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  • cheap Double-DIN head units w/ Android and Apple integration

    I few months ago, I happily took ownership of a 2004 Miata LS. I've wanted one for 20 years, and overall I'm enjoying the hell out of it. I'm about to go into a detailed backstory here for a bit, so if you want to get to the important parts, skip the first 3 paragraphs.

    After repairing a few mechanical issues, the car is well-sorted. What's left is the radio situation. When I first got it, the owner before me had put in an aftermarket Single-DIN Pioneer unit. There were so many problems, though. It stayed on all the time unless you removed the faceplate (fixed by re-doing wiring harness correctly). It didn't drive the rear speakers (fixed by replacing a fuse). And it sounded just plain bad (fixed by turning off the high-pass filter). What I was left with sounded OK--very hissy noise floor, though.

    So I decided to revert back to stock. I found the correct OEM Bose head unit on FB Marketplace. Definitely an improvement in several areas. First of all, it had some tailored EQ settings for "top up" and "top down" driving, and also support for speed-sensitive volume control. Keep in mind that this is a convertible, so ruler-flat response is not the goal here. I need emphasis on certain frequency bands to even hear what the hell is going on. A few other pluses: it knows when to correctly raise and lower the radio mast, and also just FEELS much higher quality than the Pioneer.

    Unfortunately, the stock OEM radio has no way to play via my phone. So I found a device called the Crux BTS-MZ1, which is a pretty cool invention that plugs into the "CD Changer" harness on the back of the head unit, but delivers Bluetooth, Aux jack, and USB. What more could you want, really? Unfortunately, it may be too good to be true. If you try to play files off a USB drive, the controls are terrible at best (basically just a guessing game where pressing the same button will get you different results each time), and it doesn't seem to be able to handle more than 6 folders on a drive. So USB drives are out. So how about Bluetooth? Unfortunately, the Bluetooth reception clicks and pops constantly, like an old LP. I can sort of tolerate this, until I think about how much this device cost. (OTOH, the aux jack seems to work without problems, so there's that)

    ***backstory ends here***

    So I'm looking to see what my other options are. Having Android Auto & Apple CarPlay is appealing, but those units start at around $300. And I can't help but worry that, since this is a convertible, an expensive radio would be very appealing to thieves. I see that Am*zon has a variety of no-name brand double-din head units at like half that price. To me that $150 makes a big difference in me worrying every time I leave the car unattended in a parking lot.

    Has anyone here ever tried ANY double-DIN head units--name brand or otherwise? I'm curious about your experiences. As far as amplification goes, I don't really need anything more than basic LR Front and LR Rear, because the output of the head unit goes into these Bose amps buried deep in the dash that actively drive the door speakers. There is no subwoofer--and there doesn't really need to be one. The Infinite Baffle subs in the doors seem to dig down into the 30 Hz range, so I'm good there. I don't have the time or patience to reverse-engineer it, but I think the active amps in the dash must have some sort of filtering in place because they make really good use of the OEM drivers in the door.
    Isn't it about time we started answering rhetorical questions?

    Paul Carmody's DIY Audio Projects
    Twitter: @undefinition1

  • #2
    Congrats on the Miata purchase!

    Check this thread out regarding an el-cheapo double-DIN head from China. Not a bad performer, I've messed with a few of them and they're no Alpine, but it gets the job done. Heck, buy two and keep one for a spare in case someone decides to 'borrow' yours. It's not too deep either.

    Alternate idea for Faceplate for Table Radios - Techtalk Speaker Building, Audio, Video Discussion Forum (parts-express.com)

    It's one of those cars that you just can't understand until you drive one. Then you get it. You can enjoy most of what the car has to offer every day on every road without attracting any attention.
    All 6'4" of me squeezed myself into one for a bit over a year. What a fun car! I upgraded mine (1990) to wider wheels and grippier tires. Grip was basically unlimited at that point. Taking freeway on/off ramps at 60+ MPH is a fun way to scare the cr*p out of a buddy by the way.

    TomZ

    Zarbo Audio Projects Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEZ...aFQSTl6NdOwgxQ * 320-641 Amp Review Youtube: https://youtu.be/ugjfcI5p6m0 *Veneering curves, seams, using heat-lock iron on method *Trimming veneer & tips *Curved Sides glue-up video
    *Part 2 *Gluing multiple curved laminations of HDF

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    • #3
      I am starting to gravitate more and more to pioneer as they offer 3way networking in SO MANY of their units. I honestly prefer kenwoods but have had zero issues with pioneers, always have 3way networking, and usually have all things that seem "standard" this day in age.

