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Dension ICE-Link Review

Rating: 4/5

As many know the the winds of change have been brewing for sometime in the way we listen and enjoy our music. Gone our the days of cassette tape players and personal cd players. More and more these days people are listening to their music collections not on tapes or compact discs but playing card sized MP3 players.

The best selling and continuously highest rated player out there by far is the Apple iPod. While the sighting of it's trademark white ear-buds was once a rare sight the tiny player now seems to be almost ubiquitous. Sales reached almost three quaters of a million units last quarter alone and show no signs of slowing. The beauty of these devices is that you can take your entire music collection with you in a device that's smaller than most cellphones. I for one listen to my 40 gig version (which holds 97% of my collection) at home, on the train to and from the office and in the office itself.

However there has traditionally one place that listening to the iPod (or other Mp3 devices) has been somewhat inconvenient – the car. Before now there have been three ways of integrating MP3 players into car audio…

The Good: The MINI AUX port. It took awhile but when MINI finally did release the AUX port as a dealer accessory it was an immediate hit with the MP3 crowd. Finally there was some way to effectively listen to MP3 players by hooking it directly up with the MINI's stereo. Of course there were drawbacks. For one the audio many times had to be adjusted on the iPod not to mention the stereo itself. Secondly you still couldn't skip to the next track or for that matter control the player at all from the car itself. And finally there was no ability to charge from the car itself – one had to rely on an after-market option and yet another device in the car. All told for $45 dollars it wasn't (and still isn't) a bad option.

The Bad: Cassette tape adapters. These devices have been around for many years and actually were created initially so one could bring their personal cd player into their cassette equipped car. The drawbacks however were many. First off the tape had set up correctly to play on only one side – not a feat accomplished easy if your tape player was one that automatically switched sides when it detected silence. Secondly the tapes would often get jammed in the players and in some cases ended up actually destroying them in the process. Finally while on the surface of it, one more wire in the car seemly wasn't a huge deal it was when it was coming from the middle of the dash – especially if you had a manual. Wires would often get tangled in anything and everything directly below the tape deck.

The Ugly: Portable FM Transmitters. I firmly believe portable FM transmitters are the tape adapters of the 01's. They work by connecting to the player and then broadcasting the signal in usually one of three FM signals. There are several problems with this. First off if you live in any kind of larger metropolitan area these three radio signals are often already used up thus making for rude interruptions of John Denver when you're trying to listen to the latest Blur album. Secondly the transmitters have a nasty habit of eating batteries at an alarming pace – making them a much more expensive solution in the long term than anything here.

So as you can see there has been a real need for a device that could integrate MP3 players like the iPod into the car. I'm happy to say that this need has now been met with the Denison ICE-Link.

The ICE-Link is a device that works exclusively with the iPod to accomplish several things. First off it allows the audio signal of the iPod to be played directly into the head unit of the car. It actually takes the place of the cd changer. Further it allows control of the iPod (volume/rewind/fast forward/pause/skip track back and forward) through both the head unit and the optional multi-function steering wheel. Finally the ICE-Link also charges the iPod directly from the head unit – meaning that the iPod powers up and subsequently powers down when the head unit is turned on and off.

It does all this by connecting to the back of the head unit and essentially translating what the iPod is doing into a form that head unit understands via the connection that the CD changer would normally own. That signal is then sent to the optional Multi-function steering wheel to complete integration.

Charging the iPod is the work of the optional Firewire connection which is something that doesn't actually come with the ICE-Link kit. That being said I highly recommend it. It not only charges the iPod but it also turns it on and off depending on whether the head unit is on or off. Quite a nice trick and well worth the use of an extra firewire iPod cable ($15-$20).

ice-link

The other key of the ICE-Link adapter is the mounting. If the iPod isn't mounted high enough trying to scroll through your music will be both tiresome and dangerous. I went with the Belkin iPod car mount ($30) coupled with the MINI-Fini Cup Holder which is now standard with all MINIs. The combination offers perfect placement for scrolling through playlists and artists yet allows for quick removal if I'd rather not have either in the MINI. Denison offers their own mount for the iPod for also around $30.

