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How to upgrade the stereo in mk.4 Golfs/Boras.


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#1 Imagewerx

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 02:03 PM

How to��.upgrade the stereo in mk.4 Golfs/Boras


 


And just why would you want to change the OEM fans idea of perfection?


 


Posted Image


 


The first reason is the low output power,the stock four channel Gamma or two channel Beta only manage an embarrassing 7 watts RMS/channel,play any piece of music with any real bass in it and they just don�t have enough headroom to hold it all together,most people don�t know that you can do more damage to a speaker by underpowering it than by overpowering it.A small amp driven into severe clipping (where the sound turns fuzzy and distorted) can harm a speaker in a matter of seconds,the fragile tweeter will go first (the voice coil will melt,so it just won�t work),followed shortly afterwards by the mid that will probably survive the torture,but will always sound distorted afterwards.I�ve heard this happen to many more speakers driven by low powered OEM head units than I ever have with ones where a higher powered (25 watts RMS/channel or more) aftermarket unit has been fitted.


 


Another one (or at least in my opinion) is that you have a unit based around a music storage and playback format that was first used in the late 1960s.Although Compact Cassette was very good in its day,sadly that day has long since said goodbye to us,as have all that use analogue recording techniques,and finally the tape deck in these radios really is truly awful.


 


THIS thread just about covers everything I can say about the reasons on the grounds of sound quality (or lack of it) to change the stereo in these cars.Another point to add to this is that these units have some fancy EQ (equalizer) curves built into them that are designed to work with the OEM speakers to try and compensate for their lack of output power (bass too bassy,mid too middy etc),and changing them for aftermarket component speakers while keeping the stock radio can lead to a reduction in sound quality.Any aftermarket source unit will have a much flatter frequency response that will work a lot better when you upgrade the speakers.


 


There a few steps you can take to improve the sound of the stock units that are detailed below.


 


ADDING AN AMPLIFIER TO A STOCK RADIO


 


 


It is possible to increase the output power of these units by adding an external amplifier,luckily we have been given a pre-amp level output that can be found in the mini ISO connector at the back of the radio,top row and the end nearest the middle.We can use a connector as shown below (Autoleads PC3-11) to give us front and rear outputs as labelled,the blue wire is for the remote switching of our amp(s).


 


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We can use this in a number of different ways,we could use a four channel amp to drive all the speakers and nothing else,or we could amp just the fronts and a sub,or just a sub.


If you are amping the speakers up,it�s not worth running new wires all the way to the speakers,and as the standard speaker wiring is of more than adequate thickness then you can make the connections from the amp at the back of the radio in the ISO loom.


The male speaker ISO block is shown below,the easiest and least permanent way to connect to it is with a female ISO,if you don�t have one and don�t want to cut it off then you can splice into the wires just above the connector.


 


Posted Image


 


If the ISO block has been cut off already,you will need to refer to the following to know what the different coloured wires connect to.


 


 


VW wiring colour


Speaker wiring


Standard ISO wire colours


Blue


Rear right    +ve


Purple


Brown/blue


Rear right    �ve


Purple/black


Red


Front right   +ve


Grey


Brown/red


Front right    -ve


Grey/black


Blue/white


Front left     +ve


White


Brown/white


Front left      -ve


White/black


Red/green


Rear left      +ve


Green


Brown/green


Rear left      -ve


Green/black


 


If the power ISO has also been cut off,the following will be needed,but please note that this is only applicable to Golfs & Boras,other VAG cars are slightly different.


 


Posted Image


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VW wiring colour


Function


Standard ISO wire colours


Red/white #1


Permanent live


Yellow


Red/white #2


Permanent live


Yellow


Brown


Ground or earth


Black


Grey/blue


Illumination


Orange


Yellow/red


Ignition/accessory switched live


Red


Grey/white


K line diagnostic-DO NOT CONNECT


 


Blue/white


Speed pulse for GALA function


 

 


 


 


Don�t worry if you get the pos and neg wires of the different speakers mixed up,it won�t damage anything,but you will lose bass as the speakers will now be out of phase,a quick test would be to balance and fade around the car and if you get the bass come back as you do this,then you�ll have to start swapping wires over to find out which ones are round the wrong way.


