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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, it has come to this. After a 6 year hiatus, I'll finally be doing a new build in my daily driver, a 2001 BMW 325i. I've driven the car for two years, and have decided to address the degraded OEM audio situation.

Coming in the following days/ weeks/ months, I'll post updates in realtime of my installation progress. I have a full time job that usually requires me to work close to 60 hours per week, so "slow and steady" is the word of the day.

The Vehicle:
2001 BMW 325i. Nearly stock (besides suspension and minor engine tuning) all the way down to the original "BMW Business CD" which will be the first victim.

The Plan:
The objective is a system that looks 100% stock to the casual observer, but brings the car into the 21st century. I plan to keep weight to a minimum, to maintain the mildly sporty nature of the car. In addition to the stereo upgrades I'll track any performance or cosmetic upgrades, to include refinishing wood trim, upholstery repairs, and whatever else comes up that needs to be addressed.

Photos to follow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Meet Shadowfax, Lord of all Cars :laugh:



She rides on H&K sport springs, Bilstien B8 struts, and original BMW Style 44 wheels. She also sports ceramic 50% tint, Eagle Eyes taillights, smoked LED corners and side markers. I've tried to keep it all subtle, and as I mentioned, the stereo should follow the same theme.

One more shot then I'll get back to the audio. Here she is in my install bay, ready to go under the scalpel:

 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Parts List:

I'm sure I'll add a few more odds and ends later. I've included photos for most of what I have on hand.

Head Unit:
XTRONS 7 Inch Android 8.0 Octa Core (custom OEM integrated unit)
BMW OEM HVAC relocation bracket (from J&T Distributing)

Processor:
Qty. 1 Mosconi 6to8 V8 with miscellaneous modules (bluetooth, etc).

Amplifiers:
Qty. 2 Kenwood Excelon XR400-4, selected for size

Speakers: (Three way front stage)
Morel Maximo 5 midbasses (5.25")
Morel Maximo tweeters
Peerless by Tymphany NE65W-04 2" Full Range Woofer (for mids)
Peerless GBS-250F38CP01-04 10" Paper Cone Woofer (for subwoofer)

Misc. wires, connectors, damping and sound isolation:
Not tracked here, but I'll try to post product specs as I use them.

Here are some photos of what I've collected so far.









 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Running 6 channels of RCAs and a trigger wire, starting from the trunk:



Lest anyone be confused by this picture, the final routing is below the steering column. Sorry for the ugly, grimy, torn, driver's seat :blush: ... hence upholstery repairs later:



Here all wires are pulled to the dash:



That's all for tonight. I'm gathering mental fortitude for tomorrow, when I plan to wrap up the head unit install, and have a usable radio (on the stock speakers) for the coming work week.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Head unit install day, round 1 :D

First step was to find a mounting point for the GPS antenna. I don't want this exposed on the dash, so it is mounted on a tiny shelf behind the instrument cluster inside the dash. This is pretty far forward on the car, about 8" from the windscreen, and the GPS antenna should be able to read just fine through one thin layer of molded plastic.



Step two, should have been step 1, was to test fit the unit in the cavern where the OEM radio and climate control were extracted. It doesn't show correctly here, but I was easily able to push this into place without much pressure.



Step 3 was discovering this dratted flat ISO antenna connector, and discovering that my new radio lacks a spot for it, and the appropriate adapters were not included. Strangely, the BMW business CD has both ISO and "Fakra" connectors, but plugging the Fakra into the matching antenna spot on my Xtrons results in no radio service on either AM or FM.



I found a part which should fit my Xtrons perfectly and adapt the ISO to the Fakra style connector. It is listed as Antenna Adapter Cable for Audi RNS-E Fakra 2-fach ISO VW Seat Skoda on eBay, and ships from das Vaterland. It seems I'll be without radio for the next couple weeks, so I'll be sticking to streaming audio or locally stored content.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Antenna-Ad...e=STRK:MEBIDX:IT&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
While I've got everything out of the dash, I hooked up the radio to confirm function. I confirmed GPS reading (I picked up 11 satellites from inside a metal shed. Antenna placement should be no issue), CD function (Thriller), DVD function (Finding Nemo), and realized at this point that the radio doesn't work yet. Refer to previous post.



I think I took this slightly blurry photo to show the sheer mass of wires I'm dealing with here. Of all the head units I've ever installed, this one has the most wires to manage.



Routed two USB inputs to the center console. These will ultimately end up in a hidden tray that holds my iPhone and possibly another input device.

