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Old 02-06-2010, 12:42 AM   #1
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Cool USA-Spec PA12-BMW Integrated iPod Full Video Review and Pictorial Installation Guide

My Review of this wonderful device on my 2001 BMW 330i with an upgraded 02/2006 Alpine CD53 Head Unit.

EDIT: 02/23/2010 (added and tested Auxiliary Input cable)

EDIT: 03/01/2010 (full range of the usa spec functions reviewed and discussed)

This USA-Spec is installed in a E46 that has the factory gen 1 BMW Sirius Receiver and an integrated Bluetooth system and everything is working perfectly in harmony.

Key Points Of Review:

-Kit Quality; The USA-Spec get high marks for this. Everything is either aluminum metal for the body or high grade tough rubber for the cables.

-Playlist Features; The USA-Spec will fall short in this department for two types of people. The first are those folks who tend to carry tons of Playlists in their iPods and second are those that don't use Playlists at all and organize song playback by artist or album.
The USA-Spec reads from BMW1 thru BMW5 Playlist that the user creates beforehand or the USA-Spec will read the first 5 playlist stored on the iPod. It is a Playlist dependent device. But I like this feature because it is clean, 100% bug free, functional, easy to use and quick.

-Connecting the iPod and iPod Storage ideas in a BMW E46:
ipod connection is quick and I love that the Spec starts playback from where you left off with the iPod. So literally you can leave your car for months with your iPod then comeback to your car and the USA-Spec will return to playing the song you last heard.

-Sound quality; Was the biggest treat of this kit. It is superb on my stock HK system! The USA-Spec is very generous with the Bass so having Donkey Kong bass in the trunk feeding off your iPod is still an option with the Spec.

-Ease of use; Very easy. I had the DICE 1st gen in my car for a day or two and I didn't like how complex the features were. I use my iPod for primarily 2 Playlists: New Music and Podcasts with other minor Playlists dedicated to my favorites in various genres from R&B and Jazz to Rock, Electronica, HipHop, etc...

The DICE when it worked required too much setting up for me inside the car (in organizing Artists/Albums/etc....).

The USA-Spec, once you have your Playlists pre-managed and set up on your computer, your iPod is plug and play.

-Any bugs or issues; After a week of heavy use they were none with the kit. During the video review's many outtakes I realized that the iPod itself did not like being constantly plugged in and out from the car (about 20 times in the space of 40 minutes) but it didn't freeze up, mess with the car or required any major battery or dealership reset. The iPod only turned itself off to the apple screen and turned back on.

-Cost; I got my kit for only $90-something bucks new off eBay an dthe prices of these are around the low $100s. For what you get I think that is a great bargain. Plus if you don't like it, sell it back on eBay because the unit has strong resale value because it is a good kit.

I totally recommend this kit for anyone who, like me, wants to get in their car, plug in iPod, press play and drive. I don't like speck docks or cables and cradles in my way, nor do I like managing copious amounts of playlists and ways of playing my music on the fly. With the USA-Spec you do it all at the computer so you don't really have to do it in the car. Plus with the RCA AUX-in adding HD radio, Aftermarket Sirius or another source of music in the car is easy to do.

Here is a quick run down of the other competitors:

For iPod Data Connection you will need either the DICE Silverline kit or the USA-SPEC PA-12. Both these kits are the top two leading kits in terms of performance (USA-Spec) and popularity (DICE) and both cost just under $150 (cheaper on eBay). The Dealership also sells their own spartan iPod retrofit kits priced at around $185 to $200 and performs more similarly to USA-Spec than the DICE.

Now onto the basic installation for the USA-Spec. This is the same for the DICE unit that goes in the trunk:

PART ONE: Prep your car for installation.

I had previously installed a BMW Sirius Receiver in my car so I will show that part here since it is also important to show how I slaved the USA-Spec unit off the Sirius Unit which in turns carries all the information to the Data Link #1 port on the back of the CD53 Head Unit.

For folks that do not have a BMW Sirius Receiver, and do not have a BMW Factory CD Changer in the trunk you can skip thru this part and connect your DICE or USA-SPEC or other Data Unit to the pre-wired CD Changer cables that are in your in the trunk as shown above ( the felt wrapped cables that I'm seen unwrapping to connect to my Sirius Receiver).

If your BMW E46 did not come with any pre-wiring for the CD Changer you will need to buy the Data Link Cable BMW Part# 61128374683 (see image below) which costs around $40 to $60 at the dealership and install it yourself from the Data Link Port #1 to your iPod Data Unit. Those doing it this way will have the advantage of leaving everything inside the cabin of the car since you can opt to keep everything behind the dash area.

01 CONNECTION CABLE CD-CHANGER 4150MM 1 61128374683 $25.50

Those who are using a Sirius Receiver or a CD Changer already in the trunk will have to get the Slave Data Connector OEM Part #84110150526 and use it to connect the iPod Data Unit directly to the Sirius/CD Changer which will in turn connect the iPod Data Unit to the car. So when MODE is selected after SIRIUS you will access your iPod as if it is a CD Changer. This first part is for you guys:

Picture of Slave Cable below borrowed from SNA77.

Now onto the pictorial installation guide:

Last edited by delmarco; 03-07-2010 at 01:21 PM.
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