 


 


Connecting external sound sources,i.e. MP3 players.


 


 


The most popular addition to these units has to be that of a portable MP3 player,in particular the iconic Apple i-Pod.As there is no direct auxiliary input as such for external devices,then we have to look to other methods to achieve this.


 



  • FM modulator������..(i-Trip etc) The audio signal from the player is taken to a low powered radio transmitter that has several preset frequencies at the lower end of the FM radio broadcast band,typically 87Mhz to about 89Mhz that we tune our radio to.The downside to this is very poor sound quality compared to any other method,as it will only ever be as good as the tuner section of our radio,and and will almost always (in about 90% of cases) be accompanied by unwanted noise that originates from the engine such as alternator whine or ignition noise from a petrol engine.At best we can only ever expect the sound quality to be on par with that of an average tape deck.

  • If a CD changer is fitted�����..You can use the audio input wires from the changer as shown below,pin #19 and #20 in the blue connector will give you audio of a quality comparable to that of CD,the limitation being the quality that comes down the earphone cable.Please note that a CD changer must be plugged in for this to work,othwerwise the head unit won�t let you s elect CD if it can�t establish two way communication with an outboard source.

You�ll need to cut the wires so that the CD audio isn�t passed to the radio,and of course you need to have a CD playing all the time you want to listen to your MP3 player.
Audio ground should go to pin #18,but expect the possibility of noise that may need some playing about with earths to get rid of.If you wanted to be adventurous,then you could arrange a changeover switch to re-enable use of the CD if and when needed.


 


Posted Image


 



  • Aftermarket auxiliary input adaptor���..These work by making the radio �think� that it  has a CD changer fitted when there actually isn�t one,all you have to do is plug your MP3 player into it,plug it into the CD port on your Gamma or Beta radio,and finally s elect CD and listen.
    There are different options available whether you have a CD changer fitted or not,and are available from such companies as Dension,Soundlinx and Connects2 amongst others.

  • Aux input and control���.As above in part but they treat the i-Pod as a CD changer,meaning it can be remotely mounted out of sight such as in the glovebox,full control is available over track s election without touching the player but with very limited track information being shown on the radios display.

 


The downside to any of these methods is that unless you are very lucky you will get unwanted noise added to the music,normally in the form of clearly audible alternator whine.


There is no one particular reason why we get this noise that is somewhat random in nature,take two apparently identical cars and one will have it and the other one won�t,or two  identical units in the same car where one will have the noise and the other one won�t.


It is sometimes possible to cure this noise by messing about with different earths,sometimes it is caused by not having an earth it needs,and sometimes by having an earth it doesn�t need,this is mostly down to very poor quality control at the manufacturing stage,and doesn�t have one easy cure-all that always works.


Ground loop isolators can actually make it worse in some cases,and they also remove most of the bass which won�t be a problem if you�re using a subwoofer as well,and surpressors also don�t normally work as the noise doesn�t come in down the power wire,but either down the earth or ground connection or it can even be  airborn.
A lot of this is also down to incompatibility between different makes of equipment,such as different signal levels and poorly matched input and output impedances,the only way to guarantee that this will not happen is to either make sure that all the various parts come from the same manufacturer,or buy an aftermarket unit that has everything all in one neat box.


 


You will never be able to overcome all of the problems with stock radios as outlined above,the only way around them is with a change to an aftermarket unit.


 


INSTALLING AN AFTERMARKET HEADUNIT


 


The single biggest fallacy of the OEM radios is their very low output power,all we need to do to release the potential of the OEM speakers which are surprisingly good is install a higher powered headunit with the now almost standard single CD/RDS tuner,peak power figures of around about 4 X 50 watts which are still good for about 4 X 25 watts RMS will make the biggest single improvement in sound quality for the least amount of money spent that we will hear in our cars,and all in the space of the ten minutes or so that takes to swap radios over.


 



  • WHAT UNIT DO I BUY?

