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So, you wanted your new car to have a nifty Bluetooth® handsfree phone technology, but prefer one of Volvo’s finest over the wicked torque steer of the 2004 Acura TL. What to do? Well, until a small French company called Parrot came along, your only option was wish the Swedes would catch up on those nifty electronic gadgets. Today, for not too much money, you too can have the latest gee-whiz features like your Japanese-owning friends.
For those of you who lack technical knowledge of what Bluetooth® is, simply put, Bluetooth® is a wireless protocol which permits computer peripherals, cameras, phones, and more to communicate wirelessly over a short range. Think 802.11 - but for printers and PDAs - with shorter range, and slower transmission rates (about 1 megabit/sec). The upshot of this technology as applied here is that in your car, you can have your phone anywhere in the vehicle (briefcase, pocket, back seat, trunk, etc.) and still be able to have the cars handsfree system communicate with the phone, thus alleviating the need for you to actually have contact with the phone itself or to plug it in or place a call, etc.
This is also a very attractive alternative to the S60R’s built-in phone system for the U.S. because you neednt have another cell number, another cell account(s), etc., you can simply use your existing account and handset, with the only cost being that of the fixed cost of the hardware installation. Naturally, the Europeans have a much better cellular system, as their longstanding use of SIM cards very nearly obviates the need for this Parrot system over the OEM solution (which in Europe is GSM and thus, SIM card-compatible), but even still, the CK3000 is a great system which offers benefits not available in the OEM phone, as well see shortly. (to say nothing of the cost savings on the OEM telematics!)
Also, note that most of these instructions should apply generally to the S60, and certainly some of the tips are applicable to any car. Given that the install was performed on an S60R, this guide is geared around that.
Enough background, lets get on with the install!
What you will need:
Socket driver (duh!)
Precision screwdriver set
Plastic pry bar (a.k.a. Volvo radio removal tool)
3 lengths of medium gauge wire, appropriate for handling 10 amp current
2 large paperclips
Selected crimp-on connectors du choix
1/8 headphone extension
Bluetooth®-Enabled Cellular Phone
¾ x ½ PVC pipe
Small quantity of foam
1 square of pliable plastic sheeting
Towels to cover your upholstery (That means you, Gobi owners!)
Volvo wiring diagrams for reference (available from https://www.volvotechinfo.com/)
About 2-3 hours, depending on your level of skill
DISCLAIMER: This is intended to be only a narrative of the experiences of the author’s installing the Parrot kit if you choose to do this, do so AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Section One: Understand the Setup
Part One: The S60-R’s HU-803
The first thing you should do is thoroughly understand the way the Volvos amplified systems are set up. Basically, the HU-803 has the head unit in the dash, secured to a bracket, which is in turn, secured to the car vis-à-vis the dashboard. On the back of the HU-803 are several wiring harnesses, but the one we’ll be primarily interested in is the DIN-Style, or circular cable which exits on the right rear of the unit.
That nifty cable leads under the passenger seat to the amplifier, which has three harnesses as well:
So basically, the setup goes like this - the HU-803 sends pre-amp (low-level) signals via the DIN cable to the AMP, the AMP then sends high-level (speaker) signals to the speakers via 4 channels to two sets of 3-way speakers. (hi/mid/low front and hi/mid/low rear). The center channel is powered by the head unit on its own discrete channel.
In this example, the Parrot “splices” itself between the speakers and the amp, and uses its own relay pack (provided) to “cut out” the amplifier and send its own signals. In reality, it only diverts the speaker output from the amplifier into an open circuit while delivering its own signal to the car’s speakers - nothing fancy like actually inputting its signals across the CANBUS (the car’s internal network). It’s decidedly low-tech in that regard, but genius in its simplicity.
Part Two: The Parrot CK-3000
The Parrot kit contains only a few parts, namely 1) The “brain”; 2) speaker relay cable; 3) power cable; 4) microphone; and 5) the control switch panel.
Section Two: Installation
OK, this is the hardest and most time-consuming part - because anything in this is particularly difficult, but because you don’t want to screw up your car -- especially when you don’t know how things are all screwed together! I’ll try to give you a “look behind” the components before you take them apart so you’ll have less difficulty in understanding how to take these things apart. In other words,
you can learn from my mistakes.
Part One: The Amplifier
I decided to start with the amplifier, because it’s the most difficult part of the job, and the most “mysterious.” While it might be possible for a contortionist to do this job without removing the seat or amp, I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s not that hard to remove the seat, and you’ll be glad to have the room to work. At first blush, it sure looks like it’d be easy to get to the amp.
