I’ve owned my venerable Honda Odyssey for just under 12 years now. It’s exactly what I wanted in a vehicle size-wise and performance-wise. The original stereo that came with it sports a cassette player that’s worked very well all these years.
I’ve been using a headset-jack-to-cassette adapter to listen to my podcasts for the past three or four years. A couple of weeks ago the adapter started acting up, causing the tape player to simply turn off. Also, the lights on the radio had failed and I was growing tired of the half-a$$ed adapter solution anyway since nearly 100% of my listening is of the iPod.
So I did some research looking for a replacement radio that catered to my iPod needs. There are some pretty slick devices out there, even some where the faceplate folds forward and allows you to slide the iPod into it.
But such a design definitely limits you to certain iPod models and I’d hate to have to change out my car stereo every time I update my iPod. Also, I really like the well thought-out menu system on my iPod and take advantage of how it functions to listen to my podcasts in a way that works well for me already. Many of the car stereo systems offered their own menu system and controlled the iPod directly and, according to reviews on Amazon and other places, poorly.
So I settled on the Blaupunkt Melbourne SD27. It’s VERY basic, it has AM/FM (I conceded that I may someday actually need to listen to the radio), no CD player, no tape player. It *does* have an SD/MMC slot that I’ll fill with a chip containing pleasant driving music someday when I can woot a huge capacity SD chip cheaply. I also opted for the optional iPod cable so I could listen to / charge the iPod while still using its menu system. I actually have a holster already mounted on my between-seat console that allows me to safely park the iPod when I’m not handling it.
I headed over to Fry’s Electronics on Highway 9 at Webb Road. I *love* Fry’s, I could wander around inside there all day browsing the cool electronics that they offer. And that’s saying something because I’m not really known as a retail shopper…
The interior staff were very helpful, when they didn’t know something they got someone who did. Shortly I was outfitted with my new radio, mounting bracket, cables and my optional iPod cable. I elected to have them do the installation as well recalling from my youth the joys of hanging out under the dashboard fiddling with wires and connections while maintaining some yogic “Z” pose between the seat, the doorjamb and the fusebox. The radio itself cost only $50. By the time I was finished the tab was $150. $40 of that was for installation.
So I had a guy working on my car, let’s call him “Nick”, I hand him all the pieces and walk away. About 40 minutes later I catch him walking rapidly away from the install bays (he has a lunch date with a comely lass from inside the store) and he lets me know all is ready to go.
I head back to the install bays, stopping at my car before going in and checking out the new stereo. The iPod side works great, but I can’t get any radio stations. So I head inside and meet the other guy who works there, let’s call him “Johnny” and he comes out and pulls out the radio to find that the antenna is not connected. “Problem solved” I think. I check and all the stations that I normally would care about are coming in loud and clear.
So we head inside where he realizes that the post-install checklist hasn’t been done. He asks if I’ve checked the power outlet (old / retarded people will call this the cigarette lighter – what a bizzarre concept..). I’m kind of in a hurry now, but I figure this is a good idea and go back out and… no… it’s not working. Johnny’s not real happy that Nick’s libido has left him with this extra work. So he comes out and dismantles the lower part of my dashboard again and hooks up the power outlet.
We head back in and he say’s, “Oh yeah, is the air conditioner working?”, again I’m tempted to say “I’m sure it is, let’s just call it a day.” but I head back out and the air conditioner is working fine. However, the hot-to-cold lever is stuck. Looks like the cable is binding. So Johnny, looking even less happy now comes back out, dismantles the lower dash again and corrects this little ‘nit.
When he’s done he goes back inside and I decide to check out the radio again. As before, the iPod still works great but my radio stations are gone. I head back in to let Johnny know and he, obviously tired of the whole affair, tells me that the radio reception in this area is really poor. I tell him that it was fine the last time he hooked up the antenna but he is insistent. About this time Nick comes back, looking rather happy so I suppose his lunch went well, and he joins in with Johnny about how terrible radio reception is in Alpharetta generally and that the building is probably blocking the reception. So they move my car in the parking lot to a spot where the reception should be better and play with the radio settings. Sometime during this Johnny has disappeared, apparently it’s his turn to head out to lunch.
So, after further discussion Nick again removes the radio and, sure enough the anenna is no longer attached. Apparently there is a weakness in the adapter between North American antenna connectors and those used by the Germans. So he adjust things and plugs everything back together.
I check ALL my systems and finally everything appears to be working. So, nearly 3 hours later (and being the only install being performed during that time), I finally get to return to work from my “Lunch”.
So far things are working, although in all honesty I haven’t used my radio since then (about a week and a half ago). But, worryingly, I went through Wendy’s drive-thru and when I went to my little coin holder in the dash I found, along with correct change for a hamburger, a lone screw that presumably came from my dashboard. Spare part I suppose?
I also note that the radio doesn’t dim when I turn on my lights even though I know it’s supposed to. Fortunately, since I’m one of those oddballs who actually turn on my lights during the day, this works out for me as I find the lights inside my car too dim during the day anyway and the display is not an issue for me at night so I’m leaving well enough alone. The car is old enough that I want folks monkeying around with it as little as possible.
Overall, I’m very happy to have a direct iPod connection with no more worries about the iPod battery becoming exhausted. The radio looks very attractive, to their credit the Fry’s installers managed to not damage the dash or the radio mounts in any obvious ways so I’m very pleased with that. But I post this as a warning. Make sure you check EVERYTHING you can think of in your dash before you leave…