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Car entertainment system for S3 - impossible :-/

Discussion in 'A3/S3/Sportback (8P Chassis)' started by Pavius, Apr 27, 2008.

  1. Pavius
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    Pavius New Member

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    Hi

    My sprint blue S3 should arrive any day now (first sprint blue in Israel :ninja:) and i've been trying, over the passed months of waiting, to decide what to do with an entertainment system. The bottom line is that there is nothing out there even remotely close to being good enough. Mind you, it's not that i have any exotic requirements - i'd just like a HD based system (since i have GBs of music and don't want to swap CDs while driving) with touch screen to allow me to play music, browse my contact list over BT, possibly sat nav and a movie now and then. Options:

    1) RNS-E: I actually bought this and canceled when i learned about the 400 file limit on the flash cards. What the hell? Also, no touch screen (but was willing to let this slide)
    2) CarPC: The main issue here is the screen. While some companies make semi-decent screens (lilliput/xenarc) i have yet to find A3/S3 adapters to make this look OEM and not some hack job. The last thing i want is a hacked up dashboard. Isn't 2DIN supposed to be a standard?
    3) Alpine/Kenwood/Pioneer/Clarion/etc: While these systems come close, they each have some glaring defect. For example, i was told the Alpine would do everything i want but "you have to wait a minute and a half for it to sync contacts when you start up the vehicle" (during which you can't use the phone). Jesus.

    Is the situation really this bad? Has anyone mounted a decent looking, flexible car entertainment system in their A3/S3?

    Ugh.
    #1
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  3. Boydie
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    Boydie Guest

    [Apr 27, 2008]
    Welcome to the site :)

    I have an aftermarket system in my car

    I have a Becker Grand Prix head unit but I think you must have the double din sized unit in your car so that would be no use to you

    Do you own an iPod?

    You can put all your music on a 32GB or 60 or 80GB iPod and connect it to your music player?
    #2
  4. Pavius
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    Pavius New Member

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    Thanks :)

    Indeed, I own a fifth gen Ipod. It is the basis for the Alpine/Kenwood/Pioneer/Clarion solution as none of them actually have hard drives. I heard the Kenwood has a great IPod interface but no acceptable BT solution (as i said, it's always something). The Alpine interface on the other hand looks like it was programmed by a seven year old.

    The sad thing is i will pay HEAPS for something of the sort and it will be ****. For example, lets say i want to enqueue a song after the one i'm currently playing (so simple) ... I don't think any of the above solutions besides CarPC will allow me to do this.
    #3
  5. Staz
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    Staz is a retronaut Staff Member Moderator VCDS Map User

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    Has anyone out there tried converting the file system to NTFS to get past the above problem?!
    #4
  6. Boydie
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    Boydie Guest

    [Apr 27, 2008]
    Pavius - what do you mean by BT?

    Are you wanting the unit to be phone ready??
    #5
  7. RichC
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    RichC RAC 500W

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    By BT he is refering to Bluetooth.

    Rich
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  8. cooni
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    cooni Member

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    does not work
    its not the filesystem thats the problem, but it is the problem if you use ntfs... if that made sense
    #7
  9. cooni
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    cooni Member

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    ummm
    RNS-E with bluetooth prep allows you to do the BT and satnav and has the OEM look (duh). New S3's will also have the AUX-Input and you can hook up an iPod. Thats nearly all of your needs done.

    Get a kufatec multimedia adapter or similar and you can connect whatever video source you want, whether its a car PC or DVD player or whatever.
    #8
  10. boggysv
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    boggysv Member

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    Seems like your requirements are not limited by the car itself, but rather HU offerings. Trust there are other oce forums out there that can help you better with that.

    Have a look at this installation.
    http://www.vagsg.com/forums/showthread.php?t=4738
    (registration required)
    #9
  11. Staz
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    Staz is a retronaut Staff Member Moderator VCDS Map User

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    Can it not read NTFS?
    #10
  12. a3norwich
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    a3norwich Not anymore - Back 2 BMW (shh)

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    Get yourself a Phatbox - still a few about on eBay - the iPod is still way behind on usability and flexibility!!!
    #11
  13. Pavius
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    Pavius New Member

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    Indeed RNS-E comes close, but the AUX option is far from being adequate.

    1) You can't control anything from the controls and must use the IPod
    2) Worst quality imaginable, second only to an FM transmitter
    3) Movies will be difficult to play as you would need to connect sound via AUX and video via an adapter

    The kufatec multimedia adapter jiggy seems interesting if paired with a CarPC. I'd have to see how to set up the wheel+RNS-E controls to control the PC.

