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iPhone your MINI: The Shure Music Phone Adaptor Reviewed

This one sent in by MF regular Nathaniel Salzman. It’s a great way to get iPhone integration in your MINI without breaking the bank!

MINI iPhone integration: The Shure Music Phone Adaptor

The topic of iPod integration in the MINI is nothing new on MotoringFile. Options abound for getting your music through the speakers of your MINI’s stereo. With everything from integrated factory and ICE-LINK adaptors, to factory AUX port adaptors, to head-unit replacement. Each option has its inherent advantages of function and integration, and disadvantages of sound quality, chord management, or price.

Another common topic is that of mobile phone integration, particularly BlueTooth solutions both OEM and after market. Like with iPod integration, the available solutions vary in cost, compatibility, and function.

MINI drivers with Apple’s iPhone face both integration problems at once. Many of the iPod adaptors have proven to work just fine for the music functions of the iPhone, but unless you’ve also installed some sort of bluetooth kit in your MINI, that’s only half of the iPhone equation. Likewise, the iPhone will only pipe telephone audio through its BlueTooth connection, no music.

For MINI owners like myself – with neither an OEM / ICE Link iPod adaptor nor a BlueTooth adaptor in my Cooper S – most have no interest in spending $600+, but with just a little ingenuity there is a basic solution for as little as $40.

Firstly, this method leaves it up to you to figure out how and where to mount or cubby your iPhone safely and securely. I’m using a universal windshield mount so that I can use the iPhone’s Google Maps function as a poor man’s GPS. But where you put yours is up to you. Secondly, this won’t charge your iPhone, but there are a number of car chargers for that and this won’t interfere with any of those. Lastly, it’s common sense with any car mod, but especially with something involving a mobile phone in your car, that things like wires and handsets need to be secured as neatly as possible. Let’s motor safely.

What you’ll need

This solution requires only three components.

  1. The MINI factory AUX Port adapter. Chances are, most of you without direct iPod integration are already using this to listen to your iPod. I use it in my MINI. On the R56, the AUX is standard equipment. For the R50/53, it’s available from your dealer for about $40.
  2. The Shure Music Phone Adapter (MPA), which is available from your local Apple retail store or online at apple.com. This adapter adds a standard mobile phone hands-free microphone to any standard headphones. In this application, we’re going to use it to feed the audio form the iPhone into the MINI stereo, and also to capture our voice during telephone calls.
  3. A male-to-male headphone patch cable – your local Radio Shack can hook you up. You shouldn’t need any longer than 3″ or so.

Installation

The mechanics are simple. Plug the MPA into your iPhone, plug one end of the patch cable into the MPA, then plug the other end of the patch cable into the MINI AUX. Stow your cables and you’re done. Now you can play music from your iPhone through your MINI stereo and if a call comes in, the iPhone fades down your music and you’ll hear your ring tone. You have the option of either answering the call using the touch-screen controls of your iPhone, or the answer button on the MPA “bulb.” When you answer, you’ll hear the person on the other end of the line through your MINI stereo speakers, and they’ll hear you through the mic on the MPA. I’ve had a couple of complaints about echo, but most of the time it works really well.

Mic location

Remember that it’s the mic bulb on the MPA that will allow people to hear you, not your iPhone. From my testing, the mic seems to be very directional, so mounting it in such a way as it faces you is just as important as mounting it as close to you as possible. I’ve secured the mic just below the tach on the steering column. Wherever you put it, be sure to face the side of the mic bulb with the two input vents toward you, not the button side.

Some quick tips on audio quality

Because we’re pulling audio from the headphone jack and not from the digital line out in the iPhone dock connection, the strength of the audio signal is going to depend on how loud you’ve set the volume on your iPhone. If the volume is too low, then you’ll have to crank the stereo volume to hear both music and telephone calls, and what you do hear will sound very hollow from the weakness of the signal. Likewise, if your volume is too high, your audio quality will sound muddy. In my testing, on the standard (non HK) R53 stereo, an iPhone volume of about 75% seemed to be the sweet spot between loudness and clarity. Also, be careful when unplugging the MPA from the iPhone. Unless you change the stereo input or turn off the MINI stereo all together, you’ll get a very loud pop that could easily damage your speakers. Same goes for when you plug it in.

All in all, this method is hardly a perfect or entirely elegant solution for iPhone integration. All the basic functions are there, but you’ll sacrifice a bit of audio quality. However, at only $40, the shortcomings are easy to overlook.

Thanks for sending this in Nathaniel! If you, the fine Motoringfile reader, has a device you would like to review, Let us know!

Written By: DB

  • zm

    i’ve been doing this for a while w/ my treo 750, but had been answering w/ the built in speakerphone. i reverted back to the BT headset to answer calls b/c of ppl complaining about echo.

    can anyone that’s using the MPA comment on if their echo problems have changed, vs just using the phone’s speakerphone?

    thanks.

    also have been wanting a wireless solution for all this. was checking this out: http://www.myventuri.com/home.aspx

    anyone else gone wireless?

  • Nathaniel Salzman

    Oddly enough, the only echo complaints I’ve ever gotten were from when I’d call my wife’s mobile. I think a lot of it has to do with how loud the volume is. I don’t use the speakerphone on the iPhone because it’s really not that loud. I keep my iPhone headphones in a little pouch in my pocket, so given the choice, I’d just use those in the car before the speakerphone, which I’ve done on many occasions.

    Looking at the Venturi, the immediate problem I see is that it’s an FM transmitter, which is notoriously awful to the point of not working at all in the MINI. Good idea in general, but probably a bad fit for the MINI specifically.

  • zm

    gotcha. my treo will play the audio out of the speakers while i’m talking to it on speakerphone–so, i’m sure that’s the echo probs.

    same opinion on the fm. the venturi does have a line out, so it’d at least make the phone side wireless (a2dp & hands free). still waiting to hear from someone that’s tried it, though.

  • alex

    My FM system works ok, but as with my direct connect XM radio box, the volume is very quiet. When I had XM installed, the installer alleged it was due to the HK system and what it did to the input. Anyone else have this problem or figure out how to improve the volume without replacing the head unit?


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