It’s not. The problem is all of those wiring harnesses are hidden behind that hump you see on the floor, making it impossible to see what you’re doing! I went ahead and removed the seat to get at the amplifier and work it free. The seat is held in place by four bolts with 14mm heads. To get to them, I removed the 4 plastic covers from the seat rails (you can see two of them above - the grey pieces, they just pop right off if you pull up) two from the front, and two from the rear of the seat. I had to motor the seat fore and aft to get the covers and bolts off. When I was done removing all 4 bolts, I motored the seat about 3/4 of the way back and rocked the seat back on the rear two legs, being careful NOT TO STRETCH OR DISCONNECT THE SEAT CABLE. It would have been helpful to have a friend to hold the seat up. Without one, I rocked the seat back and propped it on my shoulder as I worked on the amp. 🙂
The amp is held in by two bolts with 10mm heads on either end of the bracket holding the amplifier down. Remove the two bolts from behind the carpet, disconnect and remove the amplifier.
Part Two: Ready the ISO plugs!
The CK3000 ships with ISO plugs and sockets for a seamless installation. For those in Europe, this part is simple. For those of us across the pond, the ISO plugs are not that useful. But, since I abhor cutting any wires, I chose not to cut the Parrot’s wires, rather, just backed them out of the ISO harnesses with the metal pins/clips intact.
The male ISO pins (the bottom plug in the above picture) are relatively easy to remove. The male pins can be backed out of the harness by inserting a small flat precision screwdriver along one side of the pins on the side of the harness to release the small retaining spur, and the pin will easily slide out. (see the pin below)
The other plug is much more difficult to release. The most effective way I found is to insert a paperclip into the receiving end of the plug, on the side of the individual receiving pin WITHOUT the split. (see below) This takes some real sleight of hand, so be patient. Of all the steps of this installation, only finding a lost clip in the dashboard took longer to deal with. (Those with ADD, find a pair of wire cutters and save yourself some frustration!)
To make it easier to understand the ISO receiving clip, see the below shot of the female clip.
Part Three: Getting the “hook up” with the speakers
The least invasive way to connect the speakers is by simply plugging in the ISO pins to the lead going to the HU-803. Looking at the socket, starting at the upper left, in clockwise order the colors are these: green, blue, orange, red, brown, black, grey, white.
The second part of the “splicing” is connecting the “female” ISO sockets to the amplifier itself. Obviously, on the amp, the order will be the mirror image, or: red, orange, blue, green, white, grey, black, brown. I verified this to be correct, since I have the NAV, which shoots only out of the left front speaker. A simple FADE/BAL maneuver resolved the rest.
Of course, as you can see I wrapped the ISO pins and sockets with electrical tape to a point about halfway down the exposed metal so that I wouldn’t have any shorting issues. I bolted the amp back down, bolting in place the seat, and moved on to the next step.
As an aside, one should seriously consider buying the wiring diagrams for the R from Volvo Technical Information . They’re only $5 for 3 days of access, (you can download them and save them for indefinite use) and you’ll use them again and again - for projects just like this one.
Another option is to try and fashion ISO connectors to hook up to leads, and then Volvo sockets for connection to the car. Here’s the problem: you can (with much trouble) get ISO connectors from eBay or modify a VW harness (if you can find the crimp-on pins). You can get the female sockets for the Volvo. But, to get male Volvo plugs, you’ll have to raid a junk yard or order the plugs from a dealer. You’re looking at $75 or more for parts and freight if you go that route. It wasn’t worth the money and effort to me.
Part Four: Get the power!
Next, I wired the power to the unit. There are three leads: 1) constant power; 2) ignition-only power; and 3) ground. You can, of course, run all three to the fuse box, or tap into a exiting power line (like the amp’s), but again, I don’t like to cut ANYTHING if I can avoid it. So, I connected up three leads to the Parrot’s power cable:
Then, I hooked up the power leads by running a LONG pair of leads for the two positive leads through the center console and to the fuse box, and then just find a nice grounding point, such as the seat bolts , which is close to the connection, and a better grounding method.
The fuse box offers many places to wire the Parrot, but I used the passenger power seat for the “always on” lead (#4, 30A) and the cigarette lighter (#13, 15A) for the “on only” lead. Be careful to correctly wire the “always on” lead - see to it the lights on the Parrot go off with the ignition. Otherwise, you’ll get closely acquainted with the R’s trunk-mounted battery, and/or the underhood jump-starting procedure.
