The Pantera Place
"Your de Tomaso Connection"
Handsfree Phone Options
By Mike Dailey
Handsfree phone operation is becoming the norm for most cars nowadays and after using the Microsoft Sync in my Mustang GT with my Windows Mango phone I wanted to find some solutions that could work for my Pantera. Some states are even mandating handsfree phone operation for phone use in autos. I seldom use my phone while driving the Pantera but I wanted to have a solution in place if needed.
Radio Audio Input
The first option and least expensive available for an existing FM radio is a FM modulator. The one like best is made by Metra part number IBR-FMMOD03. This unit is different than the typical FM modulator because it connects in serial with the antenna and injects its signal directly into the radio. This eliminates the radio station conflicts that are common with most FM modulators. The other advantage of the Metra solution is it can be easily and quickly added to any existing FM radio. The unit has an antenna input cable connection, an antenna out jack for the radio, a fused power lead, ground and two RCA jacks for the audio input.
The Metra provides a switch for transmitting the audio on 87.9MHz or 88.3MHz. I used 88.3 and set a pre-set radio button to that frequency. The phone (in my case a HTC Windows Mango) is connected using its audio jack on top of the phone. The radio's speakers take over the phones speaker function but the phone keeps its microphone function.
To make a call the phone channel button is pressed on the radio, then the Microsoft logo button on the phone and just speak the name of the person you want to call. (the contact list in the phone takes care of the number) This Metra solution also provides the option to stream music from the phone to the radio.
The Metra installation images for an old 1994 vintage Alpine 7511 radio. The Metra can be mounted under the dash using double face tape. The Metra units can be found (in open package, but tested and guaranteed) on ebay from $15 to $30 and used on Amazon.com. The disadvantage of this solution is the phone must be connected via an audio cable. The Metra unit is made in China.
There are some units like the Metra that provide a Bluetooth connection to the phone but the cost of radios have become so inexpensive it can be more cost effective to replace the radio and have full Bluetooth handsfree functions that are controlled by the radio. My original Alpine radio was the single DIN size that is the most common radio size nowadays so I did not need to cut the dash. The challenge is finding a radio with the features you want that will fit the limited depth provided in the radio space. The angle of the dash causes a very limited space for the lower back edge of the radio.
There are a lot of Bluetooth radio options available in the market place and it took awhile to sort through all of them. Many of them need add-ons to make the Bluetooth work or did not have a radio microphone, wrong size, did not stream music, etc.
I decided that the Sony MEX-BT3900U offered the features I wanted, Bluetooth phone, Bluetooth audio streaming, an audio in jack, a USB port for a USB thumb drive, built in microphone, Bus in for a XM/Sirius receiver, a CD player and it just barely fit in the space. The lower back edge is in contact with the sound deading on the center console floor piece which means the antenna jack must be inserted before the radio is fully seated in the mount. The mounting depth needed for the 3900U is 6 1/2".
The radio has extensive programmable options including many settings for the sound equalizer. Don't really need the CD player anymore but it was included.
The Sony installation images. The handsfree phone audio output is only to the front speakers so depending on your current speaker configuration you will need to keep that in mind.
There is an optional Sony $30 remote microphone available. I used the built-in microphone for a while and then installed the remote. The cable is routed down the pillar, behind the pillar cover, behind the dash and over to the radio. The microphone mounting next to the visor positions it out of the way but very close to the driver. I used a modified wire bundle clamp to hold the microphone rather than the visor mount that comes with the microphone.
I kept my two door mounted 6 1/2" Alpine speakers that are rated at 30 watts RMS and 90 max watts that seem to work OK with the 3900U. The 3900U is typical of the current radios with 52 max watts X 4 channels output and 17 watts RMS X 4. There is a very slight fidelity loss when streaming music on Bluetooth but there are no cables to mess with.
The Windows Mango phone has an application for selecting music streaming by voice command called "Hey DJ?". Music can be selected by artist, album, song, playlist, or genre. The Windows phone combined with the Sony 3900U provide a fully handsfree operation of the phone and music streaming. The unit comes with a IR remote control but it is really not needed with the radio position in a Pantera.
Depending on the source, the Sony solution is about $140. which is quite amazing considering the old 1994 vintage Alpine with speakers was $270. new in 1994. The radio is made in Thailand and the remote unit in China.
If you are looking for a way to copy music files from your computer that are located in many folders and put them on a USB drive in a single folder in play list order you might try the AmoK play list copier. The AmoK play list (freeware) copier can be downloaded here The AmoK copier worked great for me and the music plays in the exact play list order as my Windows 7 Media Player play list on the 3900U. AmoK does this by adding a sequential number in front of each file name in play list order. The 3900U can use USB drives with multiple folders and the individual folders can be selected on the radio controls.
SanDisk makes a 16GB USB drive called the "Cruzer Fit" that is a very low-profile for car radios and other applications.
After using this with the Windows phone I'm really impressed how seamless it all works including hands free messaging with text messages, Facebook, etc. The voice to text responses for messages is pretty darn neat.