So once you've got both you're Firewire charger and the audio hooked up your ready to go. Upon first turning on the head unit you would turn the mode to the CD Changer mode. At that point the iPod will turn on and either pick up on the song where it was last turned off or default to the menu if there was no song playing. From there you'll need to choose what you want to play, hit and play and enjoy.

Each time the iPod turns on it will automcatically adjust the volume up to 75% to match the volume output of the head unit. The result is volume that is equal across either the radio, cd or iPod. Another thoughtful touch that adds to the seemless effect of the whole set-up.

Personally I've found the ICE-Link/iPod connection and subsequent interaction noting short of astounding. Suddenly having the ability to take my music (and my favorite playlists) with me is really quite a useful thing. Almost every bit of music I own (or at least 40 gigs worth) is now with me at all times in the MINI. Gone are the days of lugging 5-10 single cds or even the nylon cd jackets so many of us have.

Overall I can't recommend the ICE-Link adapter enough. While the entire package is certainly on the expensive side (as much as 66% of the price of a low end iPod itself) it's the connection that iPod owners have truly been waiting for. If you're looking for the ultimate iPod integration there simply is no other choice. Being able to play the iPod, control the iPod and charge the iPod all from the head unit and the multi-functional steering wheel is nothing short of amazing to anyone who has endlessly fiddled with FM transmitters and the like.

Upside:
  • Perfect sound through a direct audio connection to the head unit
  • Controls the iPod through the both the head unit and/or the multi function steering wheel
  • Charges the iPod (turns the iPod on and off depending on the head unit)
  • Works with the 2002 MINI head unit which is incompatible with the current AUX adapter offered by MINI.

Downside:

  • Priced at $200 and as tested at $250 the cost of entry is high
  • The ICE-Link uses the CD changer port on the back eliminating that option

Installation:

I had planned on writing a full installation guide including photos and illustrations but as it turns out that job had already been done. You can find the full set of instructions here countesy of Mark.

Where to Buy:

You can purchase the ICE-Link adapter directly from Denison or Dr. Bott.

Written By: MF Staff

  • cooprss

    Gabe,

    Great article, but check out this guys site for his dissapointment with his ICE-Link —

    http://mini.uglydoris.com/

    Maybe you can shed some light on his problem.

  • http://bridger.us/mini gabe

    I heard this over boosted sound once when I plugged in the iPod without plugging in the Firewire charger. Once I plugged in the Firewire charger it was immediately fine. It's worth saying that this has only happened once in over two weeks of constant use. I've since played it without the firewire charger connected and it's been fine.

    Otherwise it's been 100% problem free.

  • ChrisW

    Gabe, how was the install? Any estimate of hours?

  • http://bridger.us/mini gabe

    I would esitmate about an hour to an hour and a half at most depending on if you've taken out the radio before.

  • http://www.ipodbatteryfaq.com/ Technomage

    This will shorten the life of the iPod Battery, more so than a Belkin & Aux input setup will. The iPod's rechargable battery only has 300 to 500 cycles. Since the ICE-Link turns the ipod off every time you switch to FM or CD if there is a break in the chargeing it counts as a new cycle. So even if you ipod is fully charged when you plug it in; it will start chargeing it, remove the charger for a moment and it will start chargeing again. That's 2 Cycles. Since I run my iPod off the firewire power wart at work and the Belkin in the car Im using atleast 2 cycles a day. That's how the ipod battery guy's one died in 18 months.

    Gabe can you confirm if the chargeing indicator is lit the whole time even with the HU off or in FM/CD?

  • http://bridger.us/mini gabe

    It's worth noting that it doesn't need to be plugged in and charged to play. It's only there if you need to charge the iPod (which I'm always in need of doing).