    Phatbox is discontinued, i hate buying discontinued stuff. Plus there is no option for display which is my main problem.

    boggysv, the problem IS car specific as i'm trying to find a 2DIN solution that will look good in the S3, hoping someone has already done it. I'll check out the forum anyways.

    Thanks for the replies :)
    #12
  14. joost
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    joost Active Member

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    This anywhere close to what you were after?
    #13
  15. MarcQuinlivan
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    MarcQuinlivan Active Member

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    The Phatnoise Jukebox has voice menus, so you don't need a display. I've had one in my last two A3s and currently have one paired with my RNS-e.

    Don't understand you not wanting to buy one because they've been discontinued. They don't cease to function once they've stopped making them.

    The fact that they are discontinued may mean you can get one cheaper.
    #14
  16. Pavius
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    Pavius New Member

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    MarcQuinlivan, The fact that its discontinued means that any bugs, new features etc will never be implemented. That's why i don't like it. Anyways, i looked at the phatbox and it is interesting for music, but i much prefer touch navigation over its speech implementation. I also want BT, nav and movies.

    joost, that clarion looks very nice. The issue with all these multimedia HUs is that they are sometimes so grossly underfeatured and there's no way to know if it will drive you crazy until after you buy it (or meet someone who has it installed). For example, i saw a youtube video of said clarion and the IPod interface looks mind numbingly stupid. It doesn't make use of the 7" screen at all... just a huge virtual ipod dial and almost a 1:1 visual replication of the ipod. Why? Do the engineers want me to squint every time i look for a song?

    It doesn't take a genius to implement an intuitive, easy browsing mechanism but it seems like no one gets it right. This is why I like CarPCs - you can always switch the front end if you think it's retarded and even customize it yourself... but then, there is the display issue :keule:
    #15
  17. MarcQuinlivan
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    MarcQuinlivan Active Member

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    Fair comment. All I was saying was that I've had two of them and never had a problem. The fact that it has been out for ages means that there are few bugs remaining. I also have the RNS-e for navigation - granted, it is not touchscreen, but I have SDS enabled which allows me to control the entire head unit - CD, Radio, Telephone, Navigation, etc. - via voice commands using the PTT button on the MFSW. I've installed a Multimedia adapter to allow the use of a Digital Freeview Tuner and any other external video source.

    I have all the things you are looking for, bar the touchscreen (which you were initially willing to let slide!). I'm sure you'll find something aftermarket that will suit your purposes, but I prefer the OEM look. No offence intended - just expressing an opinion based on my experiences.

    Happy hunting.
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  18. Pavius
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    Pavius New Member

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    Thanks. Your solution is indeed very close and seeing how i love the RNS-e look, will be considered. I saw a few interesting vids on youtube - one connecting the IPod via HomeDock + kufatec IMA to the RNS-E and one connecting it to a PicoITX board (a general purpose small form factor PC running XP and an MMI-like program).

    I guess the "best" solution is to have RNS-E handle BT and Nav while a CarPC, connected via kufatec, handles music, movies and possibly even bt+nav if a better front end exists for it (and the RNS-E is basically a very expensive screen, button and plastics package). The only issues are the price - RNS-E is very expensive (in israel it's pretty much insane - somewhere along the lines of 4000-5000 USD for a BASE model - no BT or Nav - this means i'll have to buy from uk or smt with no warrantee) and the integration work. Having all those bits [RNS-e, kufatec, carpc] means making them work together, let alone having 3 things that can, and probably will, go wrong. That is, unless an OEM looking panel can be found that can host a 7" touchscreen :-/
    #17
  19. cooni
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    cooni Member

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    1) Then get a Denison ICE adapter and you get steering wheel control over the iPod. Are there going to be *any* aftermarket options that allow complete integration with the car? I doubt it... RNS-E is your best bet.

    2) Just simply incorrect and is 1000000x better than FM transmitter. Mine sounds fine (AUX-in --> line out --> aftermarket Alpine amps/speakers)

    3) No, the AUX-in pins and the pins for audio component of audio/video are seperate. You can have the aux/denison/whatever as one set of plugs and appear as AUX on the headunit and have your TV appear as another source on the headunit with its own set of plugs. Kufatec even allows RNS-E control of certain DVD players and TV tuners.
    #18
  20. Pavius
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    Pavius New Member

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    [Apr 27, 2008]
    cooni, i'm no audiophile but i imagine i will not enjoy the music from my ipod if it is connected via the IPod line out. Spending so much money on a system and then having your music source output the music via an analogue connection seems like a waste to me (even though i understand you are enjoying it). Technically, the only lower fidelity connection is via FM transmitter :)

    Funny note about the HomeDock solution (in line with what i said about retarded interfaces) - you cannot fast forward in movies (yeah... thanks) and the interface is "laggy". Not to mention the guy had to work a lot on the power supply and still didn't get it right.

