Sent in by MotoringFile reader Brian Shearon:
When contemplating stereo options for my 2005 MCS Convertible, I knew the increased road noise (both with the top up as well as down) from the soft top would be something I would need to overcome. I also knew I wanted to take my Ipod Mini (fitting, isn’t it) along with me to listen to in the car.
I’d tried the Griffin iTrip wireless FM modulator, and was less than pleased with the sound quality and the amount of static in it. I also looked into using the ‘official’ MINI Ipod adapter, but was concerned that no display information for song artist or title would show on the factory head unit.
Using the factory stereo to me wasn’t an option as the ICE link does allow you to control an Ipod from the factory stereo, but you have no display information which (to me, at least) defeats the purpose of having thousands of songs on tap.
So what was an Ipod fan to do? Well I’ve always been a fan of Alpine head units, and heading over to their website a few months ago, I noticed they had introduced a perfect solution for my problem. The KCA-420i Ipod interface with many of their 2004 and 2005 head units, and gives not only a direct link to the Ipod, increasing sound quality over a FM modulated unit, but it also shows the display information from the Ipod. It also allows complete control of the Ipod, pulling playlist information, and allowing you to search by playlist, artist, etc. Not only is this very handy, but this adapter charges the Ipod as well. So you can drive around all day in your MINI, and when you’re done, the Ipod is still fully charged. When you turn the key off, your Ipod is turned off as well.
The head unit I chose was the Alpine CDA-9855 and a nice 4-channel Alpine amplifier to go along with it, and used the factory speakers. I also installed a XM satellite radio module to go along with the system.
First, there is concern about where to install a satellite radio antenna. I installed mine on the dash as the antenna is very small and doesn’t stand out much at all. I ran the wires for the Ipod adapter in the glove box, which is perfect as it locks, keeping the Ipod safe and sound. The CD player went in place of the factor, and the amplifier installed in the trunk. A very nice thing as well with the amplifier installation is that the battery is in the trunk, meaning the installation time for the whole ball of wax was only about 3 hours.
From top to bottom I paid about $1000 for the CD player, Ipod adapter, amplifier, satellite radio module, parts and cabling. The H/K system with Ipod adapter costs $700. To me, the $300 additional is well worth it for the great increase in sound quality, satellite radio functionality, and having the Ipod display in the head unit.
You can seea demo of the headunit here.