Empeg Frequently Asked Questions (with Answers)


How much does it cost and where can I get it?

The empeg MP3 car audio player (empeg-car) is a product of Empeg Ltd of Cambridge, UK. Please visit their web site for complete pricing details and ordering instructions. Note that due to the enormous demand and limited availability of this product, a registration queue has been put into place such that orders are taken on a first-come, first-serve basis.

At the time of this writing, pricing was as follows:

Product Approx.
Price (including VAT)
Car Player 4 Gb 70 hrs US $1,099 UK £799
Car Player 6 Gb 100 hrs US $1,199 UK £899
Car Player 10 Gb 170 hrs US $1,499 UK £1,099
Car Player 20 Gb 340 hrs US $1,949 UK £1,449
Standard Blue display included
Green or Amber display US $20 UK £15
Additional car mount US $40 UK £30
Shipping (varies by country) US $42-64 UK £9.40-30.50

Please note these are not official prices but merely those known to be current at one time. Visit the official Empeg Ltd site mentioned above for current information!

Contributed by Rob Leslie

Why isn't the empeg a CD-based player?

This one does come up quite often. It's not the case that 90% of people want a CD based player - especially after they've heard our reasoning against that.

Here goes with the standard response:

We have no plans to integrate a CD player into our empeg Car product.

We did consider this option, but decided against it for a number of reasons: some practical, some commercial, and some because of our own opinions.

Starting with the practical ones:

  1. There just isn't enough room. When things like power supplies and a decent display on the unit are taken into account, there is very little space left for a huge CD-ROM drive. Even laptop drives would fill all of the space currently filled with the hard drives.
  2. Durability. Most CD-ROMs nowadays are made to be cheap, not durable, due to the ever shortening cycles of PC development and higher CD speeds. When you throw in the things like wear on bearings from spinning a CD in a moving, vibrating vehicle it becomes apparent that you really need a custom in-car CD-ROM mechanism, which aren't thick on the ground.

Both these problems could be solved if we were a huge audio company, who has mechanisms and designs for these things which could be adapted for CD-ROM (as opposed to CD-audio) playback. But we're not - yet! Adding MP3 playback to a normal CD-audio player isn't as easy as putting a MP3 decoder into the output stream: CD-audio data (a) runs at the wrong data rate and (b) uses an error-spreading technique on the audio stream, as opposed to an error-correction, sector-based technique for CD-ROMs.

Next, the commercial reasons:

  1. Limits the market to those with CD-recorders. You need a CD-recorder to use such a device. CD-recorders are expensive items, have a habit of being a pain for novices to get working reliably, and so on.
  2. Appeals to music pirates. Although it appears that Diamond have emerged victorious over the RIAA, we're not being complacent, and we do not want to be seen as encouraging piracy. Whatever people say, the RIAA and other music industry organisations are rightly worried about CD-R owners, and associate them with piracy, which being honest is what most of the CD-R drives are used for, in one way or another.

Finally, our personal reasons:

  1. Not big enough! The idea with the empeg is to have all your favourite music with you at all times. As the idea was go get rid of swapping tapes or CDs, it seems a backward step to end up swapping CDs, even if they hold 12x as much as they did before. With the forthcoming release of the new Toshiba 18Gb laptop drive, the empeg will soon have up to 614 hours of CD-quality audio all inside the unit!
  2. Breaks the database. On the empeg, the music is organised in a database. This allows you to specify tracks to be played by various categories and to bring together different moods of music with ease. With a handful of CD-Rs, you lose this `anything, anytime' freedom that you get with a hard disk. It also doesn't lend itself well to maintenance of the database: for example, modifying the criteria on a tune stored on a CD-R (say, recategorising Ash from Britpop to Indie) is a major pain.

I hope you can see our reasoning, even if you don't agree!

Contributed by Rob Voisey


Do I really need to use the amplifier ground leads that came with my empeg?

Some people seem not to need or want to connect them, but it is generally recommended that you install the audio grounding leads at your amplifier and ensure that no other part of the exposed audio cable ground touches any part of your car's frame (i.e. ground). Quoting the empeg user guide:

There are two pairs of audio outputs, with an output level of approximately 3.2v RMS. These are driven in a quasi-differential fashion, and so the ground of the audio output is NOT the car earth: it is a ground sense from the amplifier ground to provide better audio quality. You should take care to ensure that the ground of the audio outputs (i.e. the phono/RCA jack exterior) does not touch the car bodywork: if they do, this will not damage anything, but it will result in reduced audio quality. In practice, this usually means wrapping insulation tape around the audio connections after they have been connected to the in-car wiring.

You should ensure that the supplied audio grounding leads are used at the amplifier end to tie audio ground to amplifier ground, allowing the floating ground outputs of the empeg to function correctly.

The empeg is perhaps unique among head units in this respect. There's a chance your professional audio installer will fail to see a reason to connect the ground leads for you, so you may need to carefully point it out. If, after showing the user guide to the installer and explaining why the ground leads are needed and your installer still refuses to properly connect the leads and your resulting audio quality suffers, you ought complain to the installer to correct it (and offer you an apology for poor service.)

See also the next section on audio quality.

Contributed by Rob Leslie

Audio Quality

What's all this about floating ground, anyway?

The empeg has a lot of fast digital signals which could bleed over onto the audio stage. One way to provide good isolation from this is to use a "floating ground" whereby the audio ground is completely isolated from the digital and chassis ground. This provides good noise isolation inside the player, but an audio circuit must be grounded somewhere, and most amplifiers are also floating ground - therefore we provide cables to ground at the amplifier end.

The analogue wizardry behind this is a little heavy for most of us, but it works :)

Contributed by Rob Voisey

Why do the ground leads appear to be low-quality connectors?

The grounding cables use gold plated RCA's which are pretty much the same electrical spec as the metal bodied connectors on the car mount - they just don't look as nice. The signal cable in the grounding leads, although thin, is very high quality hifi rated cable. You can rig up your own ground tap if you prefer, though.

Contributed by Rob Voisey

Using the Player

How do I store a radio station preset?

Tune to the correct frequency. Press DNPP and one of the digit keys to store in that preset. There are ten available (0-9) currently. Just press a digit key alone to recall a preset.

Please note that this will change quite a bit since the DNPP button will not be available in tuner mode for much longer :-)

Contributed by Mike Crowe


Can I hook up a USB Ethernet adapter to the empeg?

Unfortunately, you cannot. The USB on the empeg is a slave port. You need a USB master to drive the adaptor and the empeg doesn't have one and won't have one. The empeg folks have said that:

  1. they don't have room
  2. 99.9% of the people need a slave device so they can hook it up to their home PC for downloads (and a master can't talk to a master without special additional hardware), and
  3. USB master chips usually come attached to a PCI bus - which the empeg doesn't have.
Contributed by Clarke

Can I add a second hard drive myself?

You can, but you'll void your warranty in the process. For details from someone who's done this, see David Moore's page about adding a HDD to your empeg.

Contributed by Rob Leslie


Is it possible to record the output of the tuner as digital audio?

It is not. The DSP audio system is output only; the CPU has no way of reading digital audio data that it did not originate -- from the tuner, for example.

Contributed by Patrick Arnold

Contributions Wanted

If you have some information, software, or tidbit that you think might be helpful for others, we encourage you to submit it so it can be added to this site. We welcome all contributions, and we will attribute each submission to the author. Please contribute!

Have a question not answered by this FAQ? If you send us the question, we'll find the answer and post it here for the benefit of everyone. Send your question to ask@empeg.mars.org.