Finding an aftermarket stereo that blends seamlessly with your car’s interior can be an impossible dream; it’s certainly not a task you’d want to endure just so you could plug in your iPod. For that, you should consider buying a third-party integration kit that allows you to retrofit your factory unit.
We examined Peripheral Electronics’s iSimple iPod Adapter in our June 2007 upgrade feature story, and we’re following up that coverage with a review of Dice Electronics’s iPod Integration Kit. Dice’s product has one cool feature that its competitor’s doesn’t: an AUX input (in the form of a 1/8-inch stereo jack) that allows you to plug an existing CD player, satellite radio tuner, or non-iPod MP3 player into the iPod integration module.
The trunk-mounted 10-disc CD changer in our test vehicle—a 2002 VW Cabrio—doesn’t work that way, so this feature wasn’t useful in our situation. But we were even more disappointed to discover that we couldn’t use the buttons on our factory stereo to control the iPod either. That’s one of the big selling points of these integration kits, and we were able to use our stereo controls with the iSimple adapter we tested last month. We also preferred the iSimple’s extra-long docking cable (being 12 feet, you could pass the iPod to a passenger in the backseat; Dice’s three-foot cable was just long enough to reach the cup holder in our Cabrio).
Both integration kits require vehicle-specific wiring harnesses, so we weren’t able to test either adapter in a variety of vehicles, but we do know that the more advanced your factory stereo is, the more features both products should be capable of. For example, if your factory stereo can display text (i.e., CD and song titles, not just “TRACK 01”), flip a few DIP switches on the back of the adapter and your iPod will pass this data to your head unit for display. But given the fact that the Dice unit didn’t deliver the interoperability we expected with our VW, readers should be sure any retailer they purchase a unit from has a satisfaction-guaranteed policy.
Can display artist and song title on your factory stereo!