View Full Version : iPhone 3G: Car Audio Options?

23rd December 2008, 01:29 PM
Hi Folks,

I'm looking for a way to connect my iPhone 3G into my car stereo system that doesn't suck.

That means that FM Transmitters are out. I have tried countless ones from Belkin, Griffin, etc. and they all give me grief.

I guess Melbourne just doesn't have enough free FM space to get a good clear channel.

The options I've looked at so far are:

Have an FM Modulator kit installed - This basically attaches to the aerial before it hits the head unit and takes over a particular frequency with the iPod audio. You tune the head unit to the frequency in order to get the sound.

I've been quoted fit and parts at around 250 AUD.

Cons are that it won't charge the 3G out of the box (a little adapter is coming in mid-Jan or so) and there's no head unit control of the iPod. So I'd have a little cable coming out the dash and need to figure some way to mount it for controlling it.

Pro: The 6 Cd stacker in the boot can still be used.

For between 100 and 200 extra I can possibly get an entire new head unit fit that has an iPod dongle. May or may not charge the thing, but I figure an adapter like for the above will be cheap as chips in some shops in chinatown or on ebay in no time.

Con is obviously increased cost and "devirginising" my beautiful car. And additionally the CD stacker becomes a box of uselessness in the boot.

I note that my head unit has a cassette deck, which is just strange for a 2002 car, but whatever.. I thought I could use one of those headphone jack to tape converters coupled with a simple cigarette->USB + charger/USB cable along with a cradle.

It is cheap and not overly elegant, but it just might work....

Now none of the above will handle handsfree calls for me either (Bluetooth) I guess.

So I'm wondering, is there some lovely silver bullet solution that will let me do handsfree and get audio into my car system and charge my iPhone 3G?

Is there another option I haven't considered yet?

The handsfree stuff is probably more of a nice to have, since I have a little blueant X3 micro already, but I figure if I'm shelling out some bucks, I might as well investigate thoroughly.

Any help or advice is appreciated.

... Oh and if it makes any diff, It's a VW Bora 2002 V5 1J.



23rd December 2008, 01:36 PM
How do any of the options, other than a new headunit with proper iPod connector, not totally suck? I'd replace the headunit (and speakers, and add a sub and amp/s etc.. ok, maybe going a little far!!) personally and be done with it.. In fact, I did, I chucked an Alpine headunit in my car with the proper iPod connector and use my 1st Gen iPhone with it just fine. Your CD Stacker won't necessarily be junk if you do that, it is quite possible that it will interface just fine with a new headunit, but even if it doesn't, how often would you really use it if you can just connect your iPod/iPhone up?

23rd December 2008, 01:40 PM
The best method I'd suggest is to get a new headunit which has the iPod control, something from Alpine, Eclipse would work quite well. I'm actually not so sure whether the iphone and ipod controls would be the same, since the pinouts on the dock connector are slightly different.

If the ipod interface in the headunit don't work on the iphone, i would still choose to get the audio signal from the line out on the dock connector, rather than the headphone output jack. You can (if you feel like it), build your own dock connector which gives you the ability to charge the iphone and give you audio line out.

FM, bluetooth, tape and headphone outputs all have bad sound quality.

Easiest option for you, if you were' anal about sound quality is to just get a headunit with an AUX in, use a 3.5mm to RCA cable and plug it into the AUX in on the back of the headunit. Only thing is, you'll have to select your tracks on the iphone, rather than on the headunit face.

23rd December 2008, 01:59 PM

The speakers in the car stereo are pretty much fine for my desires.

I would not call myself an audiophile really, but nothing pisses me off more than static coming in over my songs. Cymbals sounds that are practically a "shhhh" white noise sound. *shudder*

If the audio is relatively clear, I'm happy.


From what I have read, the units that work with iPods for control will only work with the iPhone if the iPod screen is selected itself. If you switch to another app/home screen it will keep playing, but controls and stuff don't work. I have not tried personally so ymmv.

I've read of a lot of people being satisfied with the lo-tech cassette adapter method and I'm wondering if I should give that a go first.

Thanks for your inputs -- Do you know of any head units that will work with the 3G for charging?

23rd December 2008, 02:33 PM
I've read of a lot of people being satisfied with the lo-tech cassette adapter method and I'm wondering if I should give that a go first.

Go for it if you think that that would be suitable for your requirements. I'd hate myself, but that's just me, I tend to prefer the higher end solutions to such dilemas as they both look and sound better.

Thanks for your inputs -- Do you know of any head units that will work with the 3G for charging?

