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Alternative Headunit - Zenec ZE-NC3131D Review

Discussion in 'A3/S3/Sportback (8P Chassis)' started by newbieboyy, Jan 12, 2014.

  1. newbieboyy
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    newbieboyy Member

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    [Jan 12, 2014]
    Hello all!

    Following on from my thread about updating my head unit I went and took the plunge on the above unit!

    System Specification (Taken from the Zenec Website: Here

    GENERAL FEATURES



    • Intuitive, user friendly HMI in 20 different languages
    • 6.2"/15.7 cm 16:9 HD TFT-LCD display with 800 x 480 pixels resolution and touchscreen control
    • RDS tuner with 30 preset stations (18 FM/12 AM)
    • Multi zone function
    • 4 x 50 watts class-D amplifier
    • 2 x IR-remote control
    BRAND/VEHICLE SPECIFIC FEATURES



    • Steering wheel remote control integration via CAN
    • Driver information system (FIS) integration via CAN (Audio information and turn key arrows)
    • Soundsystem integration, incl. BOSE Soundsystem
    • Red key illumination
    GPS NAVIGATION SYSTEM



    • 3D High-Definition navigation system
    • TMC receiver for free TMC data services
    • Extendable functionality via separate pay service TMC providers such as Traffic Master Pro (country specific)
    • External GPS antenna
    • 8 GB internal flash memory with map data for 43 Eastern and Western European countries and Premium POI database
    • Graphical user interface and voice guidance in 28 different languages
    • 2D or 3D map view with auto-zoom and display of 3D terrains and 3D landmarks
    • Eco and Smart Route Planning, Outlook address import, Real Junction View and Real Signpost rendering etc.
    • Text to Speech function
    PARROT BLUETOOTH HANDS-FREE MODULE



    • Synchronization of up to 1,000 contacts with max. 5 telephone numbers per contact
    • Alphabetical search function for contacts
    • Internal and external microphone
    • Future-proof upgradable Bluetooth firmware
    MULTIMEDIA PLAYER



    • DVD loader
    • USB 2.0 port (via Media link box)
    • SD/SDHC card reader (up to 32 GB)
    • Made for iPod/Made for iPhone
    • Playback DVD loader: CD, CD-R/RW, MP3, WMA, DVD, DVD±R/RW, DVD-MP3, AVI, Xvid and JPEG
    • Playback SD/USB: MP3, WMA, AVI, Xvid, H.264 and JPEG
    A/V-CONNECTIONS



    • 4.1-CH preamp line outputs
    • 2-CH preamp line outputs without volume adjustment
    • 2 x composite video outputs (NTSC)
    • 1 x A/V-input
    • 1 x video input for rear view camera with switching function
    • Connectivity for compatible external DVB-T or DAB+ receivers
    ZE-NC3131D ACCESSORIES



    ZENEC - this does not mean only full compatibility to all popular audio and video formats, but also easy integration of further ZENEC devices like DVB-T tuner, rear view cameras, headphones or monitors for perfect rear zone entertainment. You can connect all external devices to the ZE-NC3131D and comfortably control these components via touchscreen or with the IR remote control included in the deliver

    Fitted to my 2010 A3 Sportback!

    First Impressions

    The box arrived and looked reassuringly good - it was well packaged and upon opening it had all the components you could need and more. I was very surprised by the comprehensive parts included in the kit.

    Included:

    Main Unit
    4 x Removal Keys
    External GPS Antenna
    Main wire harness
    Media Link Box
    DVB-T connection cable
    BT Microphone
    BT Microphone Interface
    Detachable Cable
    Remote Control
    CAN bus Interface
    USB Stick

    Documents (Comprehensive manuals).

    1495476_10152146952633633_151510680_n_zps9889d15d.jpg

    1535505_10152146952818633_1091946672_n_zps6bbccd91.jpg

    Installation

    Unbelievably simple!

    The main box involved removing the existing radio and connecting the Main wire harness, media link box, External GPS and CAN bus interface. The GPS module was plugged in and I switched it on to make sure it was all working. Connectivity was simplistic and all connections are colour co-ordinated and unique to prevent you plugging in the wrong place.

    (After testing it worked I tidied it up)

    I ultimately placed the GPS antenna above the glovebox (removing the glovebox to place it out of view) - Using THIS guide.

    The USB media interface was located into the glovebox - I had additionally purchased the iPod connectivity cable to give me full iPod connectivity. So i smuggled this away in the glovebox out of view. (You need this to be able to easily update the unit over USB).

