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Review: iPod2Car Gen 2 - iPod Car Integration

ipod2car If you are an iPod owner, you probably enjoy listening to your iPod in the car. Currently, we have more options than ever to take our iPods with us. There are cassette adapters, line-in, FM adapters, and some of the expensive new cars come factory shipped with iPod connectors. Well, if you want pure CD quality sound from your iPod & don't want to buy a new car or stereo, Peripheral Electronics has a total car integration package for after-market stereos, called iPod2Car gen2.

How It Works

The iPod2Car delivers CD quality sound by directly connecting into the back of your existing head unit. It will connect in place of a satellite radio or CD changer. Once connected, you can simply browse the songs through your car stereo, and you won't need to access the iPod controls at all. When a song is playing the album, artist name, and song title will display on your car stereo. To navigate through your library, you simply use use the car stereo controls. Each implementation works a bit differently, depending on the stereo itself. It takes a few minutes to figure out the whole scheme, but once you do, you can quickly get to a specific track.

My Setup

I tested the iPod2Car Gen 2, for After-market stereos. The iPod2Car Gen 2 supports most models of Sony, Pioneer, Alpine, and Kenwood stereos. On most units, you are going to be required to have a satellite radio connector or CD Changer controls. Also, the head unit must support text displays, so it can show the artist, song titles, etc. This is mandatory, because you need to be able to browse songs through the stereo, since you lose control of your iPod navigation screen. Note: Before purchasing, it is a good idea to check the compatibility notes on Peripheral's web site, and make sure that your stereo is compliant. Also, it might behoove you to call Peripheral and speak with a rep, since they may be able to tell you whether your stereo will work, even if it isn't listed in the application guide. I installed the unit into my 97' Nissan Maxima, which has a Sony after-market head unit installed in place of the factory radio. The Sony stereo is about 5 years old, and was one of those niche' models that wasn't exactly 'standard'. It wasn't listed in their application guide, but it still worked.

Installation

After reading the instruction manual, and foregoing the 'Professional Installation Strongly Advised' on the front of the box, I decided to attempt it myself. I read over the manual a few times, and after seeing that I wouldn't have to splice any wires, or cut anything, I decided to go for it. If you feel at all hesitant about it, you can probably get it installed for $30-$50 at your local car stereo shop.

First things first:

If you attempt it yourself, first know how to disassemble the dash of your car!! I didn't want to destroy my Nissan dash, so I scoured the Internet until I found a place that gave step by step instructions on how to install a car stereo. If you purchase from a reputable online seller such as Crutchfield, you can usually get some compatibility notes, as well as directions on how to remove the dash. Next on the agenda was to update the firmware on my Ipod. You need to have the latest firmware updates, or your iPod2Car unit may not recognize your iPod. This is quick and easy, and can be done in iTunes 7, or through the iPod Updater software, available from Apple. After the firmware update was complete, I gathered my iPod and the iPod2Car kit and embarked on a journey where no novice should go... the inside of the dash.

Configure The Box

You should have two components - the SPECIFIC wiring harness for your stereo brand and the Peripheral unit. You will choose the correct wiring harness when you order, or if you buy the all in one kit that is car specific, it will come with everything included for your stereo brand. package The first order of business is to set the dip switches on the actual unit. There are eight dip switches to configure, and the easy to ready diagram shows you which ones to turn on/off, depending on the brand of stereo you are connecting to. Dip This has to be done before you connect the unit to your stereo, so it's a good idea to go ahead and get it out of the way first.

Gently Remove the Dash

The next step in the install process is to disassemble your car dash. This arduous task took about 15 minutes. If I didn't have that step by step guide I found on the net, I surely would've mangled my dash. I had to remove the air vents, shifter, ash tray, and cigarette lighter. Nissan made it very difficult to get into the Maxima dash. beforemaxima dashmaxima dash maxima dashmaxima dashmaxima dash Once I had the dash removed, I was able to access the Sony stereo. After I removed the screws holding it in place, I pulled it out to access the rear of it. sony Now I could finally make a connection to the iPod2Car. First, I connected the Sony specific harness to the UNI-Link connector on the back of the stereo. sony unilinkuni link connected Next, I connected the BUS AUDIO INPUT to the back of the stereo. bus input Two simple connections was all that it took to connect the unit to my Sony stereo. No wire splicing, no grounding, or anything that could potentially cause harm to your vehicle. For a mechanically challenged person like me, the simplicity of the install was fantastic. The only thing to do now was give it a quick test before I put the dash back together. I turned the key on, nothing blew up, and I had sound. I turned the input to the iPod and saw the iPod screen recognized it, and turned it back off. I was quite proud that I actually did this myself. recognized The next step involved running the included 12 ft. iPod wire to the location you want to keep your iPod. Some people like to stick it in the glove box or console, but I wanted mine available for quick removal, so I ran the wire to the cup holders. This was very easy, and didn't require me to remove any panels or carpet. The wire is small enough that I could simply tuck it under the edges of the console. cable runcable run - tucked away I have seen some kits that include the 'Vent Clips', so you can attach your iPod that way, but this unit didn't come with them. I really see no need to have the iPod mounted to an easy to see spot. Since you can't control the iPod via the click wheel, and the display doesn't show anything except the Peripheral and Sony logos, having the iPod on your vents may look cool, but it also screams 'STEAL ME' to any onlookers. Next, I went ahead and mounted the iPod2Car box underneath the dash. I looked for a spot that wouldn't get too hot or too cold, and I found a spot that was free, near the left side of my glove box. There was plenty of room to mount it, and was a nicely concealed location. I simply used some velcro to secure it, and haven't had any trouble at all with it coming undone. under dashvelcro After verifying that everything was working again (never hurts to be sure), I went ahead and reassembled the dash. Luckily, I could do everything in reverse, and it was pretty straightforward. The biggest problem with the Nissan is removing the vents, but putting them back in was a breeze ;-).

