEX-BT3600U is essentially a car stereo and CD player with a USB port to which the portable player then attaches.

The point of both FM tuner-type devices and gadgets such as this Sony in-car player is that you can enjoy your music collection without having to lug your CD collection with you.

Sony has given its in-car player a straightforward navigation menu too: a ‘Quick-BrowZer’ lets users search and select tracks stored on their MP3 player. Track and album details are shown on the tuner's 13-segment LCD display.

As well as being able to play songs stored on a device attached to it by mini USB, the Sony MEX-BT3600U can access items on Bluetooth devices. Music stored on any compatible Bluetooth A2DP-enabled mobile phone can be streamed wirelessly through the vehicle’s speakers. An indicator on the head unit’s display confirms connection with a nearby Bluetooth device while the Bluetooth Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP) allows users to skip and pause tracks using the car stereo.

The Bluetooth capability also enables hands-free mobile phone calling. Cables, phone cradles and car kits are rendered unnecessary, but an echo-cancelling microphone on the device's front panel ensures calls are as clear as possible. Music is automatically paused when a call is accepted and resumes when the call is ended.

For iPods and other MP3 players with no USB port, there's an auxilliary input that connects with the headphone output of any personal audio player.

Sony says its in-car tuner offers 24bit digital-to-audio conversion, four channels of 52W super low distortion power and a DM+ (digital music) codec enhancer that restores the high frequencies lost from a CD source to MP3 compression.

The Sony MEX-BT3600U will be available from May 2008. Pricing has yet to be confirmed.

Sony MEX-BT3600U in-car digital music tuner

Sony MEX-BT3600U in-car digital music tuner

Sony xilliary portMEX-BT3600U in-car digital music tuner

MP3 players can be attached via USB or the auxilliary input port