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Its not often that one is able to witness a grassroots effort materialize into something substantial. In January of 2005, Edwin Huitema, a Swedespeed member from The Netherlands, posted that he had reverse engineered the CD-C protocol on his Volvo’s HU-1205 radio with navigation. He was now the first Volvo owner in the world to be able to control his iPod from his head unit.
Commentary came in from other members who also wanted iPod integration in their Volvo, demand for which was used to mature the prototype. Other competitive units started to become available in the marketplace in the summer of 2005, but these units had limited availability and didnt appear to work with radios with the Road Traffic Information (RTI) or Navigation System. Edwin was close to giving up, but decided to proceed and seek out new features which would distinguish his product from the others. He introduced support for 99 iPod Playlists and added additional AUX and VIDEO inputs. The video could be taken from an external video source, like DVD player, rear view camera, etc. or from an iPod Video and shown on the RTIs navigation or external LCD screen. You can follow the history of this first of its kind product for Volvo cars here… this thread.
In the Fall of 2005 Edwin partnered with Martin and the team at Sensolutions.com to bring Edwins little audio project into production. Various prototypes were made and tested. By June of 2006 they had sent out several beta units of the adapter to testers in various countries. The name of the adapter was released as iMIV, which stands for iPodï¿½ Multi Media Melbus Module. Swedespeed’s Project V70R was fortunate to be a recipient of one of these test units, one that has since been replaced with a full production version.
The iMIV comes in a very well designed and fabricated housing. On the left side are the car connections with the iPod and Aux connections on the right. Along with the adapter are the necessary cables to integrate the unit with the car: MELBUS cable, iPod cable, and power cable. The kit’s documentation included the Installation and Users Manuals, which were well detailed.
For installation of our Beta unit, you need to be a shade tree mechanic and be comfortable working with wires. It took us a Saturday morning too install. To aid the installation, Volvo offers an adapter harness (Part No. 9204981) that made installing a little easier. For the final production units this is not such an issue as Sensolutions will is now offering plug and play cable harnesses.
As with all DIY installations, the most challenging aspect of the installation was determining a good location, getting everything apart the way it should be and running the wires. The wiring on its own was literally plug and play, aside from a power source and ground wires. We decided to mount our unit on the tray, that is, at the base of the drivers side steering column. Close enough to the head-unit to allow the MELBUS cable to still reach the radio and adapter. To accommodate different installation locations, Sensolutions offers a variety of MELBUS and iPod adapter cables in various lengths as well a MELBUS extension cable for existing wiring.
As the iMIV adapter emulates by default the CD-C protocol you need to disconnect any device that already is using this protocol. For example, if you have a Volvo iPod adapter or CD changer, you will need to disconnect them from the MELBUS. This is only applicable for Volvo HU650 or HU850 head-units. With other head units, the iMIV adapter can use the MD-C protocol ï¿½ but this will require a firmware change.
By design, the iMIV is built for firmware updates via the iPod. This allows users to add functionality without purchasing new hardware or shipping the unit back to the manufacturer. Simply download the files to your iPod, follow the instructions to enable Service Mode and moments later you have a firmware update. The unit will ship loaded with features, like iPod music functionality with support for 99 Playlists, iPod manual control to select your favorite music directly, AUX input, VIDEO input and iPod Video playback.
From a quality perspective, the audio and video signal quality is very good. Audio bandwidth is superb! The only downside is that U.S. buyers may find their portable DVD players wont display because the video signal needs to be PAL and not NTSC. This feature belongs to the RTI system and cannot be altered. You could mount an external LCD monitor that supports NTSC as an alternative option.
The adapter is compatible with all MELBUS based Volvo cars and HUs. This includes the first-generation S40, V40, S60 (all models), second-generation V70 (all models) and first-generation S80 (all models t0 MY06). The head-units supported are all HU-XXX units.
We are confident that Volvo owners will agree that Edwin and Sensolutions have hit a home run with this product. The iMIV has an introductory price of $159.95 USD. This includes the basic cabling to install the adapter. Sensolutions will offer options to buy longer cabling, harness adapters, and iPod mounts as well (they can offer special package deal with a Brodit mount).
Down the road we look forward to additional functionality and hope that there will be a similar product release for MOST based Volvos, including the XC90, S40/V50 and second-generation S80 models in the not too distant future.
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