Anything from any of the known manufacturers such as Pioneer,Kenwood,Alpine,Sony,JVC,Panasonic etc will always be a guarantee of quality and reliability,avoid any brands you haven�t heard of being sold cheaply on e-bay,if it seems too good to be true as it has a lot more features than other more expensive units,then it almost certainly is,with this cheap gear it�s not a case of if it goes wrong,but when,sometimes within a few hours.
Also if you want to be covered by all the proper consumers statutory rights,always buy from a recognised UK based retailer,and not from someone who�s shop only exists in cyber space,it may well cost you a little bit more money in the first place,but it really is false economy to do it any other way.These traders are NOT normally authorised dealers,and as such you will not be covered by the manufacturers Uk warranty,so if your equipment goes wrong,you may find yourself needing to pay for the repairs.


 



  • WHAT FEATURES SHOULD I LOOK FOR?

It really depends on what you want it for,or what your primary format or sound source will be.


i-Pod COMPATIBILTY


 


Posted Image


 


 



For as little as �50 for a brand new 2008 model you can get a front mounted auxiliary input socket that you can plug any external audio source into such as i-Pods or any other portable MP3 players WITHOUT the noise problems associated with the adaptors that can be plugged into OEM radios.


 


Posted Image



If i-Pod will be your main source,then it would be a better idea to get a dedicated unit that will give full high speed control of the external player as well as charging it,meaning it can be hidden away in the armrest or glovebox and controlled entirely from the headunit in the same way a CD changer would be.


 


USB


 


Posted Image


 


Even better would be one with front or rear mount USB (Universal Serial Bus) socket that will let you plug ANY MP3 player into and be controlled by it (not just i-Pod),and also any of the ever expanding variety of Flash drives or memory cards (with the appropriate reader of course).Solid state memory such as this is so cheap now that is almost disposable,2Gb Flash drives are now as cheap as �7.99 that can take 500 songs,and still at good(ish) quality.


 


N.B.   USB is available in two different standards,G1 which will only work with solid state memory such as Flash drives,memory cards and small MP3 players such as i-Pod Nano (but not with Hard Disc Drives),and G2 which will work with everything including HDDs and full sized i-Pods,so read the specs and make sure you get the one that is appropriate for your needs.


 


RCA OUTPUTS


 


Posted Image


 


Taken from the initials of the �Radio Corporation of America� and also known as phono leads,but no matter what you call them they are unfortunately the worst possible way of getting a low level audio signal from a source unit to an external amplifier,but as they have now become a world wide standard then sadly there is nothing we can do about it.


To be able to upgrade our system we need at least one RCA output,although we are able to split this into two or more to drive multiple amplifiers,we won�t have the ability to fade front to rear,but will have to rely on whatever we preset the gains on the amp(s) to.
To get the best from any fully amplified system,we could do with at least two RCAs to give us front/rear fade or front and sub with fade,or even better would be front and rear AND sub with non fading to the sub output,that way we can have full control over everything from the front of the car.


 


DSP/CROSSOVERS


 


Not really essential,but a very useful feature to be able to give your system that final tweek from the comfort of the drivers or passengers seat.
High Pass Filters (or HPF) if you also have a subwoofer in the car,these cut the bass off to the full range or component speakers,meaning they will play louder with less distortion,possibly with variable crossover points from about 80Hz upwards.


Low Pass Filter (or LPF) to cut off the midrange and upwards to drive a subwoofer,again variable would be nice up to about 100Hz.
A graphic equalizer to be able to compensate for acoustic anomalies in the cars interior,even the very best component speakers will always benefit from a touch of subtle EQ,and if you want to be really posh time alignment to compensate for differing speaker positions.


One thing I don�t think is needed,and one the doesn�t actually improve the sound is the soundfield simulations such as club,stadium,church etc,NO NEEEEDDDDDD!!!!!!!


 


BLUETOOTH


 


If you have any portable Bluetooth devices,then you can connect them to any compatible headunits with this feature built in.Your mobile phone will automatically route all incoming and outgoing calls through the cars speakers and display all the information from the phone on the radios display without the need for any external hands free car kits,and if it also supports streaming audio it can play full quality music from your mobile phone through the cars speakers.