I literally received an email from Alpine between be my first post and this post in this thread which is touting their iPhone functionality in a new range of models coming out soon. But seriously, if you want to look at this type of solution then go and talk to the people who sell and install this stuff for a living and get their recommendations...

5th January 2009, 10:57 PM
hey all,

i was talking to a bloke at JB hi-fi and he said that the Pioneer DEH P6050UB at $369 has USB 2.0 and will be able to charge and use ipod controls.. i forgot to ask at the time but does anyone know if you would be able to use it as hands free?

7th January 2009, 08:20 AM
Just be a little wary, I put the Pioneer DEH-P5950IB in my wifes car a shade over 12 months ago to hook up to her iPod for those long interstate journeys. Full iPod control, charging etc etc.


When I plug in her 3G iPhone it comes up with an error message saying this device is not supported, charging is not supported, would you like to turn on Airplane mode to reduce interference...

Controls all work perfectly, but it doesn't charge.

If your considering a new head unit I'd go through your car adio place and plug the iPhone into some head units and see what happens.

7th January 2009, 08:46 AM
A head unit with a 3.5mm, RCA Auxillary input or iPod specific and least sucky option. (Probably least expensive, too.)

The fact is, no car audio system is suck-free. Firstly, a car is about the worst listening environment you can have. Even parked, with the engine off, the interior of a car is so heavily acoustically treated the sound is lifeless.

Secondly, even in a stretch limo, the listening space is too small for the sort of volumes that most people want car audio at to sound natural, even if it were treated out.

Finally, multithousand dollar amps and head units use the same chipsets and mosfets that $100 heads. Amps and heads are about as good as analogue technology will ever get (and speakers simply can't be digital yet, so need a final stage that is at least analogue at the output.) 4 Ohm speakers and lower voltage supply rails in car audio don't provide anywhere near as good a damping factor as do high voltage supply rails and 8 ohm systems in domestic environments.

Car audio sucks at any level. Thank god for engine and road noise to mask the artefaction and distortion inherent in even the most expensive car audio scam, er sorry, system.

How do I know this? 35 years in the audio business and 21 years in radio production.

8th January 2009, 02:15 PM
Hey all, i thought id tell you guys my new set up which i am really happy with! thanks THE_HAWK and SteveJay for the info, helped out alot! im glad i read it just minutes before i was about to buy it..

The New Set-UP:

- SONY MEX-BT2600 Head Unit using the stock 6 speaker system i already had ($220 JB-Hi Fi + $80 install)
- Iphone 3G dock ($35)
-Iphone Car charger ($15)

i have attached the dock to my car with a wooden wedge to increase the angle which allows me to easily see the screen while driving.

The car charger and the line in (from the Head unit) is plugged directly into the back of the dock so as soon as i get into my car i just drop my iphone in the dock and its good to go.

The Sony head Unit also comes in a USB model (BT3600) which is about $50 - $60 more, the salesman was telling me that it WILL charge the iphone if using a proper iphone cable. However, you can only navigate the ipod through the head unit, i think that this defeats the purpose of having such a nice touch screen in the first place!

The bluetooth on the head is :thumbup: , after it has been paired it automatically connects every-time you get in the car. Also, i have had no complaints about hearing me on the other end and there is little to no GSM sounds on the speakers, it certainly beats using the iphones mic and line out for hands free calls.

finally, the sound Quality if the Head is excellent, well compared to a 10 year old stock tape deck which made this weird mechanical crunching noise... the Sony does need some equalization adjustments to it... only takes a bit of playing around though.

Hope this helped someone out!

good luck/

31st May 2009, 07:14 AM
I'm also looking for a iPhone 3G Car Setup. I was wondering if it is worth waiting till OS 3.0 before I actually buy anything in case there are new accessories that will utilize the features of 3.0 to do what I want.

Which is:

- Mount iPhone (Minor as I can buy a mount, but some accessories from Griffin and Kensington come with a mount)
- Charge iPhone
- Play and control music through stereo system (whether via AUX to head unit or via FM Transmitter) with either control from a head unit or via a remote attached to the steering wheel.
- Have have bluetooth for calls to audio and an external microphone attached to visor or something like that.

I know the last one is going to be quite rare. I have looked at some Kenwood head units that have iPhone music control and bluetooth but I don't want to have to use the iPhone inbuilt microphone, i'd rather have a microphone mounted on the driver side near the door frame or on the visor. I also looked at some Kenwood and Griffin mounts with FM transmitters and chargers and remotes, and that could be an option with also buying a Parrot Bluetooth thingamabob. I'd just rather have it all kind of in one if that is going to be possible with 3.0.