    Anyways, i still have some investigation to do. Currently, the preference is:
    1) 7" touchscreen + CarPC + some unknown to connect MFSW to control the car PC. Requires an OEM like panel which, as i understand from the replies, doesn't exist and requires fabrication (which i will never do - it usually looks gross)
    2) RNS-E + CarPC. As i said, very expensive (RNS-E, CarPC, adapters) but will look great and probably function well. A lot of work is required.
    3) Some aftermarket off the shelf like Clarion/Alpine/Kenwood. Will have to see them to check for any bad interface/bad performance. Will have to go to an audio club meet or something.
    4) Give up, kill self

    Man, i was hoping someone did all this already :)
    #19
  21. Issac Hunt
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    Issac Hunt Active Member

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    [Apr 28, 2008]
    I'll be doing the Kufatce IMA+medail adpater linked with the DLO Homedock install in the next few days.

    It allows all your music to be controlled via the RNS-E controls and displays track information. Yes, It cannot fast-forward through movies, but why would you want to watch movies in your car?! I have TV at home for that.

    Until the CAN based AMI is released then this will be ideal I think.
    #20
  22. Pavius
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    Pavius New Member

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    [Apr 28, 2008]
    Which MFSW adapter are you talking about exactly?

    Movies - i know it's strange, but i really like to watch TV repeats in the background (can't sleep without it). There are a few series that i've watched dozens of times (futurama, simpsons, etc) and it seems like a cool option to have in the car. I don't actually /watch/ it, rather play and occasionally look at it.

    As for the FF issue with the homedock - this is just an indication of poor engineering. I mean, come on. Fast forwarding a movie? How trivial is that? I look for feature richness/interface maturity and omission of such a basic feature means the product probably has other quirks that will drive me into a tree.
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  23. mitch78
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    mitch78 Active Member

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    [Apr 28, 2008]
    :thumbsup:
    #22
  24. MarcQuinlivan
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    MarcQuinlivan Active Member

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    [Apr 28, 2008]
    found a dude on eBay selling these last night. eBay blocked at work so I can't send the link, but do a search for jarastech.
    #23
  25. Staz
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    Staz is a retronaut Staff Member Moderator VCDS Map User

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    [Apr 28, 2008]
    #24
  26. cooni
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    cooni Member

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    [Apr 28, 2008]
    So how exactly were you planning on getting audio from your source? Even your cd changer uses an analogue line-level connection into the headunit. Unless you are planning on upgrading the speakers and installing amps, you will NOT be able to tell any difference between an expensive D/A converter and the one found in an iPod. Even if you did, you'd be struggling to hear the difference.

    For an OEM look, you just cannot get close to the RNS-E.

    Hang on, I just read again... So you *are* using the iPod are you? You do realise that the audio is always thrown out as an analogue signal right? If you use a line-out adapter as opposed to the headphone jack, you will get EXACTLY the same results as with any other product that allows "full" integration with headunits.
    #25
  27. Pavius
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    Pavius New Member

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    [Apr 28, 2008]
    I think i've made up my mind that i won't go the off the shelf HU path. The above, for example, doesnt support DivX (small issue, but who plays DVDs nowadays?). Also, i'm sure i won't like the interface. CarPC is the way to go IMHO (edit: or RNS-E with AMI to save the headaches).
    #26
  28. Pavius
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    Pavius New Member

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    [Apr 28, 2008]
    Not true. You can mount the IPod as a USB mass storage device and access its filesystem (i've done this with libgpod and linux). From there you have zero loss streaming and can do whatever. Of course at some point you will pass through a DAC but everyone is shifting away from having the IPod to that part (some can cheat though, as the IPod connector outputs analogue for DRM purposes... but if you do it right you can access the data digitally via a MSD).
    #27
  29. Staz
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    Staz is a retronaut Staff Member Moderator VCDS Map User

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    [Apr 28, 2008]
    I have just been talking to Gareth from Hazzy Dayz and he says there's a kit made by a German company (he couldn't remember the name off the top of his head) which plugs into RNS-e and plays DVDs, mp3 DVDs (better than SD cards!) and MP4 DVDs! Sounds perfect to me.

    Anyone know what it is though? I'll ask him when I go down but that's not until tomorrow or Wed.
    #28
  30. cooni
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    cooni Member

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    [Apr 29, 2008]
    Why are you still using an iPod then? And will you be listening to MP3s?
    So the headunit you will be using is going to have an optical or digital coax input right?
    You've got to be kidding me if you think you can hear the difference between the DAC in an iPod and anything else you might mount, using car speakers. But hey, whatever, its not my system, go for gold. Money much better spent in trying to actually integrate the lot properly IMO.