    1545777_10152146953213633_331426874_n.jpg

    Usability

    The system is easy to use and fairly self explanatory. The amount of options were confusing to start with purely as it was so unexpected but you quickly work them out. Start up time is longer than OEM but it isn't enough to be irritating (yet). iPod functionality is great, the iPod is in the glovebox and doesn't need to be touched - full control is viable from the head unit and you can see everything on the iPod easily. Bluetooth is brilliant - showing you signal strength and battery status of the linked mobile phone. There are two microphones - one built into the system and one external one - I haven't attached the external one and having had several conversations through the BT I don't think I need to - quality is brilliant. All functions appear on the DIS and when using the navigation the arrows appear there too.
    1535619_10152146953568633_1279250066_n.jpg

    Pros
    Looks OEM
    Bluetooth incorporated
    Cheaper than OEM System (New)
    Works with DIS
    Masses of features to start with and easily expandable.
    Fits in with the car look.



    Cons

    Slower startup than OEM



    Overall I am very happy with the system - I will try and get some better pictures (day and night and of Sat Nav in use) tomorrow and will explain things a bit better too.

    I would highly recommend the unit though and have had a couple of people look ad seem interested which is good news!
    #1
    Madpete and Artimus like this.
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  3. LEE69
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    LEE69 07 170 DSG

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    [Jan 12, 2014]
    Cracking review but just googled the price !!!!!!
    #2
  4. newbieboyy
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    newbieboyy Member

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    [Jan 12, 2014]
    £739 all in i paid.

    Your pay £500+ for a second hand RNS-E without bluetooth or ipod control so i thought it was a good deal tbh
    #3
  5. LEE69
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    LEE69 07 170 DSG

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    [Jan 12, 2014]
    best not link you to the one i know of then for circa £250
    #4
  6. newbieboyy
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    newbieboyy Member

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    [Jan 12, 2014]
    Second hand? Unwarranted? No bluetooth? Lol

    This has 2 years warranty and is newww minimal risk compared to a second hand rns-e
    #5
  7. AK47UK
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    AK47UK Active Member

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    [Jan 12, 2014]
    Looks like a clone of the Xtrons model I have (or more likely mine is a clone of yours) and mine was £250 brand new iirc with warranty. Mine has GPS, Bluetooth, steering wheel control using my fbmfsw and works with my Bose.

    i had looked at yours on caraudiosecurity but decided the saving was worth the risk.
    #6
  8. LEE69
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    LEE69 07 170 DSG

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    [Jan 12, 2014]
    #7
  9. pablo
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    pablo Member

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    [Jan 13, 2014]
    Zenec do pretty good usable kit. Some of the chinese tat is just not comparable, with quality and functionality being worlds apart. Its a bit like comparing KW V3 coilovers to JOMs and saying look you can get those for £200. Or an Alpine double DIN to a ripspeed special.
    #8
  10. newbieboyy
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    newbieboyy Member

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    [Jan 13, 2014]
    In all honesty i don't think i would trust or expect to last a radio that only cost £250 and could do all of the above. Given a new RNS-E is about £1000, Alpine ones £800+ a Chinese special for £250 i don't think i would want it in my car to be honest.
    #9
  11. LEE69
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    LEE69 07 170 DSG

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    [Jan 13, 2014]
    Mates just installed his into his mk2 Leon looks a great bit of kit, works with his DIS/steering controls.

    Was only showing other options out there.
    #10
  12. pablo
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    pablo Member

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    [Jan 13, 2014]
    the software is the big difference Id imagine. They can all do ipod/nav/sd card etc but how its controlled and presented is the major thing. Some of the cheap units have terrible interfaces where the zenec looks to have a very nice ipod UI.
    #11
  13. newbieboyy
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    newbieboyy Member

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    [Jan 13, 2014]
    Not criticising Lee69 - Sorry if it came across wrong.

    Just personally I wouldn't feel comfortable - not saying there not good pieces of kit just not for me.
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  14. AK47UK
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    AK47UK Active Member

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    [Jan 13, 2014]
    To be fair over the past 7 years I have had 3 Chinese headunits in my car. The first was a single din motorised generic Chinese model, the interface was ugly (those Chinese fonts) but functionality was perfect over the 2 or so years I owned it, then I sold it fully working so the ownership had cost me under £100.

    My second was a double din xtrons, I owned that for 3.5 years. The interface was fairly ugly still but again it was fully functional. Only problem I had was after about 2 years the digitizer developed a fault (common on any touch screen device over time). £35 and I replaced it myself, I could have had them do it but I do this kind of thing for a living. After that it continued to work flawlessly and I sold that working so again ownership cost me under £100.