 


DIGITAL RADIO


 


DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) has been set to be the biggest ever change in the history of radio,but it is all a bit indefinite at the moment,it may or may not happen as planned.It won�t be long before we get satellite radio like the Syrius and XM services they have in America (or at least that�s the plan),but at the moment nothing is carved in stone,so don�t buy any equipment based purely on digital radio,as it could all be obsolete in a few years time.


 



  • HOW DO I INSTALL IT?

Of course the first thing to do is to remove the OEM radio,don�t try the old trick of cutting up a credit card as all that will happen is you�ll have bits of plastic stuck in the slots,and a radio stuck in the dashboard,instead buy the proper VAG radio removal tools,such as Autoleads PC5-133 from Halfords (Other shops are available).


 


http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y146/Imagewerx/radiofit/VAGTOOL.jpg


 


Pull the old radio out and disconnect all the wiring from the ISO and aerial sockets on the back,where you should see something like this.


 


http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y146/Imagewerx/radiofit/ISOs.jpg


 


 


The connector on the left is for the speakers as discussed a bit further up,the right hand one is for power and a few other functions such as speed pulse.If we want to connect any standard ISO equipped radio directly to this the easiest way is to buy a plug and play adaptor such as the Autoleads PC2-69-4,if not then we have to do a few wiring modifications first.


The new ISO loom will come with plain red and a plain yellow wire with inline male and female bullet connectors already in place,we have to swap these over so that yellow now goes to red,and red will now go to yellow.If we don�t do this then the unit will still switch on and work ok,but when we switch off then it will lose everything stored in its memory and return to its default settings when we switch on again.
Make sure you don�t have anything connected to the grey/white wire to the right of it,if you do you may find that important functions such as central locking and electric windows no longer work.
There will also be a blue or blue/white wire in the new ISO block connected to the red/white wire shown with the yellow arrow,this is the remote switching wire for electric aerials or amplifiers,if we don�t isolate these two so that they aren�t connected to each other,then there will be a backfeed that could flatten your cars battery,although it will appear that it has switched off,it won�t have done so fully although the display won�t be lit up.The best way to do this is cut the blue or blue/white wire in the new ISO loom,put a female insulated bullet crimp onto the headunit end,and insulate the end that goes to the cars loom.


If you want to listen to the radio,you will also need an Autoleads PC5-90 or equivalent adaptor.Contrary to popular belief this is NOT a booster amplifier,it is a phantom power supply that sends power up the aerials coax cable to the matching amplifier built into the base of the aerial,again this also is not a booster but actually makes the radio �think� that the aerial is lot longer for MW reception (ideally it needs to be about 1.5km long for this).This is built into all the OEM radios,and is only needed on aftermarket radios if you want to listen to MW,or not all if you don�t mind no reception at all on MW,or slight loss on FM where it won�t be noticed if you only ever listen to strong local stations.


You will need to connect the blue flying lead to the blue or blue/white wire as outlined in the last step.


 


http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y146/Imagewerx/radiofit/PC5-90.jpg


 


That�s about if for now,you will have your new head unit in and working at last,the next step will be to change the speakers for better ones,and also to add an amp(s) and even maybe a sub.That guide will be along as soon as I�ve written it,so watch this space.


 


Chris.


  • VTubby TDi, BoringBora, TomasLT and 2 others like this


#2 yass066

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 02:12 PM

Chris absolutely excellent post.Your knowledge is second to none when it comes to audio related topics.


Will hopefully help many members on here and answer many questions that we are always asking you.


Cheers buddy


Yass



#3 evil genius

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 02:12 PM

alot of time and knowledge gone into that!

10 out of 10 Chris, top marks [Y][:)]

ian 



#4 hotboy836

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 03:08 PM

mate ill take my hat off to you every day, another top draw delivery.

#5 Roger Irrelevant

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 03:29 AM

absolutely brilliant! [Y] [B]


thanks Chris!



#6 cd123

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 03:44 AM

Great Post, very Informative [Y]


#7 Imagewerx

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Posted 05 February 2008 - 01:25 PM

Thanks guys[:$],can I go to the pub now,or have I got to write the next one first?


Chris.



