Are there still car stereos with decent knobs?
June 30, 2013 4:27 PM   Subscribe

How can I find a decent replacement stereo for my 2005 Audi TT roadster? One with real knobs and no laser light show?

I have a 2005 Audi TT roadster, which has a perfectly good stereo head unit with two great knobs. It looks like this. Sadly, it doesn't have an aux input, bluetooth, or even a tape deck, so if I want to listen to music from my phone, I have to use an FM adapter, which is awful, especially in a big city. I'd like to replace it with something similarly simple and functional, but this $1200 Pioneer was the only thing I could find that had two knobs. Mostly it's light shows and one flat control disc.

Anyone have any ideas? I'd even take an original stereo that fit and had an aux, but I don't know when Audi started offering that.
posted by YoungAmerican to Technology (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
While the Pionner 99RS is an amazing head unit, it's marketed towards car audio competition level and has more options than you might want to use.

The most obvious downside to most third party receivers is finding one with a legible screen that doesn't wash out under the sun. This is a real issue with many of the glossy screens and a roadster.

Nakamichi used to be the industry leader in the 80s/90s. Most of their models worth having now are north of $400 and don't offer relaible AUX-in, with questionable reliability. The NA98 might be worth looking into. This is what I would go with.

Worth noting, the Blaupunkt line-up, maybe the Helsinki 220. They still have glossy screens, though.

If the budget allows and insurance covers theft, perhaps a McIntosh Mx406?
posted by Giggilituffin at 4:46 PM on June 30, 2013

different track, maybe a stab in the dark: have you looked for an interface kit for the system? there are a few companies that make converter-type boxes that plug into the audio system and route the audio through there. a bit of googling found this by Grom Audio, which purports to be compatible with an '05 TT, but I don't know enough about Audis to know what "no MMI" means. (in previous research, though, a lot of the ones I found used a CD changer port on the head unit to do the magic, so you might have to swap yours out with one that came out of a car with a CD changer in it. that said, all my looking was for a BMW so your mileage may vary here.)

alternatively: are you using just a plugin FM deal or do you have one that's wired to the antenna connector? the latter will give you better results though there's really only so much you can do with these sorts of things.
posted by mrg at 4:51 PM on June 30, 2013

Response by poster: (Whoops, I meant coupe, not roadster. Duh.)
posted by YoungAmerican at 6:36 PM on June 30, 2013

Response by poster: Oh! I didn't know about going through the changer input. I do have a changer, and it's broken!
posted by YoungAmerican at 6:38 PM on June 30, 2013

I have used a Dension Ipod adapter in an 05 Passat with the factory monsoon stereo. They should have a kit that fits the existing head unit in your car. Combine it with a Proclip holder and you're good to go!
posted by TDIpod at 7:01 PM on June 30, 2013

I bought an iPod adapter for my 2003 Audi TT. It looks like the same radio as yours. It plugged into the something in the rear compartment behind the drivers seat that had to do with the cd changer. (I did this 8 years ago, so it's hard to remember exactly what and where I plugged in everything). I ended up with an iPhone adapter cable and a standard audio jack that I can use for audio through the radio.

I ended up pulling up the rear seat, cutting a hole in the foam and putting the iPhone adapter in the hole. Nobody notices when the sit in the back (well, who sits in the back of a TT except 10-year-olds). I also ran the cables through a short part of the center console and drilled a small hole in the cup holder thingy so the cable came out there. I bought a grey gadget holder thing from target that strapped to the side of the passenger seat and I put the iPhone in there when driving around. It worked fine up until I got an iPhone 5, but I haven't messed with trying to adapt the iPhone cable. I just use the audio jack instead. I don't know if they still make the same adapter I used, but you could probably do the same thing with any one compatible with your radio.
posted by rsclark at 7:51 AM on July 1, 2013

mrg, TDIpod and rsclark have the best solution for you, and as your CD changer is broken you won't lose any functionality. MMI is Audi's Multi-Media Interface and is easily confirmed by the presence of a large screen that you would expect satellite navigation to appear on and a control dial in the centre console for controlling it - see here. You do not have this.

Another solution is this interface kit - like the others above, this simply clips in to the radio at the rear. As you have a changer installed, there won't be any additional configuration required to make the port live as may have been an issue otherwise.

Removing the radio is done like this, either with specially made metal blades or in a pinch with something small enough that can be pushed into the sides of the radio to disengage the clips and allow it to slide out.

The connecting cables can often be routed across into your glovebox or similar to keep the car looking tidy. Again, as you have a changer there will be cables already routed that you can follow. I'd expect this to take absolutely no more than 30 minutes to install even for a novice.
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 8:39 AM on July 1, 2013

Just to chime in again after NordyneDefenceDynamics comment (and having more time now). He's right that this shouldn't take long to do at all. You shouldn't have to remove the radio because you should go through the CD changer, which in the TT is in the back left panel behind the driver's seat. I think I spent a couple of hours thinking it out and figuring out how I wanted the cables to run.

I just took a look at the car to refresh my memory and I mounted the adapter in the foam under the seat because I didn't want to physically remove the CD changer from the car. Either it was too much work to get it out of the panel, or I was thinking when I sold the car, the new owner might want to reconnect it. I was able to get to the harness connectors from under the rear seat, which lifted out easily (at least it did just now, maybe it was clipped down better when I did this). I put the adapter in the thick foam between the two seat buckets where someone wouldn't be sitting directly on top of it and the foam was thicker. I think this also gave me more room to have the cables reach to the front of the car.

I took the cup holder off (it comes off easily I think with one screw or bolt holding it down). I passed the cables from under the seat, through the console, into the space under the cup holder. This space is designed to be access from inside the car to pull an emergency hatchback release, but you'd never get to fast enough in an emergency if you have to actually unbolt or unscrew something.

Anyway, I then drilled a small crescent in the side of the console just under the cup holders and ran the cable out from there. I made sure I had enough space in the cut-out so I could easily push the cables back down into the space under the cup holder. I have an old style iPhone connector and a standard audio jack poking out. Usually I had my iPhone or iPod connected to the iPhone connector and the phone sitting in the little slot next to the brake handle or in the seat sling I mentioned earlier.

I recently got excited about bluetooth adapters and added one to another car and was disappointed. The bluetooth only stayed connected when I had the radio set to the bluetooth station (the adapter added some options to my XM button on the other car. I don't know what that kind of thing would do on the TT radio). Whenever I switched over to radio or XM, the phone stopped using the bluetooth for incoming calls.

I could control the iPod and my iPhone 4 from the TT radio buttons, but that doesn't seem to work with my iPhone 5. A new adapter might not have that problem. Now I run the cable up along the console and into the bottom of the iPhone mounted to a phone holder on one of the air vents. Looks fine when I have it out in the car and all the cables can easily be stowed when not in use and it hardly looks like its been modified.
posted by rsclark at 4:36 PM on July 1, 2013

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