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24 February 2006

iPod Integration with the Dension ice>Link:Plus

EDIT: My ice>Link:Plus developed some problems and was returned under warranty. It would display 'Track 99' and become unresponsive to control input, but the music played on.....

The vendor (Enfig) shipped me a DICE interface as a replacement. It installs the same way as the ice>Link, but has some operational improvements. A new article on the DICE has been posted. I'll leave this article here for reference on the ice>Link:Plus.

I'd been following the iPod connectivity debate for a while, and decided on the
Dension ice>Link:Plus Audi T2. It comes with either a cradle or just a cable, I opted for just the cable.

Here is a summary of the important points for this model:

  • It connects to the CD changer connector in the glovebox. You can have either the glovebox CD changer, or this, but not both.

  • If you have the in-dash CD changer, you can still use this. It connects specifically to the glovebox connector.

  • If you have a glovebox changer and a satellite receiver hooked up to the head unit, you're out of luck.

  • It makes the iPod appear to the head unit as if it were a CD changer.

  • The first five playlists on the iPod (alphabetically) are treated as 'discs' 1 through 5 of the virtual CD changer.

  • You select the iPod using the CD button on the head unit. If you have a disc in the head unit, press CD twice. The Display will indicate 'CDC' (CD Changer).

  • You switch from one 'disc' (playlist) to another using the buttons on the head unit.

  • You can switch from one track to the next using the left steering wheel roller, or the head unit.

  • You can fast-scan through the current track by pressing on the left steering wheel roller.

  • It will pick up where it left off if you switch to FM and back, or if you leave the car and return.

  • Current track name is displayed on the iPod display, but not in the same format as the standard iPod interface.

  • The head unit will show tracks 1-99. You can actually advance past track 99 if you have more tracks in the playlist than that, but the head unit won't display the track number properly.

  • The head unit does not show artist/track name.

  • Selecting 'disc' 6 makes a different menu appear on the iPod display, where you can select random play or select to use the iPod user interface. If you do that, you are prompted to disconnect/reconnect the iPod. Once you reconnect, you must use the iPod controls instead of the car controls, but you have full control over the iPod.

After using this for a couple of days, I've determined that 'Random' is absolutely the best thing for me. On the head unit, with the CDC (iPod) selected, press the 'Menu' button on the head unit and select your choice of Random (Disc) or Random (Changer). I have it randomly playing stuff from across all my playlists, and I never have to mess with the ice>Link or iPod random/shuffle features.


The ice>Link:Plus came as 3 pieces:
The interface circuit
The interface-to-iPod-Dock-Connector cable
The interface-to-specific-car cable

Remove the glovebox cubby. You have to get your hands in it as shown, and pull out firmly against the little lip on the bottom edge. One hand is shown in the photo (the other one was busy with the camera), but it took both hands for me to pop it out.

Disconnect the CD changer cable from the dummy plug on the back of the cubby. You have to release a catch on each side of the cable end of the plug.

I wanted to use the smaller, non-removable cubby on the right of the glovebox for the iPod. I got a small pack of rubber grommets from Home Depot. These grommets have a 1/2-inch inside diameter, and fit into a 5/8-inch hole. I used a 5/8-inch wood bit to drill the hole, then dressed it with the little ~ 5/8-inch drum-sander attachment on a Dremel. The results are exactly what I wanted, but the process wasn't pretty, so I'm just posting a picture of the resulting hole!

I took the iPod-to-ice>Link:Plus cable and fed it through a rubber grommet...

...then I fed the cable through the hole and got the grommet seated in the hole. Doing so required a little patience and a flat-head screwdriver to tuck the grommet in properly. The end result is a nice looking opening for the cable and no abrasion or chafing of the cable at all.

Here is the hookup. The CD changer plug from the car goes to one end of the ice>Link:Plus cable (large rectangular plugs), the other end of that cable goes to the ice>Link:Plus interface (small rectangular plug), then the iPod dock connector cable goes into the interface (round plug).

I didn't want to just lay the pieces in the dash, so I actually unplugged and repositioned them. The iPod cable I tied in a knot around some other wiring harness stuff in the opening (to provide strain relief), then zip-tied around that. The interface board and the other cables/plug were tucked in and zip-tied. No stress, no rattles, no interference.


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