I see a lot of questions on the various E39 groups asking about what people do to attach their phone to the sound system. This really depends on the sound system you have in the car. I have the C53 Business Stereo cassette player with the 6 CD changer in the boot.
My C53 is the flat pin connector type. The older versions have a round pin connector.
When I was looking around based on my stereo, the options I seemed to have were Intravee, an AUX cable, Cassette with a 3.5mm jack, Bluetooth adapter or buy a new stereo head unit.
I won’t go in to the DSP (Digital Sound Processor) sound systems as I don’t have one so not sure how these work.
Intravee / Intravee II
I’ve taken a look around at the various websites about the Intravee and I am still not sure exactly what it does. It looks like it allows iPod to connect to the stereo unit and you can do various programming of the car through it. It seems to work with various stereo configurations and depending on which set up you have you have different abilities.
You can find more information about the Intravee at http://www.toysinyourcar.com/acatalog/intravee.html
A quick look on eBay and you can find various AUX cables fairly cheaply. These replace the CD changer. On the back of the stereo unit you unplug the cable for the CD changer and plug in the AUX cable.
The AUX cable wire needs to be available somewhere in the car and people seem to have fed the cable from the back of the stereo to various places. Some put it in the glove box, some have fed it though the centre console and out behind the handbrake, some have it coming out via the cigarette lighter.
Using the AUX cable involves plugging the cable in to your phone or other media device and then switching the stereo to the CD changer source and away you go.
Cassette with 3.5mm jack
This is the option I went with originally. Looking around on eBay I found a cheap and cheerful adapter for about £2.50. It didn’t work. When I put it in to the cassette player it just kept switching from side A to side B and just didn’t work.
I then went for the more expensive Belkin adapter. This cost around £12 but did work and produced some good quality sound. I moved away from this though as it required something to be hard plugged in and I hate having cables hanging around. It also meant if the kids wanted their device plugged in, the device is in the front with me and they can’t reach to change tracks or search for other music.
A good solution but not one I kept with for long.
The Bluetooth adapters are a step up from the old wired adapters that send out a radio signal from the device which you can then pick up on the stereo radio. The old wired devices plugged in to your device with a 3.5mm jack and were powered via battery or plug in to the cigarette lighter. These were quite naff quality based on the ones I tried years ago. The sound quality was usually pretty dire and quite a bit of interference.
The Bluetooth adapters perform the same function, they connect to your device and then transmit a signal that you pick up on a radio station. The device is connected to the adapter via Bluetooth which means no wires and is powered from the cigarette lighter.
I searched around for quite a bit for one of these and the one I ended up with has been really good.
This device not only allows you to stream audio but it also acts as a hands free unit for the phone. I have to say that I haven’t actually used it hands free at all (not popular enough for anyone to call me) so can’t comment on how well it works for this task.
The device allows you to pick different radio frequencies to transmit on, has a volume control and allows you to skip tracks.
The kids love this as they have a game to see who can connect to the device first when they get in the car. It plays really well. I say that, there is just one band it seems to have a problem with. Avenged Sevenfold. My eldest loves this band but whenever she plays some tracks there is some kind of hiss or distortion on some tracks. What we found here was that if we turn down the volume on the device and turn up the volume on the stereo it goes away. This must be something in their tracks which the sound processing unit can’t handle properly. Apart from that it works great. We use it all the time.
The cigarette lighter in the E39 is always on even when there is no key in the car so I always disconnect the device and throw it in the door pocket when not in the car.
Replacement Head Unit
The last option I have for you is a replacement head unit. A lot of people swap out the OEM stereo and go for Eonon or some other Android based head unit or you can get adapters for single or double din head units. There are plenty of these adapters available on eBay which opens up the standard head unit market. The only thing I am aware of for the double din units is that there is some butchering needed behind where the unit will sit to make it fit. The single din and Eonon units don’t require this hacking.
I really like the idea of the Android head units as you get some great functionality like GPS, reversing cameras, DAB (which you could get with single and double DIN units), plug in a SIM card and get a wireless hotspot in the car as well as being able to connect to the OBDII and use some software like Torque to read the car ecu and display dashboards. I just don’t think I would use all the functionality once the initial excitement had worn off and at > £260 for one of these units, my £15 Bluetooth adapter looks a lot more affordable to my wife who thinks I would be made to spend that on the car stereo.
I keep thinking that I would like a Eonon unit, I find myself looking around the site at lunchtimes, but I have to admit that I like keeping the car as standard as it was when it was delivered and we do use the cassette units. Being of a certain age we have a few cassettes still lying around that we didn’t think we would get to play again (remember making those mix tapes and recording the Top 40 on a Sunday evening?)
That’s my run through of the different audio options that I looked at. Of course there are many more and I have seen some great set-ups with HUGE sub woofers mounted in the boot, etc.