Hard-wiring iPod to car?
May 24, 2006 5:03 AM   Subscribe

Best hard-wired solution to connect an iPod to my car?

I'd like to connect my iPod to the CD changer port on my factory-installed, '98 Honda CRV radio. I know there are several, if not many options for this available. I have read similar threads on AskMeFi but have not found a comprehensive review of hard-wired options. I'm not interested in the iTrip for reasons detailed in the other threads.

What has been your experience with these units? Is there one which is better than another? I would like the option of controlling the iPod directly "direct mode", as well as from the radio (usually requires flipping a switch on the coinverter unit).

I am not talking about a charger or a mount, I realize these are separate pieces of hardware, although many of the units I'm talking about have charging capabilities.
posted by cahlers to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Two options I've seen are here and here.
posted by cahlers at 5:05 AM on May 24, 2006

I've bought two adapters for my Audi. The first one from PIE didn't work with two different iPods. I ended up returning it.

The second adapter was the USA Spec one linked in the first comment. It works great if I set it to be controlled from the head unit only. If I set it so I can control the iPod directly and from the head unit, it shuts off after 11 minutes.

However, the USA Spec unit uses two sets of connectors, one for the cd changer and another set of RCA to mini-jack inputs. I ran both sets of cables in the car. If I want to control the iPod directly (acutally, it's usually my 10 year old daughter who wants to control the iPod), i connect the mini-jack to the top of the iPod. If I want to just use the radio to control it, I use the bottom jack. Both go through the USA spec.

The USA Spec also has a feature that allows you to assign playlists to cd slots on your changer. I've never been able to get this to work. Since I mostly listen to my music shuffled, this rarely bothers me. I can set a play list before I connect the bottom connector if I really want to listen to one, or I can switch over to the mini-jack.

For my car, the USA Spec was actually designed for Volkswagons and adapted for Audis with a different cable. Maybe that's why some of the features don't work.

I've hidden the adapter under the back seat, so I can't switch the switches, but by using both inputs, it has not been inconvenient for me.

It sounds great!. I would never use an FM transmitter again. I live in the San Francisco Bay area and could never drive more than 20 minutes without having to change frequencies.

My impression when I was looking (last Christmas) was that the higher end name brand ones lacked features and were designed to show off your iPod. I wanted one where I could tuck the iPod in my glove compartment or in the center console and not have to worry about it. I've been quite happy with the USA Spec, even with the problems.
posted by rsclark at 6:54 AM on May 24, 2006

I've been looking into buying something for my 2005 Honda Pilot and I'll probably be settling on the USA Spec adapter. It seems to be fairly easy to install and has the feature set I'm looking for.

BTW, I've had great experiences calling Crutchfield and asking questions about different products. Both times I've dealt with them they were very knowledgeable and helpful.
posted by beowulf573 at 7:18 AM on May 24, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the comments so far. Do I need a separate mount with these systems, and if so, which do you use? Brief comments about your experiences with these mounts would also be helpful.
posted by cahlers at 7:56 AM on May 24, 2006

I just called Crutchfield and ordered the USA Spec adapter. Should be here on Friday. Wish me luck...
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:58 AM on May 24, 2006

Does your head unit by any chance have an aux-in connection? Mine does and I just use a normal audio cable to connect my MP3 player directly to the front of the head unit and the results rock. Even getting a new unit with an aux-in could easily be cheaper than buying a USA Spec unit for $150.
posted by jmd82 at 7:58 AM on May 24, 2006

Response by poster: No aux-in on the radio as far as I remember. I'll check tonight to make sure.

Even getting a new unit with an aux-in could easily be cheaper than buying a USA Spec unit for $150.

You mean buying a new radio for the car with an aux-in? Sounds more complicated. Then I would need to install the radio.
posted by cahlers at 8:08 AM on May 24, 2006

I agree with jmd82. I purchased a $15 cable from crutchfield that allowed for RCA inputs to be used through the CD changer. Then another $5 cable to go from RCA to miniplug from a local electronics store.

The question is: do you want to pay $150 or more to be able to control the IPOD from the headunit?

i didnt think it was worth it at all. If you have an aux in for a cd changer, in all likelyhood there is a cable that converts to RCA inputs.
posted by I_am_jesus at 8:13 AM on May 24, 2006

(if there isnt a cable available it is still possible to macguyver it yourself...i did this on my friends car)
posted by I_am_jesus at 8:14 AM on May 24, 2006

Response by poster: I_am_jesus: now I understand. Do you happen to have a link to the $15 crutchfield cable?

I'm more interested in controlling iPod directly than via the radio anyway.

Which mount do you use?
posted by cahlers at 8:19 AM on May 24, 2006

the cable will vary depending on the radio, i have a blaupunkt headunit that is aftermarket, however you can call crutchfield and ask them, or call the honda parts people. A cursory googling reveals that it may be slightly more complicated to do it from the factory headunit than from the aftermarket one like i have >_< br>
do you know who the OEM for the radio is?
posted by I_am_jesus at 8:29 AM on May 24, 2006

Response by poster: I do not know who the OEM is for the radio, perhaps Honda might tell me this info, but they may not.
posted by cahlers at 8:41 AM on May 24, 2006

ok, i have done some research (bored at work) and discovered that in order to use the CD changer you for some reason need a special signal going into the head unit that says "HEY IM A CD CHANGER"...something you cannot do with a simple cable. This design seems stupid and pointless to me...but thats how it is.

You COULD pretty easily hack into the RCA inputs that come out of the CD player...but i have no idea how deft you are at electronic things.

other than that i suggest emailing crutchfield tech people and seeing what they suggest, but it does look like you will be spending about $80 on the correct part (whose only purpose is to sit back and say "HEY IM A CD CHANGER")

proprietary parts and incombatibilities make baby jesus cry :'(
posted by I_am_jesus at 8:54 AM on May 24, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, jesus. I'm not particularly adept at electronics. I see from your profile that you are. It looks like the crutchfield USA SPEC adapter is the easiest solution with a reasonable chance at working.

Which mount do you use for your iPod?

posted by cahlers at 9:04 AM on May 24, 2006

oh sry, i didnt see that.

i dont do much in the mount department...usually just use the cup holder haha.

two of my buddies use This one and it seems to work alright.
posted by I_am_jesus at 9:54 AM on May 24, 2006

I looked into several options for my iPod, and then learned that if I bought a new stereo with an aux in at Best Buy, they would install it for free.

So my $99 solution involved me getting a new (and far better than my factory installed) CD player.

I "mount" it by tossing it on the dash, where the iSkin holds it in place.
posted by Sheppagus at 10:52 AM on May 24, 2006

So I received the USA Spec adapter Friday afternoon. It took about 20 minutes to install and figure out. It charges my iPod and gives me a couple of options, including using the iPod directly (I ran the cable from my trunk adapter to my arm rest box, which means that the iPod is completely out of sight and yet perfectly accessible while driving) or using the factory cd changer controls to scroll through playlists.

The sound quality is absolutely amazing, although the system already in my car is a 9 speaker independently amped Bose system, so that can't be a big surprise. All in all, an awesome and simple product that has made listening to music really easy and enjoyable.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:16 PM on May 29, 2006

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