1991 Mazda Miata
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Factory Options

5 Speed
Package A

  • Power steering
  • Cassette stereo
  • Alloy wheels
  • Leather steering wheel
Air conditioning



Modifications

Kenwood KDC-MP628 CD/MP3 receiver with iPod control and Aux in
Infinity Reference speakers
Great White Shark teeth
Racing stripes
White wheels
"2 FUREUS" license plate



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Kenwood KDC-MP628 + KCA-iP500 Review

The iPod car integration market has blown up with many companies offering lots of options with varying capabilities. Some are simply line-in jacks to your stereo, and others offer iPod control as well.

If your car offers a factory iPod option, that's probably the way to go because it will be the cleanest and easiest to use. For cars that already offer an auxiliary input, that's a great, inexpensive option. And cars that have tape decks also provide an inexpensive way to use your iPod in your car.

If you don't fall into one of the above cases, or you are looking for something more than just a line in to your car, a few aftermarket stereos now offer iPod integration. These are Pioneer, Alpine, and Kenwood.

I chose the Kenwood because I found it had the cleanest headunit of them all. Sadly, all aftermarket headunits are ugly and poorly designed (is the ricer market all they care about?) but the Kenwood was better than the others. Also, the Alpine units have less power because they assume you will be using an amp.

I purchased the Kenwood 628 and the corresponding iPod interface cable iP500. I was able to pick up this unit and ipod interface at etronics.com for around $230, signicantly less than the cost at Best Buy. The main features of this unit are:

* 22 watts per channel amp
* CD player with mp3 playback
* standard RCA inputs
* option ipod control interface
* 3 line display

I chose this headunit over the mp228 for 2 reasons: this unit has the standard RCA inputs in addition to the ipod dock input. This is nice because it allows me to keep my ipod dock connector in the trunk where the ipod is locked and secure. But I can also use the iPod in the front of the car using the RCA inputs in situations where I want to be able to touch the ipod. Also, the 3 line display is key since you want to be able to see what the ipod is playing.

Headunit basics

The headunit is pretty straight forward with a mode selector cycling through the radio, CD player, aux in, iPod in, and standby.

Using your ipod

The ipod is plugged into the dock connector that's part of the ipod interface cable. This will charge the ipod, display "Kenwood" on the display, and pass along all control and audio to the headunit. The ipod can not be used directly. It will automatically turn off and on with the headunit.

When you select the iPod interface, it begins playing the entire iPod. The display will say "Playlist: Sachin's iPod" even though that's not a true playlist, it creates that for all songs on the device. At this point, hitting left and right skips and repeats songs.

Pressing up will move to the next playlist, pressing down goes to the previous playlist. You cannot see the name of the next playlist immediately. After you hit up, the display blanks, the device reads from the ipod, and about 5-7 seconds later you see the playlist name. Don't like it? Hit up again. Repeat until you find what you want. This makes it pretty much impossible to find a particular playlist in a list of 50.

Not only can you play a certain playlist, but you can change the device to play certain albums, artists, or genres. By hitting the "scan" button, the iPod will switch to another mode.

For example, if you are in playlist mode, hitting "scan" moves you to artist mode and you begin playing the first artist in your list. Similar to the playlist control above, you can hit left or right to skip songs, and up or down to move between artists.

In addition to these controls, you can also select whether you are in repeat mode, and if you are in random mode. In random mode, the ipod will play a random song in the currently selected playlist, album, artist, genre, or whatever mode you are in.

One of the ways I like to listen to this unit is to let it randomly play all songs on my iPod. Then when I hear a song I love and I want to listen to more by that artist, I just hit the random button. The unit continues to play songs sequentially. When I'm sick of that, I hit random again. This is the one feature I'd like moved into the ipod.

Display

You can set the display to show various types of information. There are 2 (out of the 3) lines on the display that you can alter. Each line can be set to display album name (playlist name on iPod), song name, clock, time, or something else.

The main issues I found with this unit are: * Slow switching between playlists/albums/artists, etc. You can't really scan through them. You switch, wait, switch, wait, etc * The screen is nearly impossible to see in direct sunlight

Conclusion

This definitely isn't the greatest way to use your iPod in the car, but it's a step in the right direction. It's particularly good if you want to be able to leave your ipod in a single place (trunk, glove box, etc) and use your headunit to do all the control.

The single enhancement that would make this ideal is faster navigation of lists. If I want to listen to Wilco, I don't want to hit down 500 times, waiting 5 seconds between each switch. I want to be able to hold down and see the list scan quickly, similar to the scroll wheel on the ipod itself. Once I see the artist I want, I hit accept and it plays. I hope this comes in a future release, though I bet the functionality of these units is fairly restricted since they are built around the CD changer interfaces that have existed for years.

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