Testing 1-2-3

After everything was back together, I turned the key, and waited. It took a few seconds for my Sony stereo to recognize the iPod. I was watching my iPod screen, and then I saw a Peripheral Electronics and Sony logo appear on screen. Now I was excited. I tested the setup on both the 1st gen iPod Nano 2GB, and my 4th Gen iPod 60GB, and performance was identical on both units. 4th gennano Operation To activate the iPod, you simply switch the Source location until it shows POD on the stereo. My deck didn't show this, but I think it was because it was so old. My stereo thought it was connected to a MiniDisc changer, and mine said MD. This wasn't a huge problem, but during testing, I did notice a few times it would say Pod or MD. You enter the menu by pressing DISC- and the word BROWSE appears on your stereo. Now, you simply press the FF or RW buttons until you choose your browsing style: Artist, Album, Genre, or Playlist. Everything is alphabetized, which makes finding what you are looking for quite easy. browseplaylistthinkmac The iPod2Car also makes use of your presets. Pressing #1 cycles you through REPEAT options, #2 cycles RANDOM options, and #3 EXITS the browse menu, and takes you back to whatever is currently playing. Skipping tracks and FF and RR works just like it would on your CD player. You are using the same controls, and the iPod functions just like it would if you were using the click wheel to perform these functions. On my Sony unit, browsing was fairly quick, and I found that I preferred to use the Playlist feature. I setup a playlist on iTunes of about 2 hours worth of podcasts that I like to listen to while driving. When I get in the car, I choose my podcast playlist, and I am ready to roll for at least two hours, without having to fiddle with the stereo menus. It will read all of your current playlists fine, I just created a big one so that I wouldn't have to search for shows while driving. One improvement I would like to see is the ability to setup a playlist and assign it to one of the presets. I have 10 presets on my Sony unit, and seven of them are unused. This would make the product much faster to use. For example, if I named a Playlist '5', and I press the preset #5 on my stereo, it would be great if the iPod2Car would know to go directly to that playlist and start playing.

It's All About The Sound

The sound was awesome! There was no background hum, noise, or anything else that would distract from the sound. After using FM transmitters for so long, you actually get desensitized to the poor fidelity, and unfortunately, come to accept it. You really don't know how awful FM transmitters sound until you compare them against a direct CD connection into your stereo. The difference is phenomenal. I certainly find myself enjoying listening to my music and podcasts much more than I ever have before. Don't underestimate the importance of sound quality. If your ears are sonically pleased, your drive is going to be more pleasant. I find myself driving my Maxima much more than I ever did before, simply because I want to listen to my iPod while driving. I'll occasionally take the long way home if I am really enjoying what I am listening to. If you make a quick stop and turn the car off, your iPod will turn off too - but it also continues to charge. After you turn the car back on, your iPod starts playing exactly where it left off - perfect for listening to podcasts. Once you arrive at your destination, you can simply unplug the iPod and take it with you.

my ipod2car

Final Thoughts: If you are still using the standard FM transmitter or plugging in via cassette deck, do yourself a favor and connect your iPod to a real solution. There is no comparison between non-invasive adapters and the kits that connect directly into the stereo to offer full car integration. The iPod2Car kit is an answer for anyone who is looking to integrate their iPod experience into their car. Even with a steep price, the benefits of having full navigational control of your iPod with your existing head unit, and experiencing CD quality sound that your iPod can provide are certainly enough to justify a purchase. With so many new decks offering iPod integration, it's a good feeling to know that iPod2Car offers a solution for your current deck and your future one. If you are in the masses and have one of the four popular brand stereos (Sony, Kenwood, Pioneer, Alpine), then this Gen 2 solution is your best bet unleashing the full sound potential of the iPod in your car. Pros -iPod data is displayed on your existing stereo. -Compatible with the most popular brands. -Excellent Sound quality. -Charges iPod. -Widely available at major stores & car shops. -Works with all iPods except 1st and 2nd Gen. Cons -Replaces your CD changer or Satellite radio. -Lose use of click wheel while connected. -Pricey. Shop around. 4.5 out of 5