A Tale Of (First World) Woe

For the past couple of years, I’ve been looking for some solution for my in-car audio that does exactly what I want. When I  bought my Thunderbird, I eventually bought a Bluetooth enabled stereo (a Pioneer DEH-P700BT) to replace the factory deck that was in it. At the time, I had my first Android phone, the original HTC Desire. And it worked, somewhat. I had a bunch of music on my phone that I could play over the Bluetooth connection. Unfortunately, the phone wasn’t the most robust device out there, and would quite often flake out when playing music. So I also had a USB stick loaded with music.

Fast forward to two years ago. I finally have enough money to upgrade my car. I found an almost perfect 2006 Dodge Magnum R/T AWD. Life was good. The factory stereo was the base stereo (REF), but it had an aux port on the front, steering wheel controls, and if you put in a recent or burned CD, it would display the track title on the LCD screen just below the speedometer. Not bad, but I had an issue. I hate having to use a touch screen device when I’m driving. It’s not safe. So changing tracks on my phone was not something I was comfortable doing, as it meant that I had to wake up my phone, and locate the skip track button on the screen. And it wouldn’t handle answering phone calls either. This would not do.

So I started researching what it would take to put in my trusty Pioneer while retaining steering wheel controls. Kind of stupid, I know, being as the stereo was about six inches from my right hand anyway, but I had the buttons on my steering wheel, and I wanted to use them. I found a lot of posts on various forums stating that it couldn’t be done.

Chrysler, in it’s infinite wisdom, decided to make the steering wheel controls operate differently than most other vehicles with steering wheel controls at the time. Well, sort of, but I’ll get to that in another post. On the LX platform (the Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum, Dodge Charger, and Dodge Challenger) the steering wheel controls operate over the CAN-BUS system. In most modern vehicles, the CAN-BUS network is used by the engine to tell the computer in the car what’s happening at any given moment. Different manufacturers also use it for different purposes, and as more technology is introduced into vehicles, more CAN-BUS signals are being sent through the car. I have recently found out that the window switches in my car have a CAN-BUS component.

Thankfully though, I finally found a post by somebody that actually knew what the hell they were talking about, and pointed out a device that you plugged into the old wiring harness, and would make the steering wheel controls available to an aftermarket deck. Well, the post actually talks about how to make an aftermarket deck work with a factory amplifier, which my car has, that is also controlled by the CAN-BUS network. But when I looked for that device, the company that makes it also makes steering wheel control interfaces for aftermarket decks.

Hey, I was set. I could buy these two products, a face-plate adapter, and an antenna adapter, and I could once again get my Bluetooth music, my Bluetooth calling, and if need be, my USB music, while also retaining my steering wheel controls without having to bypass the factory amplifier. Great! I ordered the parts and installed it all in about half an hour. It is ridiculously easy to swap those stereos out. I’m not going to tell you how to do it, but a brief search on YouTube will show you how.

What I didn’t read when I bought the C2R-CHY4, was that the factory amplifier only takes two channels. The amplifier does all the balancing and fading. So you can’t adjust it. You hook up the front channels from the aftermarket head unit to the rear channels of the factory wiring. This puts sound out to all speakers, but you better hope that it sounds good at 0 fading, because you can’t change it. CAN-BUS controlled. Damnit.

This has served me well for the past two years. But recently, a friend of mine bought a new stereo from JVC that has bluetooth, and it also displays the track title from Google music from his Android phone. For $120 bucks. I paid $400 for mine. I was a little choked. There are instructions in the user manual for my stereo on how to update the software on the head unit. Pioneer has never issued an update for it. This annoys me, not because there is anything really wrong with my stereo, but at a $400 price, I would think that Pioneer would at least to update the software once to make it a better deal. And then I remember, my stereo is now six years old. It owes me nothing.

I decided to start looking at recent stereos to see what was out there. Nothing really offered any significant improvements to what I already had, unless I wanted to go to a double din head unit, and the majority of those are touch screen devices. I don’t want a touch screen device. It’s a dumb idea for a car. I’ve also seen a boat load of people hacking a mid-screen tablet like the Nexus 7 into their cars. This peaked my interest for a couple months, as I am pretty much a Google whore, until I realized that I was salivating over another touch screen device, and I would lose my ability to answer phone calls again.

Well, tits. Now what? All I really want is a device that will answer calls and play music from my phone wirelessly. I don’t care about the radio, I never listen to it. I don’t need a CD player, as I haven’t used or bought a CD in about eight years. (Yes, I buy my music. 7Digital has a Canadian presence, and carry a decent selection.) Since I got my Nexus 4, I don’t need a USB stick of music anymore either.

Then I remembered my Arduino. Hey, if people can do all of this crap absolutely amazing stuff (not being sarcastic, some of the things people do with Arduino’s is amazing), I should be able to hack a Bluetooth receiver into my Arduino and have it work with my car. Probably. Maybe? Hmmm…

Definitely maybe.

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About Skullnerd

I could tell you how long I've been on the internet, but I don't remember, or care. I could tell you that I love food, but I don't. I love certain types of food, but not all food. I could tell you that I love music, but I don't. I am a fan of certain artists, and the majority of popular music just pisses me off. I could tell you that I watch a lot of TV... actually, that one is true. Just not reality TV. That shit is boring. My current hobbies are trying to create things out of leather - and screwing them up horribly - and trying to build electronics - and failing miserably. As always, I read fantasy and science fiction. A lot. Anything else you don't need to know.
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