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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 5 Series > E39 (1997 - 2003)

E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 10-25-2011, 06:26 PM
stovey stovey is offline
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Location: Ames, Iowa
 
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Mein Auto: 2002 530i, 2004 325ci
Ebay Chinese USB/AUX/SD adaptor

I just received one of these, installed it and listened to it on a short drive, and am probably about to return it. Seller is "2010incarentertainmentsystems" on ebay. (Pictures borrowed from ad.)







A connector goes between the existing harness and "business CD" player, and provides another wire to a little box. The box accepts a USB stick, SD memory card, or headphone-driving (AUX) device. It obeys the same interface that the CD changer does, and therefore looks like a CD changer to the head unit. The steering wheel controls work with it in exactly the way you'd expect.

If using a memory card or USB drive, you are supposed to make folders "CD01" ... "CD06" in the root directory and dump up to 100 MP3 files in each folder, and those will behave like six big CDs. Or you can run any portable music player into the AUX jack.

Most of the time when I'm driving, I am listening to audiobooks. Changing discs on the road is a safety hazard, and most books are more than 6 discs long, making use of the changer somewhat inconvenient too. This looked like a pretty good solution - $95 "buy it now or make offer," and I can tell you that they accept an $80 offer, so considerably less expensive than a DICE unit, and otherwise it would do everything I wanted. My '02 530i is a year too old to use the standard BMW aux-in connector, if I understand correctly.

Arrgh, if only the thing worked as advertised. I ran into several problems.
  • The connector fit with the original harness is poor; it doesn't snap in, and feels like you have to force something.
  • The unit is only recognized part of the time.
  • Alternator whine (pitch varying with engine RPM) is noticeable during most playback material. You might not notice it on relatively constant-volume pop music, but for classical or jazz it's a deal killer. I tried moving the box around, I tried putting ferrite beads various places, no help, it's always there.
  • Output level on MP3 is fairly low, exacerbating the whine to the extent that you have to turn up the volume.
  • Despite the specs saying it only draws a half a watt of power, the box gets quite warm, and this worries me.

Could be I just got a lemon unit, but my immediate impression is that I'm dealing with fly-by-night crapola Chinese design, end of story.

Have any others tried one of these? If so, I'm interested whether yours worked better than mine.
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  #2  
Old 10-25-2011, 08:50 PM
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530iman 530iman is offline
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See if you can get your money back and add one of these instead. http://www.gromaudio.com/ I have researched a lot of options that add ipod, SD and a/v in units, this one looks promising if you want the stock look and don't like the other common choices.
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  #3  
Old 10-26-2011, 07:51 AM
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DennisCooper! DennisCooper! is offline
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Hi,

You usually get what you pay for, and cheap Chinese electronics although better than they used to be, aren't good or reliable or well performing.

As above, hopefully you will get your money back - ensure you return it with insurance and requires a signature on the other end, else they'll say they didn't receive it. Then go for a much more reputable quality unit

Cheers, Dennis!
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  #4  
Old 10-26-2011, 08:36 AM
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menhir menhir is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 530iman View Post
See if you can get your money back and add one of these instead. http://www.gromaudio.com/ I have researched a lot of options that add ipod, SD and a/v in units, this one looks promising if you want the stock look and don't like the other common choices.
Dennis, are you familiar with the Gromaudio products?
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  #5  
Old 10-26-2011, 09:48 AM
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DennisCooper! DennisCooper! is offline
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Hi Menhir,

In terms of practical use, then no, I have no experience as my focus is on aftermarket premium brand products to completely replace the OEM modules etc. For instance, I have an Alpine head unit, which has full ipod control and connectivity, including video playback all as part of it's features list. It also comes with a Parrot Bluetooth car kit as well. Usually, just adding those two functions to an oem setup requires more install cost and time above the purchase price, so to me they represent much lower value for money.

From those reports and reviews I have seen from BMW owners using GROM products, they all seem quite positive and favourable

cheers, Dennis!
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  #6  
Old 10-29-2011, 01:08 PM
stovey stovey is offline
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Mein Auto: 2002 530i, 2004 325ci
They agreed to a return and refund, and the box is on its merry way back to Asia.

Edit: I had been confused about how the GROM device mounts, but had missed the relevant bit of info on their webpage. Looks like you can choose between trunk connection or front connection.

Last edited by stovey; 10-29-2011 at 01:15 PM.
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  #7  
Old 10-29-2011, 06:59 PM
JimJai@HK JimJai@HK is offline
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I don't have this in my BMW, but I do have it in my Mazda3.....looks the same too....

And in that car it works great.........

Maybe the Bimmer requires a better setup....?
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  #8  
Old 10-30-2011, 06:15 AM
stovey stovey is offline
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Location: Ames, Iowa
 
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Mein Auto: 2002 530i, 2004 325ci
Quote:
Originally Posted by JimJai@HK View Post
I don't have this in my BMW, but I do have it in my Mazda3.....looks the same too....

And in that car it works great.........

Maybe the Bimmer requires a better setup....?
I guess it's possible that all the problems I had were because that one connector didn't quite fit right.
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  #9  
Old 12-02-2011, 01:44 PM
stovey stovey is offline
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Location: Ames, Iowa
 
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Mein Auto: 2002 530i, 2004 325ci
followup

I returned the Chinese unit and got my refund even though I didn't ask for tracking/confirmation (why? because that would have cost another $30 from the post office, so I took the risk), and ordered the GROM. It arrived today and first impressions are very positive.

I went with the trunk mount option because it was easy, and I don't mind popping the trunk once in a great while to change a USB stick that can hold 100+ hours of material.

It "just works" right out of the box. No ignition whine at least on my short test drive, plays my OGG files(!), has some thoughtful touches in the firmware. I like that it will play more than 6 folders, and that it is flexible with how files/folders are named.

Seems to be a good design - I expect to be happy with the GROM.
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