Any recommendations for accessories to achieve this?

31st May 2009, 04:08 PM
I just use the standard AUX - a cord from the headphone jack to the AUX input. Works fine.

5th June 2009, 01:35 AM
a new alpine headunit the ida-x305 is certified with the iphone i think, which gives full control from the headunit and a bluetooth kit is available which also gives calling and phonebook access thru the h/u.

i think its the only h/u certified for iphone, though i may be wrong. and its not to say other h/u's wont work with it.

5th June 2009, 08:41 PM
a new alpine headunit the ida-x305 is certified with the iphone i think, which gives full control from the headunit and a bluetooth kit is available which also gives calling and phonebook access thru the h/u.

i think its the only h/u certified for iphone, though i may be wrong. and its not to say other h/u's wont work with it.

Alpine Electronics of Australia (http://www.alpine.com.au/technology/x305.asp)

This looks really sexy. I've found a couple of references around the webs that say the phonebook integration (via Bluetooth) works just fine with the 3G. Anyone actually have this unit installed who can provide a review?

7th June 2009, 06:32 AM
It looks good and recommends their Parrot Bluetooth add-on but the add-on is $350 in itself.

7th June 2009, 10:29 AM
Any recommendations for accessories to achieve this?

I think the best device to do everything you want it to do is possibly the Parrot MKi9200 (available from The Car Kit Company - Mobile installations - Hands free, GPS, iPods, Reverse Sensors & Cameras (http://www.thecarkitcompany.com.au) amongst other places). Depending on the car you have, with an adapter cable it just plugs into the headunit, and all that needs to be installed in a visible location is a microphone and the buttons/screen. Most importantly, it's firmware upgradeable, so hopefully this means you can keep ahead of any annoying glitches.

2nd July 2009, 12:47 PM
In the last 6 months I have had two head units in my car, this is only due to the fact that I bought a head unit towards the end of last year that didn't charge, at the time I got it all set up and working but I then found a well priced charging head unit and sold the old one.

The old head unit is an Eclipse CD 3200 ECLIPSE CD/USB Multi-Source Receiver with Bluetooth wireless technology CD3200 | Fujitsu Ten (http://www.eclipse-web.com/us/cd/cd3200overviews.html) This Unit does not charge the iPhone and prior to the Operating system upgrade still worked well enough. I had the iPod cord and also had the 3.5mm plug connected. I had a car charger also in the car, so if the phone needed charging it worked off the aux jack for the tunes and control was through the phone but when I had the iPod lead connected control was through the stereo. The unit had an inbuilt microphone and therefore had bluetooth raring and ready to go. This unit was about $400 and was better priced at the time than any Alpine as you had to pay extra for the bluetooth connectivity and that was in the range of $300 on top of the head unit.

Additionally, I have installed a ClicOn cradle. Can't find too many of these on the web but it is great, acts like a double adapter, the phone goes into the cradle and the iPod cord or charge (which ever you are using at the time) plug into the cradle. So when you get in the car you just slide into the cradle and it is ready to go. ClicOn Apple iPhone 3G Car Holder Cradle - Through Connect B.. (http://www.coastvoip.com.au/shop/clicon-apple-iphone-3g-car-holder-cradle-through-connect-base-p-394.html)

Prior to the software upgrade on the phone this was fine, it asked about airplane mode, you said no and all worked well. Since the upgrade it was a little weird, kept playing up but you restarted the phone and it worked.

Last weekend my boyfriend installed my new Head Unit, it is an Alpine CDE-103EBTi Alpine Electronics of Australia (http://www.alpine.com.au/products/product.asp?modelID=419), this does charge the iPhone and it has bluetooth in it so you don't have to pay the extra $300 for the adapter like other Alpine head units and it is about $499 RRP it got it slightly cheaper so you can bargain, I got it from JB Hi-Fi. I have been able to still use my cradle and it doesn't ask about the airplane mode anymore, it has been great and it has the microphone for the bluetooth on a long cord so you can mount it anywhere like on your visor or pillar or where ever.

I am loving this unit, although the screen is a little less pretty than the Eclipse everything else is great. I was told that all units now charge the iPhone but I am not 100% sure about that so you should check, but for a unit that charges, bluetooth for handsfree and plays my music from my iPhone and also has the ability to play a CD everything is there, I would highly recommend this Alpine Unit and with the cradle it is awesome, just slide it in when you get in the car, turn on the car and it is flawless.

Hope this helps anyone looking for this sort of a system.