      Just bought this unit for $430 on Amazon, the 601ex or something like that, and going to install it tomorrow. Can report back after, but requirements were improvement in sound over stock (3way networking, time alignment, 13band eq, etc), back up camera and BT. All pretty standard.
      Builds - C-Killa - Speedsters - LithMTM - Talking Sticks - Pocket Rockets - Khanspires - Dayton RS Center - RS225/28A - Kairos - Adelphos - SEOS TD12X - Dayton 8 - Needles - 871S - eD6c - Overnight Sensations - Tritrix (ported) - Lineup F4 - Stentorians - The Cheapies - Tub Thumpers - Barbells - Tuba HT - Numerous subwoofers - probably missing a few...... :p

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      • #4
        Is this the V8 Miata swap thread? Yes? No? Yes?

        In the mean time, I am also on the pioneer bandwagon and have been so for head units for years and years. There are basically three tiers of pioneer gear - Premier, standard, and Wallyworld. Skip the wallyworld junk. Everything else has been great for me. As for double din, most are DVD head units with a few exceptions and, unfortunately, those few exceptions are usually Wallyworld specials. That also explains the price differential.

        I installed in a Pioneer AVH-1550 in a family members rig, and it works great. Bluetooth, Apple play, android auto, 3 rca outs, HP/LP filters, etc. But I prefer to get at least a 2xxx series; the price difference between them is usually $50 but it seems to be well worth it. Speaking of price difference, I would skip anything double din that is sub $200; IME they have issues handling a 12v system in a vehicle. At home, they are a little better, but I still find them to be sub sub par.

        If you aren’t ok with a $300 head unit, maybe look at getting a single Din; less than have the price for all the same features minus the DVD and touch screen. I think I got a 6xxx series Premier single din for less than $100 a little hike back. Unfortunately, like everything else, stock is low on everything right now so I will pay MSRP most places.

        Fwiw, I also like Kenwood and some alpine units as well.

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        • #5
          Thanks, Tom. That thread is exactly the thing I need to think on right now. As always, I appreciate everything you do for the community.
          Isn't it about time we started answering rhetorical questions?

          Paul Carmody's DIY Audio Projects
          Twitter: @undefinition1

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Blenton View Post
            Is this the V8 Miata swap thread? Yes? No? Yes?
            Sorry to disappoint, but no V8 swap here. My goal with everything so far has been to revert this thing back to stock (radio excluded). It still has relatively low miles (72,000), and a clean title. With the way the market has been going I think I can put 30,000 miles on it, and lose very little money.

            Thank you for the input on the Pioneer series. The one the previous owner installed is kind of crappy, TBH. I mean the functionality is there, but as I mentioned before, the noise floor is really hissy. And the overall feel is just REALLY cheap. Buttons feel super mushy. And the dial is way too sensitive. Everything feels so flimsy about it.
            Last edited by Paul Carmody; 06-01-2021, 12:38 AM.
            Isn't it about time we started answering rhetorical questions?

            Paul Carmody's DIY Audio Projects
            Twitter: @undefinition1

            Comment


            • Blenton
              Blenton commented
              Editing a comment
              Walmart special... I totally understand what you are saying. The hissy noise floor is usually from having it hooked up incorrectly and boogieing it up. And from it being that bottom tier Pioneer that is pure garbage. Been a while since I’ve had somebody bring one of those to me to install; I usually find some reason to deem it “defective” or “unsuitable for their application”’. I would have ripped it out, too. Hard to justify buying another from the same brand when you had such a poor experience with it. Unfortunately, you will find the same setup with a virtually all cheap head units, which is why I recommend spending a little more for a decent one - not just for Bella and whistles but for more go and faster slow.

          • #7
            Originally posted by joeybutts View Post
            I am starting to gravitate more and more to pioneer as they offer 3way networking in SO MANY of their units. I honestly prefer kenwoods but have had zero issues with pioneers, always have 3way networking, and usually have all things that seem "standard" this day in age. Just bought this unit for $430 on Amazon, the 601ex or something like that, and going to install it tomorrow. Can report back after, but requirements were improvement in sound over stock (3way networking, time alignment, 13band eq, etc), back up camera and BT. All pretty standard.
            Sorry to sound ignorant, but what is "3 way networking"?
            Isn't it about time we started answering rhetorical questions?

            Paul Carmody's DIY Audio Projects
            Twitter: @undefinition1

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            • #8
              Offers control of tweeter, woofer and subwoofer.

              I don't run rear fill EVER.
              Builds - C-Killa - Speedsters - LithMTM - Talking Sticks - Pocket Rockets - Khanspires - Dayton RS Center - RS225/28A - Kairos - Adelphos - SEOS TD12X - Dayton 8 - Needles - 871S - eD6c - Overnight Sensations - Tritrix (ported) - Lineup F4 - Stentorians - The Cheapies - Tub Thumpers - Barbells - Tuba HT - Numerous subwoofers - probably missing a few...... :p

              Comment


              • #9
                If you're seriously content with the sound of your stock head unit and don't see a future need to add amplifiers, the Bluetooth receivers on Amazon are like $20 and work pretty well. They plug into the cig lighter and play thru a radio station. I was suspect, thought those were all garbage, then my daughter got one for her Nissan truck and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. Now I use one in my Ford truck.