 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
As I was expecting, fitting everything into the dash has proved challenging. Since I have to take it all back out to install to the antenna adapter, I decided to leave the head unit in a "close enough" configuration for the coming week or two. Thus,

1) Head unit sticks out 1/4" more than it should. I couldn't get it in further without significant force, after trying every wire configuration I could think of. I'll try again another day.

2) Since the AC vents were such a hassle to get out, they are simply zip-tied loosely in place. They're staying that way until I'm 100% certain radio is in properly and all connectors are routed to where I want them.



I selected a BMW Roundel startup logo. Custom logos are supported, so I may switch it to something more interesting, but this is good for a stock look.



On the drive home, I noted the screen to be very reflective (and aimed right at the sky out my rearview window). With a darker tint this might not be an issue, but it is also very fingerprint prone. I've ordered some matte finish iPad protectors and will need to cut them down to size, hopefully that will resolve both issues.

That's all I've got for today. I'll post updates again as soon as I'm able.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I recently installed a touch screen HU in my CLK cabriolet - I agree that reflections are an issue, especially with the roof down!

I had not heard of using iPad screen covers, I will have to research more about that.

Seeing this install (great work by the way!) reminds me of my 1996 318Ti. I loved that car.
318Ti is what I always wanted for my first BMW. Instead I jumped straight to the E46 platform, but I'd still love to play with a compact someday.

Given the glare issues in my car, even with the tint, I can only imagine how bad it could be in an open car. I guess you can have the top down OR know where you are going :D

I hadn't heard of using an iPad screen cover for this either, it's just the first thing I thought of to cut the glare. I'll cut it on one of those table shear/ paper guillotine things at the office to get perfectly straight edges.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I recently installed a touch screen HU in my CLK cabriolet -
Looks good so far. Subscribed for some re-inspiration for my M3.
Sub'd

Hoping to bring my e38 back to life soon.
Hey guys, welcome to German corner! :thumbsup:

I don't have a real update for this past weekend, and it will be baby steps for next weekend as well with work and family commitments. But I'm hacking away at it a bit at a time. Here are minor updates.

My Antenna Adapter Cable for Audi RNS-E Fakra 2-fach ISO VW Seat Skoda arrived from das Vaterland. I have yet to test it to confirm function but I hope this will resolve my radio connection.



I also undertook a subtle mod to the ashtray. I popped out the little conical-cigarette-squishing-thing (don't ask me, I don't smoke) and replaced it with a 4 gauge power grommet. I then pressed in a female-to-female 3.5mm jack barrel connector, which fits snugly. I'll still need to drill out behind the ashtray next time I have the radio out, to connect the AUX to an RCA input. I've never been much of an AUX input user, but that little hole in the ashtray was just asking to be put to good use.



Here it is as test-fitted in place. The ashtray cover closes nicely without any trouble, and it looks very nearly OEM. The stealth theme continues.

 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Not an update per-se, but for fellow E46 owners, don't even try running all the wires I ran without taking out the back seat. It's a bit of a wrestle to get it out if it's never been removed, but worth it. This is how I've been driving around the past few weeks, listening to fuel pumps and road noise. I'll leave the area exposed for the duration of the build because the leather needs repair, and I plan to use the ski-pass that was never cut out from the factory as a baffle for a small sealed enclosure.



Last (unfortunate) update - I'm pretty careful to not make enemies, but I must have irritated someone today. I came back to an 18" scratch across my trunk after work. This picture is after waxing, buffing, and polishing. It appears to be permanent damage. Thankfully its already an 18 year old car, but I'm still pretty bummed about it.



And on that note, I now have two dash cameras on order with parking surveillance mode. Try it again, punk. Some people's children.

:mad:
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
More baby steps.

I decided to pull my radio tonight and A) get the radio working, B) get the radio seated, and C) temporarily put the dash trim back on so the visible screws in the radio won't make it a theft magnet.

I had this nice surprise when I took out my radio:



In all the jiggering to get my radio into & out of my dash, it appears I very nearly voided my warranty. Putting this sticker on the corner where it's bound to get rubbed is just plain rude. I've added a bit of Scotch tape to try to preserve whatever warranty I supposedly have. You all are my witnesses that there has been no tampering!

I poked around behind the radio and started unplugging harnesses one at a time to see what was stopping the radio from seating all the way. I suspected either the WiFi antenna, or the radio adapter it came with. Turns out it was the radio adapter it came with, which by the way is 100% the wrong part.



It came with the lower bit (marked "FALSCH"), and not even the red barrel connector to allow you to connect to a Euro-style MB/BMW/Audi flat ISO-DIN plug. Of course the powers that be at Walmart and Advance Auto, knowing their customer base, chose not to stock any Euro-compatible radio bits, so I went on a small shopping spree.

