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My DIY Bluetooth Car Adapter

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One thing I love is listening to my music from my iPhone in the car. One thing my wife doesn’t love is wires strewn about connecting my iPhone to the car. Thus, I’ve been tinkering with solutions that satisfy both requirements, and I think I’ve finally hit it.

To go wireless, there are two options: FM transmitter or Bluetooth adapter. Tried the FM route a couple of times. Too many stations around here. No open channels. Too much static. Had to go with Bluetooth.

Unfortunately, an adapter built for my car deck is expensive and requires getting in behind the deck. My wife gets a little particular when it comes to opening things up and tinkering with their innards, so I had to come up with an external approach.

One option is a Bluetooth cassette adapter, but that runs on batteries and requires recharging. No good. Bluetooth adapters that run on AC come with power bricks. No good either. So I decided to address both issues by piecing together a USB solution.

The crucial component to this set up is a Bluetooth module that can run on USB. I settled on ANYCOM 82599VRP FIPO. It’s intended for devices designed for the iPod dock connector, but as I figured, it works on a dock connector cable too. Found it on eBay for just under $40. Testing it around my office, I find that it actually gets the 10m range that Bluetooth is advertised to get. The other components came together from there.

Connecting the FIPO to power and audio is a generic iPod dock cable with a 3.5mm output. Its USB cable plugs into a Griffin PowerJolt Dual car adapter. I went with the “dual” in case we need to plug something else in (and our car has a second port too). The audio cable outputs to a standard cassette adapter connected with a female-to-female coupler. System looked pretty good, but there was one problem: too much volume.

The FIPO outputs volume at maximum. That’s fine for standard line-in devices, but for a cassette adapter, it’s too much. Audio was garbled with noise. To compensate, I added in a volume control component from Koss. Works like a charm.

The bulk of the kit fits in a compartment under the audio deck with a flip-down door. The cassette cord runs about half an inch from the player to the top of the door, while the USB cable runs from under the door to the car’s power port. Not completely concealed, but there are no cables running outward and nothing to plug in. The FIPO connects to my iPhone in about three seconds, less time than it takes me to put my seat belt on and pull out my iPhone to press play.

Audio quality is just shy of matching a direct plug into the cassette adapter. Bit noisy at high volumes, but fine for my usual listening, and vastly superior to an FM transmitter.

In retrospect, I admit the price of the components added up, though still short of the price of an in-deck adapter. However, I like that I can easily remove the system and plug it into a new car if needed. I can also add and remove modules to change its capabilities, as I did with the volume control. Perhaps I could add a splitter and retractable cable for backup input. Or maybe a better Bluetooth module will come along which I can swap in. Probably won’t, but I have the option and that’s why the modular approach works for me.

Alleged Apple fanboi, accused Android apologist, and confirmed Microsoft MVP for touch and tablet Mark Sumimoto a.k.a. Sumocat dabbles in all areas of mobile computing with a focus on Windows-based Tablet PCs and pen input. A mobile computing enthusiast since 2004, he pioneered the field of ink blogging via his personal blog, Sumocat's Scribbles. His current tools include a Fujitsu Lifebook T900, TEGA v2, and iPhone 4. Email: sumocat [at] notebooks.com

10 Comments

  1. dr d b karron

    03/26/2010 at 8:33 pm

    We need a special computer operating system for use in the car ! One that does not intrude in your situational awareness like picking and peering at a cell phone. The Air Force tried this for fighter pilots. Now some bright kids will figure out how to make playlists and driving instructions heads up displays for cars that won’t cause the user to crash (not software crashes).

  2. Gavin Miller

    03/27/2010 at 6:11 am

    ‘My wife gets a little particular when it comes to opening things up and tinkering with their innards’.

    • Gavin Miller

      03/27/2010 at 6:11 am

      Yes, I was speechless after that quote……

      • Sumocat

        03/27/2010 at 9:55 am

        Things were never the same after the snake-dog incident of ’04…

        • Gavin Miller

          03/27/2010 at 11:34 am

          :-)

          Nice project you did there. Even though the cost added up it’s always nice to think you did it yourself. I use a Belkin FM transmitter with ‘cleartune’ which scans for the clearest frequency. Works well unless I’m down near London where FM is pretty crowded.

          A BT solution would be nice now you’ve inspired me.

  3. Rob

    03/27/2010 at 11:21 am

    excellent post, Sumocat!

  4. maxandme

    03/27/2010 at 11:47 am

    Behind every man’s great invention is his wife :)

  5. HG

    03/27/2010 at 4:54 pm

    You might want to try using the BlackBerry Bluetooth Gateway. I use this to listen music from my iPod Touch, BlackBerry Storm 2, Viliv S5, and any other computer that supports A2DP. This way you wouldn’t have to have all those cables and I got the BlackBerry Bluetooth Gateway at Best Buy for $49.99. I did a video using it with my Viliv S5 last year. Here is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpYU9MyWaOU

    • Sumocat

      03/27/2010 at 5:24 pm

      Interesting but it would not reduce my cable count. The BB Gateway + USB power cable would swap in 1:1 with my ANYCOM BT module + dock cable. Also, according to the setup guide, the BB Gateway needs to be turned on with the power button. My system turns on with the car, so I can leave it closed in the compartment below the deck.

      • HG

        03/27/2010 at 11:01 pm

        Actually you wouldn’t have to turn it on. All you would use is the cassette adapter, unless your car stereo has AUX input, and the cigarette power adapter to power the BlackBerry Bluetooth Gateway. I have the BB BT Gateway hiding in the center console under neath. When I turn off the truck, all I do is pull back the cigarette adapter and powers off BB BT Gateway. Then when I’m ready again all I do is push the cigarette adapter back to power the BB BT Gateway and it turns on without having to push anything on the gateway, works great. Lately I have been using it with my iPod Touch, and when I don’t have anything but my BB Storm, I use that to play my music, or Slacker through car stereo.

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