    Also this may clarify some things regarding charging and discharging the iPod battery:

    “Although lithium-ion is memory-free in terms of performance deterioration, batteries with fuel gauges exhibit what engineers refer to as “digital memory”. Here is the reason: Short discharges with subsequent recharges do not provide the periodic calibration needed to synchronize the fuel gauge with the battery's state-of-charge. A deliberate full discharge and recharge every 30 charges corrects this problem. Letting the battery run down to the cut-off point in the equipment will do this. If ignored, the fuel gauge will become increasingly less accurate. (Read more in 'Choosing the right battery for portable computing', Part Two.) “

    Anyway I can confirm if it charges the whole time while plugged tomorrow.

  • http://omor.com/mini/ dc

    'Letting the battery run down to the cut-off point' is really easy when there's no off switch.

  • Jason

    Huh? Holding down the play button turns off the iPod.

  • Frank

    Gabe, have you had an opportunity to review the new “Mini” i-pod from Apple?

    I like it because it is even smaller than the regular i-pod and seems to cost less. I don't need to hold more than 1K MP3 files, so it seems perfect.

    Taughts?

  • http://bridger.us/mini gabe

    No I haven't but I've read nothing but praises so far: Washingont Post review.

  • Jim Plunkett

    DON”T GO ANYWHERE NEAR THIS COMPANY – I bought the product hade it installed in a Lincoln Navigator when I put the Ipod in both the CD rack and IPOD played over each other – 2months 10 emails and 5 unanswered calls later my CD player is still unhooked and the icelink wires are oon the floor

  • Erick

    I just installed the new v1.1 version of the Ice-Link, and it's absolutely great. It was so easy to install as well (except for running the cable from the boot to the radio).

    I would highly recommend this product.

    Erick (aka Blue Brummie)

  • Rob

    Does this kit COME WITH the keys to remove the factory radio, or are you required to get these yourself? if so, where can i get the keys to remove the radio?

    and i've noticed this has been several months on the grapevine, with the seller (Dension) apparently being backordered for some time…. any word on when they will make a new batch?

    When is v1.1 coming out?

  • Erick

    Hi Rob,

    v1.1 is out, and I've installed it. With the version I purchased (which allows you to connect to to the rear CD changer port, you don't have to remove the radio at all. The only minor drawback is that you have to run a wire from the front to the rear to connect the iPod. That's really a minor inconvenience when compared removing the radio and console (imo).

    BB

  • http://www.mylestalbot.com myles talbot

    I have a mini cooper, so Ice LInk wil l fit that just fine. I also have a June 2000 Grand Jeep Cherokee. Can you tell me if Ice Link will fit/work with the Jeep?

    Many thanks in advance!

    Myles

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabriel Bridger

    The kit that fits the MINI also fits the BMW E46 3 series. Although this isn't something that can easily be uninstalled and then installed in minutes – once it's in a car you're probably not going to want to take it out.

    Check Dension's website for details on other kits.

  • Andy Weightman

    Ive jsut fitted the ice>link with my ipod mini and its GREAT !!

    it does everything its says on the tin..

    im using the cable instead of the cradle and installation was a sinch!

    Well worth the bucks imo

  • courtney

    Andy W.-

    I just got the ipod mini thinking that I would be able to hook up my ipod to my mini cooper w/the much advertised mini/apple integration adaptor which apparently has come to a screeching halt much to my dismay AND will most likely not be compatible with my H/K system. The IceLink v1.1 sounds like the thing for me, but I am intimidated by the installation part, as I'm not really mechanically advanced. You've said it was a cinch to install…did you use the auxiliary audio input by mini for the installation or did you take out the radio and install it from the back? Any help would be appreciated since the ITrip does not work well in my car, and I'm hell-bent on getting my ipod to work in my mini.