I ordered the red barrel connector, and right angle Audi bit that I mentioned earlier, so I could either adapt the factory part or replace it.

Well, the Audi bit is the one that works. The key is the right angle nub on the Fakra end. Now, I will note that with both the original connector and the Audi part from eBay via Deutschland, the plastic shroud on the end does not allow the Fakra connector to seat deeply enough to make contact with the antenna receptacle on the head unit. So I removed the plastic shroud, compressed the end a bit to ensure a tight fit, and seated it to the back of the radio. I gained nearly 1/2" of clearance this way and the radio now mounts flush with no trouble.

Here's the proper Fakra terminal end:



And here it is seated tightly to the back of the radio:



Without this bit, installing the radio would have meant melting and heat-molding the black ABS HVAC ducts. I'll send a note to Xtrons at some point and let them know of the adapter mismatch, but since I'm nearly certain they only rebrand a turnkey Chinese part, they may not have much flexibility to actually provide this. Just be aware of the need to shop around for the right adapter, if you use this exact radio (I assume the same is true of the physically identical Eonon unit).
 

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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
If you look on my radio, immediately to the left of the "NAVI" button, and immediately to the right of the ">>|" button, there is a screw hole on each side with no meat behind it for the screw to seat. This is because in factory configuration, the OEM radio clips into a bracket, which is itself screwed in place at the top and bottom. The OEM radio screws into this bracket through these screw holes.

Well on my aftermarket unit, the whole radio replaces the bracket, so it only secures at the top where the air vents mount. I found this caused the weight of the radio to make the bottom lip of the faceplate stick out nearly 1/8" when the top was fully seated.

To get around this, I needed to add something for the mounting tabs on the sides of the radio to secure to.

Idea 1 was butterfly bolts. Not something I commonly use in installs, because they can fall down inside the dash when you take it apart. I was so close to going this route, I went ahead and found a couple of $0.01 washers to go with the bolts:



Before resorting to this, I dug around in my hardware collection a bit and found some drywall tornado anchors. These turned out to be just the right size to mount into the holes in the dash. Sorry no picture of that, but again I'm sharing this tip anyway in case anyone is following along with a similar install.

 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
With my tornado anchors in place, and the right angle radio adapter, I now have a radio that fulfills its nominal purpose, and sits perfectly flush in the dash.

PRO TIP: When you do all this, click the HVAC vents in first. This is the opposite of the factory configuration. I suppose you're giving up a security feature and making your radio easier to steal. But that also means you don't have to bloody your fingers and risk breaking the HVAC controls every single time you remove the radio. I was dubious of this approach, but was able to bend the upper steel radio tabs by hand so it seats securely and screws in on top of the HVAC vent, instead of vice versa. Once trim is installed, no one is the wiser.

Test fitting:


Trim in place for temp condition until I'm ready to refinish it. Aftermarket radio? What aftermarket radio?

 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
Would love to hear it when you are done, I have e46 as well. I travel to our regional office in Herndon every couple of months.
Sure thing. I've baked in a number of compromises for weight savings and to maintain factory fit & finish, but I'm optimistic I'll achieve passable results. I'm happy to share whatever I've learned when all is said and done.

Nice work, looking forward to seeing the end result.

Whoever came up with Xtron headunit idea for BMW is very awesome. I used to have an E53 with DSP and it was a pain to find and to tap in for a pure audio signal.
Yep, they make Android units for the E53 as well now. With the advent of touch screen, app based navigation, and simply to get what I assume is an unmolested audio output, it makes all the sense in the world to ditch the factory head unit. And that's without even mentioning how clunky some of the early-21st-century BMW navi systems can be.

(From what I've heard, I'm not certain they've improved their interface by leaps and bounds in the newer Bimmers either, but I wouldn't know).
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
I broke the brittle front clips on my shifter surround trim during removal, so it's secured precariously by the rear screws only at this time. Thus, of necessity, I'm beginning a trim refinishing mock-up. This was already going to be necessary due to the cracked enamel I mentioned in an earlier post.

Ordered a used gloss black shifter surround from eBay. I was aware it had some paint defects, and I'll probably not end up with gloss black, but it has intact clips and is a decent starting point. The clips at the bottom of this picture are the ones that broke on my original unit:



I was aware of some paint defects on the trim prior to purchase, but it was the cheapest one with the plastic clips intact, so I can deal with that. Here are the strange paint deformities (top left and right). I'm not exactly sure what could have caused these, but they'll be fixable regardless.





 
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