    My latest was designed specifically for the A3 so is a perfect fit, when powering on it displays the Audi logo and the menu interface is very nice. They have used decent fonts and graphics all over. This ended up costing me £275 iirc, bought from their eBay reseller (same place I got my second unit from).

    My point is don't discount the cheaper models until you try them. The hardware is likely to be near identical as the expensive ones have been made in China, often the main difference is the time invested in programming the software. Most run WinCE anyway so you can flash custom software if you wanted to, some now run android.
    #13
  15. Philipstormy
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    Philipstormy Member

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    [Jan 13, 2014]
    I like the look of it, I have to admit I find the RNS-E a little dated now, and the sat nav, personally prefer my full postcode tom tom, nice to see some decent looking alternatives are there. I was wondering could you post up some pictures of the Nav and also is it full uk postcode route planning?
    #14
  16. AK47UK
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    AK47UK Active Member

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    [Jan 13, 2014]
    I didn't realise the RNS-e didn't have full postcode routing! Most of the chinese models use WinCE as the OS so they are capable of running TomTom, iGo and various other apps. iGo is my favourite and fortunately my device came pre-loaded with that. All the features of the sat nav app are available (full postcode routing, speed camera warnings etc).
    #15
  17. newbieboyy
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    newbieboyy Member

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    [Jan 13, 2014]

    Hi,

    Yes the sat nav is full UK postcode route planning and it also had speed camera sites and the speed limit of the road you are on. I haven't used it yet but will use it this week coming undoubtedly.

    1498802_10152148111793633_931695571_o.jpg
    1501427_10152148110318633_1356178356_o.jpg
    1537850_10152148111238633_530739675_o.jpg

    SAT NAV Pics:


    1601974_10152148154838633_623788661_o.jpg 1506117_10152148153033633_657536481_o.jpg 1529790_10152148153568633_813375627_o.jpg

    I have blanked out most of the locations - but left a couple of parts in so you can see the writing type.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014
    #16
  18. pablo
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    pablo Member

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    [Jan 13, 2014]
    yeah even the latest RNS-E is crappy postcode mapping. crud. Although the intersection maps etc is pretty cool
    #17
  19. S.
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    S. Well-Known Member

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    [Jan 13, 2014]
    zenec seems like a good, quality, oem look, replacement for oem headunit. i was looking them before i got rns-e. a3 model was still in progress so ended up with rns-e, and i'm happy with it.
    #18
  20. emznjav
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    emznjav Member

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    [Jan 13, 2014]
    Where you able to connect up the stock sub in the back and did you require any new cables to get the rear speakers working?
    #19
  21. Andy1608
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    Andy1608 Active Member

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    [Jan 13, 2014]
    looks nice what you've got i think, i personally wouldn't spend that much but its your money, your car and your choice and if your happy with it thats all that matters.
    RNSE, yes you cant postcode search but it does narrow the alphabet down as your entering details so its not really a problem, could see it been annoying if your use to entering a full postcode on a tomtom style sytem.
    #20
  22. AK47UK
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    AK47UK Active Member

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    [Jan 13, 2014]
    There was a loom sent with my Xtrons A3 headunit that connected my full Bose system so all speakers and sub work fine.
    #21
  23. emznjav
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    emznjav Member

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    [Jan 13, 2014]
    #22
  24. AK47UK
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    AK47UK Active Member

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    [Jan 13, 2014]
    Your quadlock appears to have 3 pairs of RCAs coming off of it so this could be all you need. My system is Bose so I don't know what differences there are. There is a footnote at the bottom of the auction description about active rear speakers.
    #23
  25. newbieboyy
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    newbieboyy Member

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    [Jan 26, 2014]
    Sorry about delay in replying - Yes all the speakers do work. including the rears.
    #24
  26. newbieboyy
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    newbieboyy Member

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    [Jan 26, 2014]

    Yeah it is a lot of money, but my argument was compared to a RNS-E with bluetooth it was cheaper. Comparing new to new it worked out much cheaper with the Zenec having much more features and great expansion capabilities.
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  27. ny tdi
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    ny tdi New Member

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    [Feb 14, 2014]
    Oh, wow AK47UK. I think I just ordered the same system as you. Is it this:
    7" Car Stereo DVD Player in Dash GPS Navigation Radio Audi A3 2003 2011 Canbus | eBay

    Is the interface different on every function, or is it as homogenous as it seems in the picture? How does the "flip" rotation work? Are you happy with the look and feel? Does "lock up" or have random restarts? Did your rear speakers work straight-away, or did you have to rewire something to get signal to the rear amp?