    Thanks! Courtney

  • Gretchen

    Hi Courtney, Did you ever install the IceLink? Or did you end up doing something else. I just got my MC and Was told I could get the iPod adaptor installed…they didn't install what I wanted :( all I have is an AUX port and I'm as hellbent as you on being able to play my iPod in my MC! Any feedback you or anyone has would be appreciated! Thanks, Gretchen

  • racegirl08

    I have the aux jack in the MC. How does this work with the ice-link. If so, how does it install? Can I do it myself or should I have it installed by another source. Thanks in advance

  • Holly

    I installed the IceLink v 1.1 before FL got ambushed with the hurricanes… anyways, I have this terrible “humming” sound that comes through when I switch to the icelink. If I accelerate, it gets louder. Anyone else have this problem? Dension said that a ground loop isolator would fix the problem…but it didn't. :( It sucks to have something you paid a good chunk of $$ for not work.

  • Lanny Z

    Any one seen an IceLink installed on an Audi or VW? I'd like to know if the names of the songs appear on the radio head unit and dash display.

  • Baxter

    Lanny,

    For an Audi writeup see this http://forums.audiworld.com/audio/msgs/37938.phtml

    it doesn't seem like song name will be displayed

    http://forums.audiworld.com/a4/msgs/2070017.phtml but remember this post was back in June 04 so maybe something has changed.

  • baxter

    Lanny, an update for Audi and the new icelink

    http://forums.audiworld.com/s4/msgs/1825779.phtml

  • Waiting

    Customer service at Dension is just terrible. I have had an order for an ICE-Link Plus in for nearly eight weeks with no feedback and no ability to get in touch with anyone there.

    Warning: this is really a bad experience.

  • minimax

    hi.. enjoyed your i-pod and aux input articles…

    but have a question…

    is it possible with a 2003.. to have am/fm/cd (not cd changer) with xm and ipod … all using the steering wheel buttons?

    regards, minimax

  • GMC Guy

    RUN, I REPEAT, RUN from this company. Their “plus” product does not work even close to the way it is advertised and their support department does not exist. Don’t say I didn’t warn you if you buy this product.

  • eurotuner kid

    Obviously there are problems with the system, go to crutchfield.com to find an iPod plug designed especially for your stereo if you have your car’s stock stereo. If you have a JVC, alpine, clarion, pioneer, or kenwood head unit, go to the manufacturer’s website to see what iPod plugs are designed specifically for that manufacturer’s proprietary connection. Plus, other systems don’t require you adding in an extra firewire cable OR using the top port plug; they have everything running through one pre-attached firewire cable.

    If you want satelite radio and an iPod, and are considering getting a new head unit, pioneer’s IP-bus system allows you to daisy-chain CD changers, satelite radio recievers, iPod links, and auxillary inputs all to the same reciever. Just remember, Pioneer’s sirius system kills their xm system-the sirius system has an antenna pre-packaged with it to save money but not hold back on quality, and xm doesnt let u pay once and get a lifetime subscription…

  • Brian

    Sirius kills XM? Heh when did this happen? There’s a reason XM has over 4 million subscribers and Sirius is struggling and betting the farm on Howard Stern.

    XM has superior sound quality and far more repeaters than Sirius, meaning you are going to have far better coverage with XM, even in dense downtown areas…I even have coverage in parking garages, everywhere.

  • Vincent Ho

    Anybody could help me out with this worked on the porsche 05 models with fiber optics tech.

  • http://n/a Ven

    Hi, I have been advised by BMW/Mini that installing the Denison ice link will invalidate the warranty on the car, and thus they do not recommend it. It may be that they are just trying to sell me the approved BMW/mini version. However I have already got the Dension. Is this something anyone else has come across before?

  • http://bravo5.org/blog blalor

    Oy vey. The manufacturer (dealership?) has to prove that modifications done by a third party (ie. not the manufacturer or dealership) affected the part being replaced under warranty. Adding an ice>Link could affect the warranty on your radio, or wiring harness, even, but will not affect the supercharger. Regardless, it is their burden to prove that your modificiation affected the failed system. IANAL and all that, but in the US we have the Manguson-Moss act which pretty clearly lays this down.