                If you wanted to get fancy you could add a 12v outlet somewhere in the dash and plug it in there, then you don't have to look at it anymore.
                "The ability of any system to produce exceptional sound will be limited mainly by the capability of the speakers" Jim Salk
                "Audio is surely a journey full of revelations as you go" JasonP

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                • #10
                  Originally posted by mattsk8 View Post
                  If you're seriously content with the sound of your stock head unit and don't see a future need to add amplifiers, the Bluetooth receivers on Amazon are like $20 and work pretty well. They plug into the cig lighter and play thru a radio station. I was suspect, thought those were all garbage, then my daughter got one for her Nissan truck and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. Now I use one in my Ford truck.
                  That's probably not a bad idea at this point, at least to try. Like you, I'd always written those things off, on the mere fact that they rely on FM modulation. I've never actually tried one, but the thought of it reminds me of "Mr. Microphone" from my childhood. For the price of less than $20 I don't see any harm in trying one, though. I'll give it a shot!
                  Isn't it about time we started answering rhetorical questions?

                  Paul Carmody's DIY Audio Projects
                  Twitter: @undefinition1

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    If you are considering a touch screen in a convertible, I would strongly caution you about the glare. Squinting at a screen while driving in traffic is a bad combination. Tactile controls are very underrated. I had a 92 Miata with the standard stereo. These did not come with the headrest speakers; but I was always tempted to try them. Of course, small speakers have come a long way in the past 29 years.

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                    • #12
                      Originally posted by Paul Carmody View Post
                      That's probably not a bad idea at this point, at least to try. Like you, I'd always written those things off, on the mere fact that they rely on FM modulation. I've never actually tried one, but the thought of it reminds me of "Mr. Microphone" from my childhood. For the price of less than $20 I don't see any harm in trying one, though. I'll give it a shot!
                      This is the one I (and my daughter) have.

                      https://www.amazon.com/Bluetooth-FM-...efix=fm&sr=8-3
                      "The ability of any system to produce exceptional sound will be limited mainly by the capability of the speakers" Jim Salk
                      "Audio is surely a journey full of revelations as you go" JasonP

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        Originally posted by mattsk8 View Post
                        This is the one I (and my daughter) have. https://www.amazon.com/Bluetooth-FM-...efix=fm&sr=8-3
                        Ha! That's exactly the one I bought last night. Seemsi have good taste. I'll report back in a few days
                        Isn't it about time we started answering rhetorical questions?

                        Paul Carmody's DIY Audio Projects
                        Twitter: @undefinition1

                        Comment


                        • #14
                          So here's an update. (I'm just using this thread as a blog. Sorry if I get long-winded)

                          I'm impressed with the charger/bluetooth adapter. It's a really well-made piece of kit. It FEELS very high quality. Fast charge works great! I really love that it shows the car's battery voltage when you first turn it on--super handy! As far as the actual sound quality of Bluetooth via FM, well, it's FM. It's certainly not terrible. But in typical FM fashion, the dynamic range is squashed, and the top and bottom octaves are missing. Still, it's a really nice device, and handy in other ways. So I'll gladly hold onto it.

                          I gave up on the Crux. The crackling and popping is just unacceptable for that amount of money. So I returned it. But it got my brain juices going. Like, how hard would it be to leverage that same harness to just add an aux jack through there? Certainly some of the pins on there were L and R and Ground, right? So I looked at Amazon and ebay at adapters that claimed to do just that. I looked for one that seemed to have similar pin locations to the Crux device, and went for it.

                          Well, it seems that the head unit it smarter than that. Simply plugging something into the L, R, and Gnd pins isn't enough for it to see that something is there. I guess the Crux device must have had some sort of Bus signal on another pin. So I started looking for pinout diagrams of the head unit--unfortunately information on this was pretty scarce. I tried testing them with my voltmeter, and found some with 12V+, some with ground... others were Bus I assumed. Here was my mistake: I tried shorting the 12V to some of the other ones to see which was a possible Bus pin--just a brief touch, couldn't hurt right? Wrong. I touch the 12V to this one pin, and the speakers went "pop" and the head unit turned off, never to turn on again. I checked the cars fuses--no problems there. In fact, there's 12+ v coming to the harness.

                          Something in the radio seems to be blown. Not sure what. So for the hell of it I decided to tear down the head unit. I tried searching for an internal fuse or a blown capacitor or something. No joy.

                          So where does that leave me? Replacing the stock Head Unit is going to cost around $125 for a used one. Yikes. For that amount of money why not just buy a new aftermarket one?

                          Stay tuned...
                          Isn't it about time we started answering rhetorical questions?

                          Paul Carmody's DIY Audio Projects
                          Twitter: @undefinition1

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                          • #15
                            My Kenwood is a bit too prone to crashing (during CarPlay) to recommend. When it does work (99% of the time) I do like the wireless CarPlay (just hop in the car, no fiddling with phones in pockets and wires)
                            Copy of Lou C's speaker pages: http://www.rob-elder.com/LouC/speakers.html

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