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Zunification part 2: The Plan

There are several ways to use a Zune in your car, and all of them suck in one or another painful manner.

Option 1 – FM transmitter

This is the less obtrusive and pain-free option, it uses an FM transmitter connected directly to the Zune connector to send the signal to the radio. Unfortunately, US laws severely limit the power of the transmitter in the car, so much – in fact – that 80% of the time you can’t tune for shit and spend your drive trying to find that elusive “free” frequency that wasn’t even there in the first place.

  • Pros: No installation.
  • Cons: Doesn’t really work.
  • Verdict: No.

Option 2 – Soundgate Zune CORE Car Interface

This is a most promising solution: basically a fully integrated system that lets you control the Zune directly from the stock radio (and the steering wheel controls). The problem is that my car is not supported and apparently nobody has one.

  • Pros: Fully integrated control.
  • Cons: RNS-E is not supported.
  • Verdict: Would be nice, but no.

Option 3 – Audi official solution

This option doesn’t even exist, so I spent only two weeks considering it.

  • Pros: Milk and honey. And unicorns.
  • Cons: Does not exist.
  • Verdict: Let’s skip it for now.

Option 4 – AUX input

The RNS-E navigation unit doesn’t have an audio auxiliary input either in the front or in the back of the unit. That appears to present an insurmountable obstacle to the actual use of this option, but  the interwebs are known to provide surprisingly useful advice, every now and then.

One of these advices was from the Audi forums, where people have way too much time on their hands and are hacking and disassembling nav units just for fun. On one of these forums I learned that it is indeed possible to add an Aux input to the unit. This process involves:

  1. Upgrade the firmware of the unit to at least rev 250
  2. Recode the unit to enable the Aux input
  3. Create a cable that connects a stereo line output to a 32 pin proprietary connector to be attached in the back of the nav unit.

At this point, you connect the Zune (or any player) to the stereo Aux input, select it from the control panel and realistic music will fill the car (after all, it is a Bose system).

  • Pros: Inexpensive, good probability of working.
  • Cons: Complex, requires actual work.
  • Verdict: Let’s do this!

In the next post, we’ll see how the work started and finally see that it is possible to use a Zune in your car and even have some cool unexpected features along with it.

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