    By the way, you can start using your phone over bluetooth with the RNS-E within seconds if the phone is already synced.
    #29
  31. Pavius
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    Pavius New Member

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    [Apr 29, 2008]
    Again, I'm no audiophile but i do believe i will feel the difference. It's very individual - some people can't bear to listen to an MP3 no matter the bitrate, and i'm fine with pretty much anything above 128 kbps... But the thought of investing any sort of serious money on a system with an analogue music source, well that's just strange in my opinion. The "Full" IPod connectivity that everyone (alpine, clarion, et al) has been pushing in the 2007, 2008 line is pure digital (i hope, otherwise that's false advertisement), so it's not something overly exotic. It's not optic or anything - just plain old USB.
    #30
  32. mitch78
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    mitch78 Active Member

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    [Apr 29, 2008]
    :thumbsup:
    #31
  33. Pavius
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    Pavius New Member

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    [Apr 29, 2008]
    I know i'm apparently contradicting myself - not being an audiophile but not wanting to use the line out. In my experience the sound quality loss between a pure digital low bitrate source and a high bitrate source converted to analogue early in the chain is different. In the low BR digital system, you simply hear less fine details while on the analogue you simply hear a warm, muddy sound. The better your amplifier/speakers - the worse it will sound as you are also amplifying the noise.

    So a pure digital solution is the best base to build on. Upgrading to good amp/speakers will give me a boost in sound quality. On the analogue side, I believe this won't be the case. The factor here is the price - no matter what i do it will be VERY pricey... i'm not spending a lot of money and settling on an analogue source just because i can handle listening to 160kbps MP3s (BTW, CD is 1,411 kbps).
    #32
  34. boggysv
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    boggysv Member

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    [Apr 29, 2008]
    Just curious, if you are so fussy about the source, what are your plans/expectations for the remainder of the system?
    #33
  35. mitch78
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    mitch78 Active Member

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    [Apr 29, 2008]
    :thumbsup:
    #34
  36. boggysv
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    boggysv Member

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    [Apr 29, 2008]
    #35
  37. Pavius
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    Pavius New Member

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    [Apr 29, 2008]
    My plan is to take it slow :) I've never had a really expensive system in my car, it's just that with the audi i thought i'd pamper myself (after a year and a half with an s2000 which felt like being in the dark ages)... First i want a good digital source that can play ALL my mp3 collection. Then i want features like BT, nav and video. Once i have that, i'm 85% satisfied. The remaining 15% is the sound quality issue which will probably be solved later on (amp and speakers). As for RNS-E + CarPC, seems like a LOT of work but that 95% of the components are there. The guy from the pic you posted did all the work himselft, here it's more of a h/w integration job + possibly writing some windows software. I'll see if i have the time for it.

    mitch78, you are right... but i think that using the line out is setting the bar too low. Maybe it's psychological!
    #36
  38. cooni
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    cooni Member

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    [Apr 30, 2008]
    If you can bear to listen to 160kbps mp3s, then you can bear to amplify an analogue line-level signal from an ipod.
    In fact, even using the headphone jack with the volume set at 95% gives an EXTREMELY similar result to the line-out. I guarantee your ears won't hear the difference.

    Believe me, spend more time/money/effort on aftermarket amplifiers and speakers and you'll get the results you are after; ESPECIALLY in a car.
    #37
  39. newbiecrg
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    newbiecrg windsurfer

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    [Apr 30, 2008]
    Well, maybe I am old fashion...

    But is it really important the way it plays movies, or the absolute quality of music... I mean it is a car not a living room and what we do most on the car? I drive it.

    Also I think you might end spending lots of money and not taking the most out of the systems... The digital connection, in terms of quality won't be noticiable if you don't invest in the rest....

    For me, if I had all those demands I would be thinking on a different car... not an A3

    Pedro
    #38
  40. GeoffT
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    GeoffT Member

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    [Apr 30, 2008]
    Pavius, Have you looked at the new Kenwood DNX 8220BT? It has Garmin satnav which allows for custom POI (for speed cameras etc), Parrot bluetooth built-in. It has a USB connection which should allow the connection of HD storage for MP3s. The only questionmarks against as far as I can see, is that there is not yet a MFSW adaptor available A3s (but there is one for A4s so I guess one should be on it's way)and it won't be able to display on the DIS, but that is true of any aftermarket headunit as far as I know. Other than that it looks pretty impressive.

    If you are fussy about firmware design, like I am, I'd advise against the RNS-E. I tried one and the stupidity of some of the firmware drove me mad. I switched back to the OEM Symphony II+ in the end.
    #39
  41. Staz
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    Staz is a retronaut Staff Member Moderator VCDS Map User

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    [Apr 30, 2008]
    Can you give examples please?
    #40

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