It’s worth mentioning here that the indicator lights on the Parrot will be lit EVEN IF the always-on power lead is disconnected. All those lights seem to depend on is the “ignition only” lead. This is important because I thought my Parrot was dead at one point, when all it was was a loose “always on” connection.
Part Five: Getting your Mic on
I went through a WHOLE LOT of trouble to make this install look clean, and a big part of the time I spent experimenting and so forth was with the microphone. First, I removed the ceiling console by pulling down the rear hinged portion, then pulled down the outer plastic part by pressing in the two clips toward the front end of the car under the hinged portion, and then simply pulled down on the back. I was sure move the mirror to a centered and downward facing position to avoid scratching it up.
I had to unbolt the underlying black frame to be able to run the microphone cable into the headliner and over to the PASSENGER side A-Pillar.
To remove the A-Pillar cover, I simply pulled it back about 4 inches, until the clips gave way, and then felt some resistance from a plastic retaining bracket behind the top of the A-pillar cover. This is a special bracket, which appears to be designed to keep the pillar cover from flying off into your face when the airbags deploy. I had to rotate the bracket’s portion attached to the cover about 90 degrees for it to become loose.
This brings up an interesting point - I WAS VERY CAREFUL NOT TO PLAY WITH OR BLOCK THE AIRBAG. It’s right behind the pillar cover, and should not be toyed with if you expect it to work. RESPECT THE AIRBAGS.
I ran the microphone cable down the FRONT of the pillar and through the holes in the dashboard at the bottom. It was difficult to feed it down the side there, so I removed the panel on the right side of the dash (just like the fuse panel cover on the driver’s side, but no fuses beneath) and felt around to get the microphone cable down by the passenger footwell. I covered up the pillar again by snapping it into place. Note also that putting the retaining bracket back INTO the pillar cover did not require the 90 degree turn -- I just popped it back in.
I also required an extension cable for the microphone because the Parrot cable was not long enough. An extension can be found at stores like Radio Shack.
The center console already has a plug for what I assume would have to be the place for the mic when a Volvo has the On-Call Plus option. It is of CRITICAL IMPORTANCE that the mic be positioned properly to work correctly. Here’s what I learned the hard way:
Dangling the mic in the empty space generates lots of noise.
I thought that noise blocking would help, but alas, no.
So what to do?!
Here’s what worked for me. I got a small PVC pipe length, 3/4″ x 1/2″, like this:
and put the microphone in it. I fashioned a couple of black plastic discs (out of the 1″ square previously mentioned) to hold it in place within the pipe, then placed the pipe in the retaining bracket from the overhead console.
Next, I placed some strategically positioned foam for damping behind the pipe, and had good results with sound - otherwise, it was horrific.
Check out the finished microphone mount:
In this way, the little slots in the console permit the sound to pass adequately through.
Some cars do NOT have these slots, but, the newer part should be easily retrofitted.
Of course, I could have just mounted the mic with the provided clip to the side of the ceiling console, or any other myriad of places, but, I was looking for the cleanest install, and the S60R provides this opportunity in spades with this little ceiling console - why not take advantage of it?
Part Six: Mounting the Switch Panel
I started by removing the switch panel that is in the Climate Control Module (CCM).
I used a rotary tool (like a Dremel) to notch out the bottom for the small wire, and a LITTLE notch at the bottom of the face. Reservation was key! It didn’t need to be too wide or long to work.
Now came the tricky part: I could either drill a hole in the bottom of the CCM, or, in keeping with my “minimalist” theory of modification, I cut the control panel’s wire, and fed it through the small hole in the bottom of the CCM and out to the area with the brain and all, then re-connected the halves of the Parrot’s wire. Since the Parrot can be had for about $200, and my R was $45,000, I went with the latter:
I snapped the plate back in place, and moved on to the final steps! Initially, I thought I had to remove the CCM for this step, and that required a Torx screwdriver, and the extraordinary hassle of prying out the CCM. I wanted to avoid it if I could, and I thought it can easily be performed without the headache of removing the CCM. If this is performed, DO NOT DISCONNECT THE CCM HARNESS. This will throw a message up on your Driver Information Module (DIM) and require a visit to the service department. If you do remove it from the dash, I’d suggest wrapping it in a towel and rest it before the shifter, keeping the harness connected.
Part Seven: Making the Connection
Now that all the wires had been led to the area near the seat where the amp is, I connected them all to the brain.