    More importantly, how are the iGo maps on this unit and does the NAVIGATION INFO SHOW UP ON THE DIS????????

    I was debating between the x-tron and the zenec (I just sold my RNS-E). Since the x-tron folks offered a generous return policy, and opted to give it I try. My reasoning was that I could always return it if I didn't like it. But if the x-tron/ebay unit turned out ok, I could save $1,000 USD over the zenec unit.
    #26
  28. AK47UK
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    AK47UK Active Member

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    [Feb 14, 2014]
    Yes that is the same as mine. The interface is nice, they have taken more time skinning it than any other chinese unit I have had in the past. Not sure what you mean by flip rotation.

    I have had no restarts or lock ups, the only problem I have occasionally is in SatNav when entering a postcode some letters are unresponsive, eventually they accept my presses. I think this is software related though as those sections of the digitizer work perfectly fine when not in SatNav so I might upgrade the iGo version myself.

    I have full Bose system so had to connect up the speakers using the harness included, worked fine straight away (originally they forgot to send me the harness so took a while to get this form them).

    Nothing shows on the DIS unfortunately, never expected it to either.

    The Zenec looks almost identical to the Xtrons, I reckon Xtrons cloned the Zenec unit and made their own firmware/software for it. Certainly worth trying as the savings are enormous and the features are better than an RNSe.
    #27
  29. ny tdi
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    ny tdi New Member

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    [Feb 14, 2014]
    cool, thanks ak47uk. can't wait until it arrives next week!:)
    #28
  30. ny tdi
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    ny tdi New Member

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    [Feb 14, 2014]


    Oh,

    I finally found videos of the unit that AK47UK has installed, and that I just ordered. the Fitment on the videos is for a Ford/VW , but the guts of the unit are the same, and the UI is also the same. It looks FANTASTIC (save for the SD/USB music interfaces. Yuck...). Seems very responsive, and the UI isn't juvenile like some of the other Chinese unites. Best of all, I just got confirmation that it will come preinstalled with iGo Primo v9 maps! The iGo Primo 9 seems to be the only aftermarket mapping software that works with DIS for navigation. So fingers crossed.

    The knobs on the sides of the unit don't look as bad as I feared, so I expect that my unit would come fitted with the same knobs.
    You can see in the video that the software allows you to "swipe" from one function to another. I'm not sure how useful this will be, or weather I'll actually use it. In the demo, the "swipe" function seems to have quite a bit of lag, and doesn't work every time. We'll see. Other than that, I'm pretty pumped. DVD play back, A2DP, Bluetooth phone, Steering wheel control, iPod support, grown-up user interface, and built-in nav that might just work with DIS (music shows on DIS). All without having to run any wires, or take apart the dash or any trim pieces on my car. Better yet: $370 USD, shipped!

    Can't wait.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2014
    #29
  31. ny tdi
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    ny tdi New Member

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    [Feb 18, 2014]
    Just got my Xtrons unit yesterday, it only took 4 days to ship from Hong Kong. So far, the software looks very good, but the unit is UGLY...
    It really stands out once installed. There are many things about it that I like, but quite a few that I don't like:
    -My rear speakers aren't working.
    -3 out of 4 locking tabs don't lock in place, so the stereo is lose on the dash.
    -The 1 tab that does lock, is now stuck. And it can't be removed with the provided key.
    (So my radio is now stuck in the dash)
    -Absolutely no DIS
    -The screen has good resolution, but the quality is poorer than expected.
    -Nav recalculation seems slow, and the on-screen arrow that represents your car is slow to update it's position.
    -The dashboard dimmer doesn't have any effect on the Radio. At night, the radio buttons will always glow at maximum brightness.

    Feature wise, this thing can't be beat: DVD, iPod, steering wheel control, reverse camera, line in, bluetooth phone and A2DP, AV out/in, SD card and USB input, GPS and great software skin. But the above annoyances may prove too much for me. We'll see how i feel once I get this thing out of the dash!
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2014
    #30
  32. AK47UK
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    AK47UK Active Member

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    [Feb 18, 2014]
    The bottom of my unit doesn't seem to have anything to lock into place, that's actually something I had forgotten about as work has been so busy. I'm not sure how I will address that...

    Did you receive a cable with RCA connections? That is what I used for my Bose speakers and worked fine.

