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What is a CD Changer?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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A compact disc (CD) changer is a CD player that can hold multiple compact discs at once. Models made for home stereo systems are integrated into the CD deck itself, and generally use a carousel style tray that can hold five or six discs. A changer for automobiles is typically a separate unit that works in conjunction with the in-dash player or factory radio. In a sedan, mobile CD changers are normally installed under a seat or in the trunk. In sports utility vehicles, they might be located behind a rear side panel.

There are two main types of mobile CD changers: standard and FM modulated. The in-dash deck and the deck’s wireless remote can control a standard changer. An FM modulated device is made to work with a factory radio that does not have built-in CD controls, and therefore requires its own hard-wired LCD display and wireless remote.

When purchasing an aftermarket car stereo, buyers should note that not all units have the ability to control a separate CD changer, even if the deck plays CDs itself. To control a separate changer with the deck’s controls and wireless remote, the unit must have a feature set that includes CD controls. Additionally, consumers must purchase one that is compatible with the in-dash deck. Commonly, this means buying a changer made by the same manufacturer.

For individuals who would like to avoid the hassle of changing the in-dash unit, but who would like a multiple disc changer, the FM modulated CD changer might be the answer. The driver won’t be able to control the changer with the in-dash unit or its remote, but the device will come with a hard-wired LCD display and controls, plus a wireless remote.

FM modulated or standard, a mobile CD changer uses a magazine to hold multiple CDs, rather than a carousel tray. This not only allows the mobile changer to be more compact, it also allows it to hold more CDs than a carousel-style changer. The smallest mobile changer holds six CDs, and larger models hold 12 or more.

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