Car Radio Acronyms Dictionary

A modern car radio is similar in logic to a personal computer. It contains a data input system, image and sound output, a central processor, an internal storage and communication modules. And as the computer acquires new technologies and standards, car radios are also improving every year. Sometimes this or that abbreviation baffles even an experienced user, and it is for such situations that this dictionary is intended.

The list of abbreviations will not include file systems, file extensions, types of audio and video codecs, other software profiles and protocols. Each car radio supports dozens of types of such instructions, the names of which do not require special attention. Bluetooth profiles are well written here .

Connection interfaces
DIN – Deutsche Industrienorm. Standardized seating for audio head units in the vehicle interior. Named after the Institute for Standardization. 1 DIN has a panel size of 180 x 50 mm, 2 DIN has twice the height – 180 x 100 mm. As a rule, 1 DIN models, due to size restrictions, have a simplified display, while 2DIN radio tape recorders have full-fledged displays of 6-7 inches. But there are also models with a retractable screen that occupies 1 DIN connector.

Comparison of sizes of 1 DIN and 2 DIN car radios

ISO 10487 – International Organization for Standardization. Named by the name of the organization that standardized the connector parameter. If it is clear what refers to the connection of the car radio, then the number is not mentioned. ISO is a European standard for connecting a head unit to the internal wiring of a car. Includes transmission of audio signal to speakers, power supply to the battery and other service purposes.

The plug consists of two separate or fastened together connectors A and B of the section of 8 contacts, which differ from each other by a “key” that does not allow to confuse the orientation when connected. Different brands of cars can be with completely different connectors for connection, therefore there are a large number of adapters from Euro ISO to others. An example of connecting a radio tape recorder can be found here.

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ISO connector example

RCA is an analog data connector. You can often find the names “tulip” or “bell”. Most often in the car audio system it is used as a transmission of sound from the head unit to the amplifier. Can be used as one connector in one channel, or eight for full surround sound. RCA also allows image transmission to the screen of a monitor equipped with such a connector. There is a possibility of connecting an external camera. In this case, the connector may be labeled AV-IN.

RCA connectors on the back of the car radio

SWC – Steering Wheel Control. This abbreviation denotes a wire from a car radio for connecting a control panel on the steering wheel of a car. Moreover, it can be either a standard multifunction steering wheel or a separately purchased device. Such control of the car radio is much more convenient than the traditional one and does not distract from the road.

An example of a steering wheel control for an audio system

AUX – audio port for connecting external devices. It is a 3.5 mm jack. It is usually located on the front panel of the car radio. Allows you to connect an external audio device that will transmit sound to your car speakers. In most cases, this can be a phone or MP3 player. You can also find AUX-OUT for transmitting audio signals to third-party headphones or speakers.

AUX socket on the front of the car radio

DVR – Digital Video Recorder. Within the scope, this is a radio tape recorder connector that allows you to connect a DVR to a head unit. Among the wires, you can also find the DVR-IR marking – this is the power supply for the camera’s backlight.

Car radio dvr cable

Radio technology
RDS – Radio Data System. Protocol for transferring additional information to the FM channel. The simplest examples of RDS work are displaying a line with the name of the station, the weather and the song being played at the moment on the radio tape recorder. Moreover, according to the new 2015 RDS2 protocol, you can broadcast HTML / CSS templates and even the station’s graphic logo with the radio.

An example of RDS display on the car radio screen

PTY – Program type. It is an RDS software component that displays information about the type of broadcast or the music style of the radio. For example, PTY allows you to search for rock music or news music among the available frequencies. Of course, for the function to work, it is necessary for the station to transmit information using this protocol.

PTY information tells us that rock is playing now

TA / TP – Traffic Announcement / Traffic Programm. Part of the RDS system that notifies the driver of road conditions. When the radio station turns on this kind of notification, the car radio increases the volume of the air so that the listener does not miss important announcements. Moreover, some modern models of radio tape recorders record TA notifications in an inactive state and play them on demand. The TP function, in turn, helps to find a radio station that supports these alerts.

Traffic Announcement on the car radio screen

AF – Alternative frequencies. A list of additional frequencies of the radio channel to which the radio will automatically retune when the original signal becomes too weak. The data is transmitted via RDS and does not require any additional action from the driver.

AST – Automatic Store Tuning. The system will automatically find the most powerful radio stations in the area and assign them the corresponding numbers in memory. The number of stations may vary depending on the car radio model.

Other abbreviations
DSP – Digital Signal Processor. Digital signal processor for sound processing. The data stream is processed in the DSP taking into account the equalizer settings, the delays of each specific speaker, and the volume. The signal is then converted to analog and transmitted to the speakers. As a result, the sound of an audio system with DSP differs for the better.

DSP – Digital Signal Processor.

ATT – Attenuate. Automatic muting of the sound of the car radio when a call comes in. The function works both with a smartphone connected via Bluetooth automatically, and is displayed on a separate button for manual control.

Car radio ATT connection wire

SPD VOL – Speed-depend volume control. The function of increasing the volume of the radio with increasing vehicle speed. The intelligent system compensates for noise as the speed increases by increasing the volume. The compensation parameter is manually adjusted.

DTA – Digital Time Alignment. Adjusting the speaker lag in modern audio systems. Allows you to equalize the travel time of the audio signal to the listener so that the music reaches the ears at the same time. There are both manual settings and preset options for the driver, or, for example, for the right rear passenger.

Setting up DTA in a modern car radio

Each manufacturer of car audio systems additionally has its own list of buttons and functions, which are abbreviated in the name. For example:

PWR – power button
SRC – Select a sound source
DISP – change display mode
SEL – mode selection
There are a huge number of such types of abbreviations and they are often intuitive. If the abbreviation is not generally accepted and implicit, then the original instructions for the car radio will come to the rescue. If it is lost, then you can find it in electronic form on the manufacturer’s website.