    I never expected DIS to work, it isn't advertised and surely would require an interface to function :/

    I would need to see another unit in the flesh before deciding about upgrading, the feature set of this is amazing and the price was very good. I would have paid for an RNSe if it had most of these features but it didn't and I wasn't going to spend several times the amount on a Zenec which looked like had been cloned by Xtrons.
    #31
  33. ny tdi
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    ny tdi New Member

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    [Feb 18, 2014]
    Yeah,

    I know what you mean about the features. Had an RNS-E previously and sold it because it couldn't do half the things that the Xtrons and Zenec do. I just wish it blended with the dash a little better.

    I got the RCA harness included. Does that mean that I have to find the rear-amp pins, pull them from the Quadlock, and then refashion them into RCA plugs? Ouch! (I don't have Bose).
    Thanks for the tip, here's hoping
    #32
  34. AK47UK
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    AK47UK Active Member

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    [Feb 18, 2014]
    No, all I had to do was plug the RCAs that go to the quadlock into the RCA outs from the headunit. In my case the Bose amp received its signal via the pins on the small section of the quadlock so all I had to do was supply the signal. No mods required.

    Just to clarify, do you have the RCA harness that connects t the headunit and another RCA harness that goes directly into the quadlock connector?

    The more I look at the Zenec and see the demo videos the more I like it but I would have to see one in the flesh to make a decision due to the cost of it.
    #33
  35. ny tdi
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    ny tdi New Member

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    [Feb 18, 2014]
    Gotcha, guess ill have to take this up with the folks at Xtrons, as my car doesn't have RCA cables anywhere (especially noneat the quadlock. I do have the rca harness that came with the unit, but I dont have anything to plug into it yet. Thanks again for clarifying!

    The Zenec looks good, but it's really expensive, and hard to come by in North America, so I'm trying to make this Xtrons work. I'll keep you updated!
    #34
  36. AK47UK
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    AK47UK Active Member

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    [Feb 18, 2014]
    The quadlock RCAs I spoke of were supplied by Xtrons, I'm not explaining this too well.

    See the photo below, do you have those RCAs that are joined to the quadlock? Number 5 and 6 are labelled the wrong way around, the set of 4 RCAs connected to RL and RR RCAs that come out the back of the headunit to get audio in my car. The last pair is for AV in on the headunit if you have the headphones socket in your centre console like me.

    [​IMG]
    #35
  37. nluk100
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    nluk100 Active Member

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    [Feb 18, 2014]
    Sounds like you will need an additional harness, even if you haven't got BOSE - was looking at this headunit for a friend and noticed this comment ...

    Even Non-Bose systems still have rear amplified speaker systems.
    All Audi's using these leads have active rear speakers, built into the speaker themselves.
    In that case, you will need an adapter to get the rear speakers work.
    #36
  38. ny tdi
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    ny tdi New Member

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    [Feb 18, 2014]
    Oh, I see it now. So there were supposed to be TWO of them! One RCA harness that plugs into the Xtrons (w/ female RCA ends), and one that plugs into the Quadlock (w/ male RCA ends). Both were supposed to be supplied by Xtrons. Harness 1 goes to the radio, harness 2 goes to the Quadlock, and then you connect the female ends of RCA harness #1 to the male ends of RCA harness #2! Ahhhh, I see it now. Thanks a lot, this explains why my rear speakers aren't working. They forgot to ship me harness #2!!!!!!


    Thanks mate, you're the man! I'll reach out to Xtrons for the other Harness. Now if I could only get my radio out of the dashboard... :)
    #37
  39. AK47UK
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    AK47UK Active Member

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    [Feb 18, 2014]
    I had the same problem with the unit they sent me, missing that harness even though it was in all the photos and they specified it worked with Bose. Took me ageesssss to identify each pin-out and work out where I was going wrong and then it turned out it was all because they forgot to send me that lead.
    #38
  40. Artimus
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    Artimus Short Back

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    [Feb 24, 2014]
    I'm thinking of selling my Pioneer & going for the Zenec based on reviews! Does this one at least lock into the centre console properly, newbie?

    Also: can you load speed camera databases on the unit?
    #39
  41. AK47UK
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    AK47UK Active Member

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    [Feb 24, 2014]
    Yes and yes, there is also TMC with the option of TMC Pro if you subscribe. It runs a custom iGo which updates through naviextras, has a Parrot bluetooth module which FW is upgradable and FW upgrades are released for the MCU and running software as well as the CANBUS. If you have the money to spend it is definitely the best, wouldn't say it's three times better than the Xtrons which costs about £300 but if you are heavily into your ICE and gadgets and have the money it is worth a buy.
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