So every time I get a loaner car from the car dealer or when I get a nice rental car, I notice that their electronics is light years ahead of mine. They have bluetooth integration for phone and audio and some have HD or satellite radio. Envy got the best of me and I decided that I needed to upgrade my factory stereo in my S2000. Each time I had considered this in the past, I aborted because replacing the radio would mean losing my dash controls, rendering a bunch of convenient buttons useless on the left side of my dash. This Christmas, all that changed.
Fast forward 10 years and things are a lot better! Looking through the Crutchfield catalog and website, I noticed quite a few stereo units that allowed steering wheel control. I also noticed interface boxes that would enable those controls. Sure enough, there was one for the S2000. So began my journey. After lots of research, I decided to get the following setup.
Axxess ASWC universal control interface – $69.95 from Crutchfield.
Pioneer DEH-P9400BH – $229.99 from Crutchfield. This unit included a mess of features!
- Bluetooth phone with remote microphone.
- Bluetooth audio streaming
- HD Radio – look it up at www.hdradio.com
- iPhone interface for charging and control
- Pandora streaming support
- USB port 2 or any USB key or device
- Aux input
- CD player with MP3 player ability.
I couldn’t think of another unit with all this goodness! Also, the display is awesome with color matching for the dashlights and also the ability to have a dot matrix animated display. Just all kinds of goodies. So this is what I asked Santa for. This is the story of my install.
Anyone who knows me also knows that I am not afraid of tearing apart and installing anything. In fact, I rather enjoy it and think I can do a better job than a lot of installation shops. All it takes is a lot of research to prepare and some good old common sense. Of course, props to the folks at Crutchfield who have made a lot of the steps a lot easier.
So the first thing to do is to get the old radio out of there. This was made easy by the Crutchfield master sheets. These give a step by step and pictorial manual to follow. My S2000 was pretty simple. I just pried off the stereo cover and vent with my “bone tool” to removed it. It took some yanking to release the clips, but overall it wasn’t too hard.
This left the mounting screws exposed and easily removable. After taking out 4 screws, the factory radio came out. I just unplugged all the cables (there was only 2 of them) and the unit came out.
Now comes the complicated part. We need to connect all the harnesses together in all the right spots. Again, I must give big props to the Crutchfield folks who shipped a harness for my car along with my order. This harness plugged into the factory recptacle and prevented me from having to cut factory wires for the radio. However, I still had to cut wires for the Axxess steering wheel control box.
In the picture above, the Black box in the upper left is the access control box. The blue plug is the harness that Crutchfield supplied that goes into the factory plug. The black harness at the bottom goes into the new stereo head unit. For the most part, connecting the radio harness to the blue harness was easy. Most of the wire colors matched right up and there was only a couple of unused ones that need to be taped off.
The one complication was the Axxess wheel control box. It had 2 wires that needed to be tapped into the factory wiring. I had to cut wires for that and solder them. It wasn’t difficult, but it is always with some intrepidation that I cut factory wires.
In the picture above, you can see the Axxess box being installed. I only had to use 5 wires for this install. There were a LOT of wires that I had to tape off. Of the 5 wires, only 2 were unique for the system control. The others were just power, ground, and switched power. Pretty standard stuff.
Most installers will use crimps for wires. This is terrible. You need to solder the wires for the best connection. Also, many installers will just tape up the joint after soldering. Me? I like to use heat shrink tubing. It provides a super clean and very well protected joint. It also looks totally factory. In the picture above, you can see me shrinking the tubing over a joint after I finished soldering it.
So after all the wiring is done (took about 45 minutes) it’s time to plug it all together and test everything out. I like to test before I do the final assembly in case anything goes wrong and you need to re-do something. Luckily, everything worked the first time out. The only confusing part was a orange wire that was supposed to goto a “dimmer”. The factory harness had an orange wire for dimmer and also an orange/white for illumination. What the heck was the diff? Turns out, one is for dimming the stereo at night when you turn the lights on. The other was to dim the unit along with the dimmer control for the dash. Lucky left it unassembled as I experimented with the two wires to figure this out.
After all was well, I put everything back into it’s place. In the picture above you can see how it all looks. I also installed a custom iPhone mounting plate from www.modifry.com. This gave me a perfect place to mount my iPhone. I use my iPhone as a GPS when I drive.
So how does it all work? So far it’s been 2 days and I think it’s going to be be great! I can’t believe the flexibility I have now to listen to whatever I want and to also have a hands-free phone that’s completely integrated into the car. The Pioneer unit performs flawlessly and I love the features that it has! It’s mind boggling that I can integrate with my iPhone, stream with Pandora, use HD radio, and even a USB stick or harddrive, not to mention CDs! There’s just SO many options now.
So what’s wrong with the setup? Well, the “Mute” button doesn’t seem to want to work. Pressing it on my dash control does nothing. In practice though, I only mute to take a phone call. Since this new head unit will automatically do that for me when I press the phone button, I don’t have to worry about that anymore. So I have been in contact with the Axxess folks and they just tell me to manually re-program the entire unit! Yuck. Since everything else works, I think I’ll just leave it alone.
A final tip. Pioneer has since introduced a new head unit that has even more fancy stuff! Because of this, it appears this unit is now “last year’s model” so the price dropped! I found this for $153.95 on Amazon. I’m telling you that this is a total steal for that price. So if you have been hesitant to tackle this and get a modern stereo head unit into your car, don’t delay! This is amazing and the price is right.