  • IamJ

    That’s crazy – I installed the Icelink on both my 3 Series BMW & Z3, both of which I have taken in for warranty work and have had no problems.

  • Rob Cronick

    Hi all. Just ordered the Ice Link PLus for my Audi TT. I have a miniIpod. The car has the factory fitted Audi Concert head unit. Can anybody foresee any problems for me when the thing arrives. Has anyone fitted the same and what was the sound and overall performance like?

  • Rob

    So even if you ipod is fully charged when you plug it in; it will start chargeing it, remove the charger for a moment and it will start chargeing again. That’s 2 Cycles.” – Technomage

    According to http://www.apple.com/batteries/ a cycle counts as using 100% of the battery’s capacity, so the ICE-Link will not cause any more cycles to be used up just because it charges it.

  • brent

    I installed the Icelink with no problems. I didn’t like the way it operated through my stereo face(didn’t show song names or albums, and I’m not spending months making playlists for all albums), so I went through the menu and opted to select songs directly through the Ipod…and it was working super until I turned my car off…then turned my car back on. Now, Icelink doesn’t boot-up or work, it just charges (doesn’t play songs) my Ipod and I don’t have access to any of the icelink menus to fix this. Any ideas on how to fix this?

  • Derek Trotter

    Hi, I bought an IceLink for my Audi A4 and it works fine. As previously mentioned above, the songs do not appear on my Concert radio but this really is not a problem. It took about an hour to install and the sound quality is great. I am (so far) a very happy bunny! Now for our Mitsubishi Shogun/Pajero……..I bought an IceLink FM for this car as Dension do not make a specific IceLink for this make of factory fitted radio. This unit connects directly to the FM antenna socket at the back of the radio. The sound quality is poo! You can hear a slight hissing in the background (similar to an FM transmitter, although not quite as bad) and EVERY electrical item interferes with it! When you are driving the car, the engine revs are denoted onto the music!! VERY POOR, and NOT recommended.

  • J

    Does anybody else have the same problem with the Ice LInk FM?

    The previous poster said the sound quality is poor and every electrical item interferes with it.

    I was considering buying the FM

  • Ben Senize

    my ice link sucks so badly that i can’t use it. it puts out a high pitched schrill that hurts. maybe a power supply filter or ground loop isolator would cure it but first off, how would i wire one up to the ice-link and second, i just spent over two-hundred bucks on the thing and now i have to fix it??? my recommendation: don’t bother.

  • javier

    i have a ipod 30Gb 5g and dension ice link plus on a ford focus.

    Dension is great but i had a BIG problem. My ipod was broken. The battery was dead in less than 1 one week!!!!

    I don´t know exactly what is the source of the problem, but i guess, i think that was due to the ice link.

    Somebody tell me that turning on the car with ipod connected to the dension adaptor could be the cause of the battery failure.

    Can anybody tell me anything about that?

    I’m writing also to dension to ask about it.

    bye

  • Friday9x

    For the ipod Linked to REV’s!

    YOU NEED TO REVERSE THE GROUND WIRE… My car had the exact same problem and this fixed it. Look around for the PDF that tells you how to do it. (it isn’t interference)

    My problem is that… The ice link randomly shuts off all together and my blinker indicators and headlight indicator dont work! But.. If i let the car sit for 30 minutes it starts back up?

    any ideas?

    Friday9x(AT)gmail(DOT)com

  • Don Triskett

    bought an icelink on ebay with much anticipation of getting great sound quality without using the tapedeck in my 02 audi. Install was a breeze, but sound quality sucked! I had to turn the stereo almost all the way up for a decent listening level. I couldn’t easily access all my library on the ipod either. Very disappointed with this – I went back to the tape deck adapter the next day.

  • Matt Nale

    My Ice Link Plus quit working and Dension is just ignoring my requests for assistance. Apparently they don’t offer any support in the US any longer. It was a good product while it worked, but that was only for a couple of months.


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