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Why Does My Car Stereo Say No Audio Files?

The days of needing to keep a selection of CDs or cassette tapes in your car are long gone. In modern vehicles, you can enjoy listening to digital audio from your mobile phone or other devices.

Why does my car stereo say no audio files?

Car stereos say no audio files because the format of the audio is incompatible with your car stereo. There are many different audio file formats, with the most common being MP3 and Wav files. If your stereo does not support a certain format, it will not play the audio.

There are several other potential reasons that the stereo in your vehicle could be unable to play certain audio files.

If the stereo has malfunctioned, you may need to reset it.

The problem can usually be fixed by following some simple measures to troubleshoot the issue, then taking the appropriate action to rectify it.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain how to figure out why your car stereo is displaying a message like “No Audio Files” and how it can be fixed.

The Reason Your Car Stereo Says No Audio Files

Most modern car stereos allow you to connect a memory stick or other device via USB.

The digital audio files can then be transmitted through the USB cable to the stereo so that they can be played out loud through the vehicle’s speakers.

USB is used to transfer digital audio files from a memory stick, hard drive, SD card, phone, or another source device.

It is sent to a DAC, which is short for a digital to analog converter. This device then converts the digital audio, which consists of a series of 0s and 1s, into an analog waveform that can be played back by the stereo.

This form of connection is by far the most popular when it comes to car stereo systems. USB is very reliable and can transfer the files quickly so that there is no delay or lag when the audio is sent to the stereo.

When you connect a device to the stereo in your vehicle, depending on the specifics of the system, you will likely be presented with a track number, a title, or some other indication that the file has been found.

  • If the stereo is unable to locate or read the audio file, you may get an error message which reads something like “No Audio Files” or “No Files Found”. Alternatively, the stereo display may be blank. This can be very frustrating if you want to listen to music or a podcast while driving.

The first thing I’d suggest you try is to reset the stereo.

This can usually be done by locating the small reset button, which often requires you to gently insert a small pin, or similarly sized item, into a hole. The button should click, which indicates that the stereo has been reset to factory settings.

If you can’t locate the reset button on your stereo, look for the make and model or the product number, then look up the instructions provided by the manufacturer for resetting the system.

Once you’ve reset the stereo, attempt to play the same file again. If the problem persists, this means that the issue is with the audio file itself, or the device that you’re playing it from, rather than the car stereo.

Car Stereo File Format Compatibility

Musicians, audio engineers, producers, or anyone who has experience with digital audio will know that when they export a file, there is a wide range of formats that they can choose from. 

Audio file formats vary in terms of their sound quality, size, level of compression, and compatibility with other devices. Some of the most common audio file formats are:

  • mp3
  • WAV
  • WMA
  • AAC
  • FLAC
  • AIFF
  • M4A/MP4

When your car stereo says “no audio files” it is likely that this is because the format of the audio coming from the source device is incompatible with the system.

The stereo will therefore be unable to identify and play the file.

Generally, most car stereos should be able to read mp3, WAV, WMA, AAC, and FLAC audio files. However, this depends on the age of the stereo and its quality. High-end stereos may be able to read more audio file formats than affordable, basic options.

You might be wondering why it is necessary for there to be so many different audio file types, and the answer is complicated.

  • Audio formats can be split into two main categories – compressed and uncompressed.

Compressed audio files are processed, and the dynamic peaks and troughs are reduced. This process is like flattening the audio so that the finer details are left out.

The reason for this compression is that it considerably reduces the size of the files. Mp3 files are highly compressed so that more songs can be stored on an MP3 player or another device.

Conversely, uncompressed audio formats are much larger. The details of the audio have not been removed, and this, therefore, results in better sound quality. Professional audio master tracks are almost always uncompressed.

The majority of car stereos should be able to play a mixture of compressed and uncompressed audio files. However, some of the more obscure file types may be unreadable to the stereo, which is likely to cause the issue you’re experiencing.

The table below displays some key information about the most common audio formats.

Audio FormatType
mp3Compressed lossy
WAVUncompressed lossless
AIFFUncompressed lossless
FLACCompressed lossless
M4A/MP4Compressed lossy
WMACompressed lossy

Using a File Converter for Your Car Stereo Audio Tracks

If your car stereo won’t play a certain audio file due to format incompatibility, all is not lost!

You can easily convert the file into a compatible format. This can be done using online converters, or by using an audio editing program. There are many paid and free programs available that can perform this function.

Simply drag or upload the file to the conversion site or into the sequencer in your audio editing program. Then, you can choose to export it into another format of your choice, or export it as a new format.

If you want to keep the file size as small as possible, converting it to mp3 is a good idea.

While this format decreases the overall quality of the file, it won’t have too much of an impact on a car stereo. The difference will likely only be apparent on some high-end studio monitors or a good hi-fi system.

If you’d rather retain the audio quality, choose a lossless uncompressed format. WAV is likely to be supported by your car stereo, so that’s a pretty safe bet.

You can then put the converted audio file onto your device, and retry it on the car stereo. It should hopefully now play without bringing up the “no audio files” message on the display.

Checking the specifications from the manufacturer of your car stereo will likely tell you exactly which audio file formats are supported.

This is a good idea, as it will prevent you from converting it into another incompatible format and having to repeat the process. 

How to Connect Your Phone to a Car Stereo via Bluetooth

Many stereos in vehicles also support Bluetooth connectivity. This allows you to wirelessly stream music from your phone to the stereo, without the hassle of having to use a USB or aux cable.

If your stereo supports Bluetooth, all you need to do is locate it in the display menu. It may be under “Connections” or listed as “BT”. Once you’ve found it, you should be able to scan for devices to pair with. 

Then, go to the Bluetooth menu in the settings on your phone. Make sure Bluetooth is turned on, and the phone should appear in the list of possible devices to connect to on the stereo.

Select the phone, and wait for it to pair. Once the connection has been established, the stereo may ask you whether you want to use the phone for all audio, or just for a specific purpose like making calls. If you want to listen to music, make sure you choose that option.

Check out this YouTube video for more information.

Related Questions

Why does my car stereo cut out?

If your car stereo is cutting out, this may be due to an issue with the installation. Most commonly, it indicates that the ground wire has not been correctly connected, or that the amplifier is being overwhelmed by the system.

What are the components in a car stereo system?

While the specifics of every car stereo system vary, there are three key components that all of them must have to work properly. These are the speakers, an amplifier, and the source device which could be a CD player or an FM radio.

Do all car stereos have a DAC?

All car stereos, and any stereo system for that matter, must have a DAC onboard otherwise they won’t be able to play digital audio files. The DAC is responsible for converting digital files into analog waveforms so that they can be played back.

Do All CD Players Sound The Same?

Check out this article for more information.