I’ve been looking for a way to get decent audio quality from my iPhone through the car radio for a while now.
Dodge make a “Uconnect kit” but after a couple of attempts at purchasing the required items to install the Uconnect kit (the UK spec models are very different from the USA ones), coupled with some bad luck on eBay, I had to abandon the Uconnect idea.
I was keen to keep the existing radio as no thief would wish to steal it so my car won’t get broken in to. I was also keen to not have to use the iPhone itself, it can be fiddly to use while driving, not to mention it’s very unsafe, even when mounted on the dash correctly.
Looking around at my now limited options I came across one possibility, the “Harman Kardon Drive + Play” kit. You’ll have to Google that one as it’s since been discontinued. It looked ideal, but it was first produced in 2009 so the technology behind it is a few years old now and knowing HK, they won’t have updated the firmware to keep up with current iOS versions.
It was then that I came across the Parrot MKi9200 kit.
This combination of wireless control and external screen is what sold me on the idea, that plus the excellent iPhone integration.
Inside the box is all manner of goodies.
You get a detachable screen plus mount, the remote control buttons, microphone, multi-input cable (iPhone connect, 3.5mm connector, usb connector), a soft case for the screen, a Parrot Blue Box (the brains of the outfit) and a huge harness for connecting to your car radio.
Usually with Parrot kits you would unplug your existing radio, plug the Parrot harness in to the radio, then plug your car harness in to the Parrot so that the Parrot audio is in-line.
I didn’t want to do that for a number of reasons, the main one being that I still wanted volume level control via the steering wheel at the very least.
Separating out the harness will give you a clearer idea of what’s happening here.
As I intended using the iPhone as the only music source in the car, it automatically mutes itself when a call comes in, so this cabling wasn’t required. All I was interested in were the few wires on the left hand side of the picture as they are line-out wires. The wires in the middle are power, etc.
My intention was to run the Line Out cables from the Parrot Blue Box to the AUX in on the radio, therefore giving me the best possible audio quality and allowing me to keep steering wheel volume controls.
There was a slight catch though. For reasons known only to themselves, Parrot do not have RCA plugs on their line-out cables. They are just bare wires. I’m pretty sure this is of no use to anyone so I’ve no idea why they do it.
With this in mind, I bought a good quality RCA-to-3.5mm cable and cut the RCA plugs off the end.
I then soldered the 3.5mm plug wires on to the Parrot line out cables.
What I was then left with was an over-engineered solution, but a great solution none the less 🙂
Quite simply, my iPhone docks in to the Brodit holder which in turn is plugged in to the 30-pin Apple connector on the Parrot kit. The Parrot kit then plugs in to the AUX port on the front of the existing radio.
What I then have is a nice little external screen which shows details of the current track being played, (along with the album cover art!), plus all the Parrot phone menus are also on the screen. The music is controlled using the Parrot remote control buttons. I can browse all the iPhone music via Album or Artist or even Playlist, it’s fantastic, it really is. The remote control allows me to pause / play and skip tracks in both directions.
(the screen is detachable too)
This means I can have TomTom sat nav running on the iPhone yet still control the iPhone music in the background using the Parrot screen and controls.
The volume of all the audio is then controlled via the steering wheel.
I therefore don’t have to look down at the radio or even touch the radio at any point, or touch my phone at any point either.
The Parrot kit comes with a dual noise cancelling microphone which I’ve mounted at the top of the A-pillar.
While all this wonderful music-control stuff is going on, the iPhone also connects via Bluetooth (at the same time) to the Parrot MKi9200 kit.
When a call comes in, the iPhone mutes the audio and the Parrot kit takes over, announcing the name of the caller and asking me to accept or decline the call. Voice recognition means I can either say the words “accept” or “decline”, or I can use the green or red buttons on the remote control to answer the call if I choose.
Using voice activation or the remote control, I can also initiate a call and dial anyone in my iPhone contacts list as my entire address book synchronises via Bluetooth with the Parrot kit each time I get in the car.
You can also add custom wallpaper to the screen of the MKi9200, so I opted for the Dodge logo 😎
The wallpaper must be a 320×240 JPG, you can download the above logo for your MKi9200 from here.
With this solution I can’t stress the ease of use enough. I get in the car, drop the phone in the holder and that’s it. The Bluetooth connects automatically and starts sync’ing the address book. The iPhone starts charging right away and the Music is launched just by pressing the Play button on the Parrot remote. I don’t have to fumble with wires, chargers, settings, buttons, headphone cables, nothing, it just works.
All in all, this has to be the most functional mod I have done to date 😎
You can read more about the Brodit clip and iPhone holder at http://www.dodge-nitro.co.uk/brodit-clip-and-iphone-holder/
UPDATE: iPad Mini integration now complete!