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Aftermarket Integration Solutions - Gotta Have Gadgets

Getting the most out of your factory setup

Brook Howell
Dec 1, 2008

When it comes to technology, there's always room for improvement. In spite of the high-tech option packages available at the dealership, O.E. audio and video features can pale in comparison to some aftermarket offerings. To upgrade your factory A/V system, consider multimedia/navivigation units that can be used in and out of the car, integration solutions to get the most out of your factory setup, and speakers that bring music to life.

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To faithfully reproduce music, a car's speakers need to play the full range of frequencies, not just the high and middle ones. Enter the subwoofer. Today's shallow subs don't require a lot of space to bring in the bass. Kicker's CompVT 6.5-inch subwoofer, for example has a depth of less than 2 13/16 inches. This enables unobtrusive mounting in side panels or even under the seats of even a compact sports car. $130

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Clarion's Mobile Internet Navigation Device, aka MiND, combines a personal portable gadget with an in-car navigation solution. It allows users to surf the internet, play music and videos, and navigate in the car or on the sidewalk. MiND connects to the web via WiFi or a mobile phone. This proves useful when searching for a restaurant or other destination while navigating. Rather than a static points of interest (POI) database, the POI search pulls up accurate, real-time results from the internet. $TBD

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Whether you want to listen to your iPod or make hands-free calls in the car, Alpine's eX-10 provides a universal solution. Simply stick the power adapter into the cigarette lighter, plop a 2.4-inch display on the dash and control the device with a handy remote. The unit feeds audio from an iPod or Bluetooth-enabled phone to the car's speakers through a built-in FM transmitter, AUX output (for radios with a minijack input), or an optional switcher box that wires the unit directly to the radio. $180

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For those who want to maintain the clean look of a stock dash but also yearn to incorporate technologies that the factory system doesn't accommodate, Kenwood's CarPortal Expansion Systems provide a hidden solution. An out-of-sight controller hooks up to the factory stereo and allows different modules (eg., iPod/MP3 players, satellite radio, rear view camera, amplifiers and subwoofers) to be added. The KOS-V1000 advanced integration A/V controller incorporates iPod-Video Direct, two USB ports, preouts for aftermarket amplifiers and more. $800

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Specializing in high-end speakers for those with audiophile tendencies, Realm also offers a less bulky subwoofer. The LFT12-D4F has a standard diameter for a full-sized subwoofer (12 inches) but features a mounting depth of only 2.87 inches. It can handle up to 600 watts of power (300 watts RMS) through dual 4-ohm voice coils. Despite its full diameter, the LFT12-D4F can make itself at home almost anywhere in your vehicle, such as small cargo compartments and underneath the seats. $300

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Dynaudio produces premium sound systems as a factory option for Volvo, but this high-end speaker manufacturer has much more to offer. Its Esotar2 speakers bring an audiophile level of music playback to any vehicle. The high-frequency Esotar2 100 tweeters have specially coated 1.1-inch cones, powerful neodymium magnets and CNC-machined metal housings with a damping back chamber. Pair them with 6.5-inch Esotar2 midrange speakers to complete your front soundstage. With its low-mass driver and hefty neodymium magnet, they reproduce sound with excellent precision. Tweeter: $1,800/pair; Midrange: $1,000/pair

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For a complete swap of a factory radio, Eclipse's AVN6620 head unit provides audio, video and navigation (thus the "AVN" designation) yet maintains a sleek look that integrates well with a stock dash. The 7-inch screen displays mapping or input from optional front-and rear-view cameras. Two DVD slots allow for navigation and back-seat DVD watching when headrest or ceiling-mounted monitors are installed. Other media options include satellite radio, HD Radio and iPod compatibility. $1,200

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A multimedia option for cars in which a full-sized monitor may not be the best option, Jensen's single-DIN VM8013HD receiver includes a 3.5-inch screen right on the faceplate. The compact screen displays video from DVD, iPod Video or a back-up camera. An ideal solution to enjoying a variety of formats in the car, the compact receiver features built-in HD Radio reception, a high-speed direct connect interface for iPods, USB connectivity, SD Card interface and a front panel mini jack for connecting portable devices. $280

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The same company that produces stellar in-car computers has released a rearview mirror with built-in navigation. Perfect for vehicles without a navigation solution and for owners who don't want to break up the look of the dash, Azentek's SmartMirror looks like an ordinary mirror except for the embedded 4-inch touchscreen. In addition to navigation, the SmartMirror serves as a picture viewer or e-Book reader (utilizing the 2-gig SD card) and a Bluetooth hands-free kit. Two video inputs accommodate exterior cameras. $799

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The same night vision technology offered as an option in BMW vehicles is also available to anyone with a couple grand burning a hole in his or her pocket. Flir's PathFindIR package includes a thermal imaging camera that can be installed unobtrusively in a car's front grille. Unaffected by ambient light, it displays a crisp thermal image on either an OEM screen or aftermarket one (price listed above includes 7-inch monitor). $3,995

By Brook Howell
2 Articles



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