The brain fit nicely next to the amp, between the center tunnel and the HVAC heat duct for the rear seat. It didn’t even require anything to secure it, though some tie-wraps would work well, if you desire.
I tucked the relay pack and the wires behind the carpet near the front of the amp, and was done!
Who needs OCP?
(Even note the nifty spaceball on the Sony Ericsson T616 to match the R’s!)
Section Three: The Review
Let me begin by saying that for an early-adopter type product, the Parrot CK3000 is pretty impressive! The concept and implementation are excellent, even if it does show a bit of its amateur roots.
To use the device is simple you tell your phone, in my case, a Sony Ericsson T616, to turn Bluetooth on. From there, depending on your model, youll connect with the Parrot kit while in the car has the ignition on to power up the CK3000. Once the phone was connected, I was set to go for basic functionality after entering the password for the Parrot (this is a FIXED password of 1234). You simply press the green answer button on the Parrot to answer/switch calls, the red hang up button to end calls. Holding the answer button will redial your last number. Further (at least on the T616), the Parrot will listen for your voice tags that you programmed in the phone and use them to dial out.
Heres where it gets a little counterintuitive. The Parrot has its own internal phonebook which syncs with your phones phonebook, much like a Palm or PocketPC would. However, if you access the Parrots phonebook directly (via the Phones menus) you can program voice tags (up to 200/300 depending on model) which actually are stored within the Parrot, instead of on your phone. If you consider that the Parrot will recognize and identify 3 types (cell/home/work) of number for each contact, thats 600/900 numbers its capable of addressing! Not too shabby, and it doesnt occupy your phones memory! Simply program each contacts name, and a record global tag for home, cellular, and work.
Heres the rub once you program a name in the Parrot directly, it will NO LONGER RECOGNIZE the phones internal voice tags. In other words, you’ll have two distinct collections of voice tags - those in the Parrot, and those in the Phone itself. No matter, because youve got plenty of room on the Parrot, but it takes a second to undersand what’s happening if you don’t glean this from the instructions that come with the Parrot.
When you’ve programmed your names, simply press the green button once, speak the party’s name, and Parrot will dial out if it recognizes your command. If not, the little faint “blip” will emit again and a voice will remind you to speak clearly. When on a call, press the green button to switch between calls, and the red button to end the call.
When a call comes in, if you’ve programmed a voice tag for the caller, you’ll hear the speakers mute, the phone “ring” and your own voice speak the name of the caller. Pretty neat, but I wish it’d speak the number if it didn’t know the name.
Another neat benefit to the Parrot is that you can also place your phone wherever you want in the car hiding it in the center cubby is obvious, but think - when reception is bad (and it WILL be on these new GSM phones, which seems to be all that you can get if you want Bluetooth®) you can put the phone on your dash, between your sunroof shade and glass which may help with preventing from dropping calls.
It all works very well with the car’s audio system, and the full duplex on the CK3000 is fantastic, as is the audio output. Outgoing voice quality could be better, but it’s not too bad.
A few tips that I learned the hard way:
1) Use FULL names (first/last) its easier for the Parrot to recognize, and more importantly, its easier for YOU to remember those less-used names.
2) Record all your names in the same environment, e.g., windows up, engine off, in your garage.
3) Always address the Parrot in the SAME INFLECTION AND VOLUME. Youll want to scream at the Parrot the first few times it doesnt recognize a name, but trust me, the Parrot knows when youre angry, and wont recognize anything! (Unless you record all your names while youre pissed off!)
Now, enough with the glowing review, you say -- whats the downside?
1) If you dont have a tag recorded for a number, you wont know who it is if the phone is out of sight.
2) I assume there is the possibility (reality?) of reduced stereo performance due to small gauge wires on the Parrot relay.
3) Voice recognition and sound quality are a little weak.
- Easy to use, and SOOOO convenient
- Good sound quality, excellent full duplex and speaker output
- Very clean, unobtrusive installation possible
- Big phonebook
- Upgradeable firmware via Bluetooth®!
- Did I mention CONVENIENT?
- No caller ID unless you know em!
- Relay pack should have bigger gauge wires
- Microphone could be better
- No volume control except for on phone
- Needs slightly better noise cancellation and voice recognition
For those wondering, Parrot has said that they plan to continue firmware upgrades, but it is unlikely that new functionality will be added. However, a new line of Handsfree systems are being released as of this writing which will include more features, check them out at Parrot’s Home.
For more discussion on this story, click on the link to our discussion forums at the left.