While I knew that Shenzen is the Chinese powerhouse city for electronics manufacturing, I know nothing of the companies there. This car stereo was spotted on eBay and I do not know how it is done for the price. In GBP this radio is £9.59 for one, £9.11 for two (each) and, if you get three, just £8.82 each. And that pays for the postage as you do not get charged extra. The price also covers the seller’s eBay fees, surely this is the world’s cheapest car stereo? Either way, it certainly won’t be making its way anywhere near our list of the best car stereo in 2023…
I ordered one and it arrived from Liverpool in 48 hours. It came from a trading company that when you look it up, is a Chinese accountancy firm. They certainly sent out my order rapidly.
The box has no product image and has inaccurate labelling. The eBay listing says is it a “CAR MP3 PALYER” (sic). So what do you get get for under £10?
PODOFO SH4AMPOD or JSD-520?
The box has a sticker on it. The top says “NO battery No Hassel Eco-friendly” (sic) Then, it has the manufacturer cited as Shenzen ShunXinDa Trading Co. Ltd. Next is, ‘Brand: Podofo and then, Model: SH4AMPOD. Below that, the EC Ref company, Like Sun GmbH in Essen, is cited. In the UK, TSR Commercial Limited, that accountancy firm I looked up. If you go to the website called Made in China, ‘Connecting buyers with Chinese suppliers’ they have this listing:
“Shenzhen ShunXinDa Trading Co., Ltd. is a manufacturing and trading company located in Shenzhen, Guandong, China. We specialize in car electronics for 10 years, such as car radio, rear view camera monitor kits and dash cam. We have universal 1 DIN car MP3 Player, 2 DIN car MP5 player, Android car radio, and auto radio for different brands of cars. Podofo brand was created in 2016, and is recognized and praised by customers. Our aim is to provide excellent services to customers, create value for society, and work hard for Chinese brands to go global.”
They look to be supplying direct to individuals, from the factory, via eBay and their Euro and UK delivery hubs. This cuts out the importer/distributor and any B&M retailer with overheads. Still, the price does stagger me; is this the world’s cheapest car stereo?
Unboxing the world’s cheapest car stereo
It has a short body, and the front has a different model number. It says JSD-520, after the ‘60W x4’. Oddly, the panel looks to have once been for a CD player, with the slot shape filled-in. It looks like a CD deck but is of course mech-free. The paired RCA outputs and DIN sockets on the back are joined only by a regular FM aerial socket. It also bears a meaty 10A fuse and a tiny cast alloy heatsink with small ridges.
On the front, a USB socket is covered by a little movable door. It’s above the 3.5mm stereo AUX input and next to the SD card slot. It comes with a chunky 21-button remote that takes two AAA batteries (not included) but no manual of any kind. The unit’s body itself bears a stuck-on wiring-install diagram in English.
The eBay information is archaic. They call an SD card a TF card, the oldest and now all but unused term. They refer only to LOSSLESS and yet the front bears the legend BT/APE/WAV/WMA/MP3/FM. The unit reads FLAC files! APE Refers to Monkeys Audio. A proprietary lossless system a lot like FLAC, (which is open-source). I put a whole slew of music together. An SD card with MP3, M4A and YouTube tunes in MP3. A USB with Peter Gabriel in FLAC as well as more M4A files. Another flash drive had WAV bass tunes popped on it.
In my experience, every car unit that can read and decode different file formats, tends to have foibles. Some files will play on your computer that might not on the car unit. I fired up the (let’s call it a) JSD-520 and in moments I was listening to Peter Gabriel. It was ‘Live in Athens’ in offensively high quality FLAC.
How is the sound from the world’s cheapest car stereo?
It wouldn’t recognize and play the .m4a files and the relative output levels varied a good bit. Yet the FLACs and MP3 played a treat. I plugged in an aerial and found the FM tuner was OK if not that sensitive. It played radio.
I used an RCA output via the Genesis SM60 reference test amplifier and the B&W test speakers. It was astonishingly good for a tenner. I was boggled. I had thought the carton would be the thing that had the information on it. It didn’t really. It just said, MOSFET 60WX4 and had some stuff like “electronic system” printed there. Going back to the eBay listing, I find most of the formats named, except it was also labelled ‘Lossless’. It only says APE on the unit and FLAC ability was a real surprise. It didn’t like the FLAC 16 files, was all.
Next, I connected the Bluetooth which was a bit temperamental. But after initial connection, it would fire up and yes, it plays music from Spotify. I made a call to Jules, the Guv’nor, to test the phone. He said it was clear on the built-in microphone. I also fired up an old DAB pocket radio and used the headphone output to feed the Aux socket. That worked, too.
I admit a part of me was sad, as even without warranty, this is cheaper than a KFC chicken dinner. It made me fear for the whole rest of the trade.
Yes, the controls and buttons feel flimsy, but the thing works and sounds reasonably clean and clear. I decided to see what the 60W x4 was all about. Disconnecting the RCAs, I plugged in the speaker wires directly.
The truth about the world’s cheapest car stereo
At first, it was huge on the head unit power. But soon it started to sound a bit weaker and crackled a bit if I turned it up. I checked all sources; AUX, FM, AUX, SD, USB, and Bluetooth .Then, I left it playing DAB via the analogue 3.5mm socket while I started work.
And that was when I decided to order the special K-type thermocouple for my multimeter. The unit got hot. Like scary hot, and once it got that hot, it sounded awful and seemed to stay baked afterwards.
I fired it up after the weekend and this time it didn’t break up or crackle. The thermocouple was Blu-Tacked to the heatsink and I gave it beans. I took pics at the start but I can tell you that by thirty minutes later, it was running around 177 Fahrenheit, or 81C! It did cool down a bit if played at background levels.
I was worried that if you use this in your car, it will bake the dash. It could even melt insulation around other wires! I also doubt the veracity of the safety markings on the printed box. The point is that while it can get hot enough to burn your fingers, I could also soften and melt the wires behind the radio. And that is short-circuit city and auto fires. These temperatures were with the unit in an open shelf. Were it snuggled in a dashboard, I would fear for my safety, frankly.
A pity because the Podofo JSD-150 sounds way too good for the money.
I called an electronics expert…
Tony at Videotec, near Oxford in the UK, is the man who fixes Pioneer DJ decks for famous DJs. He is a genius electronics expert and told me that every extra degree of heat is an extra degree closer to a fault condition.
I called the Health & Safety Executive. They said to call the Office For Product Safety & Standards. Helen there, said to call Trading Standards in my area. And they said, “Ooh, that’s a bit technical, you better mail that and I will make sure the right person gets to see it.”
So, is it legal and safe? I don’t yet know, but I can tell you is that it really does work and sounds annoyingly good! Truly though, I will have to follow through on this, to see if the listing is even legal on UK eBay as a dangerous item of electronics.
- Single DIN mech-free FM radio with USB/SD/Aux and Bluetooth streaming and phone calls
- Onboard Power: 4x60W MOSFET
- Front & Rear RCA output, short body
- Plays MP3, WAV, APE, FLAC (NOT FLAC 16)
- £9.59 delivered UK, £9.11 each for two, or £8.82 each for three. Or don’t bother buying any at all, that would be my advice!