#8 zipper

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 05:19 PM

(gulp) ...This baby is fit for framing mate!

Well done that man, definitely picked up a wealth of info from that one!!!

Cheers Chris



#9 Imagewerx

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 01:49 PM

(gulp) ...This baby is fit for framing mate!


Well done that man, definitely picked up a wealth of info from that one!!!  


Cheers Chris


 



[:$]Thanks,glad you found it to be a good read,I like all my stories to haver a happy ending[:D].


Chris.



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Posted 15 March 2008 - 08:00 PM

spot on mate, your knowledge of the wiring is amazin.  everytime i fit a new stereo i jus sit there swearin pluggin wires into holes were they mite fit then jus jiggle things round until sound comes out of the speakers haha an i think thats the same plan alot of other people use aswell, but hat off to ya mate



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Posted 27 March 2008 - 06:30 AM

Top marks to you mate! 


Really impressive writeup on that and its helped me loads! :)

Well done and thanks!



#12 afro gti

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 09:14 AM

Some invaluable advice Chris, nice one mate found it useful doing my install



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Posted 22 April 2008 - 10:48 AM

Hi guys.
Great guide from Chris here.
Just a couple of things I do not understand and would appreciate your help.
If i buy the PC2-69-4 harness will i then still need to swap the red and yellow wires or will this be pre-done by the harness adaptor?
How about the k line cable. Should I leave it plugged into the loom or should i pull it out to isolate?

Thanks in advance.

#14 Imagewerx

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Posted 22 April 2008 - 12:19 PM

Hi guys. Great guide from Chris here. Just a couple of things I do not understand and would appreciate your help. If i buy the PC2-69-4 harness will i then still need to swap the red and yellow wires or will this be pre-done by the harness adaptor? How about the k line cable. Should I leave it plugged into the loom or should i pull it out to isolate? Thanks in advance.


Glad you found it helpful,the Autoleads adaptor makes it 100% plug and play,no need to do anything else,your lives will be already be swapped over and your K line wire will already be isolated.


Chris.



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Posted 24 April 2008 - 04:34 AM

Hi Chris.
Thank you for your reply. I really appreciate you taking your time to help me out.
I have now ordered the harness and radio aerial adaptors from ebay. The harness adaptor looks as if it has the flying blue antenna lead. I assume this plus into the flying blue aerial adaptor lead. Is that how easy it is?
Thanks mate.

#16 bazking69

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 04:46 AM

Good stuff.


 



#17 Imagewerx

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 11:34 AM

The harness adaptor looks as if it has the flying blue antenna lead. I assume this plus into the flying blue aerial adaptor lead. Is that how easy it is? Thanks mate.


That's about as difficult as it gets,in fact opening the box to get the new head unit will be more difficult than actually fitting it.


Chris.



#18 N44LED

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 04:15 PM

 where can i buy the gear to do this thanks


 


aled



#19 Imagewerx

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Posted 29 May 2008 - 02:15 AM

 where can i buy the gear to do this thanks

 

aled

Dare I say from Halfords,or any other car stereo specialist such as Motorworld?

Chris.



#20 j0ker1

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Posted 29 May 2008 - 04:50 AM

Thanks for this.. I had an Alpine headunit and the radio was really weak.. i didnt kno about the aerial booster :D happy days lol



#21 mav2008

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 04:12 PM

Thanks for the helpful info. Just wondering how do i wire in the car wheel controls to work with a headunit. Mines a PIONEER DEH-P4900IB. There seems to be once iv attached to the autoleads cables, the 3 mini blocks remaining just hanging there.



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Posted 07 August 2008 - 07:39 AM

 Well thanks hugely for the tips in this article.  Question tho!


I bought the PC5-52 for my BETA radio as the AM reception was poor.  The wiring in the iso was just like in the picture above and i attached the blue cable to the wire with the yellow arrow (permanent live 2).  The instructions that came with it also stated this (slot5).


After a lot of tugging etc i removed the red/white wire, placed the blue wire from the inline amp, and slotted the red/white wire back in place on top of it.


Was this correct?  The AM is now working fine but i am concerned about power drain from the battery?  Any advice??  Bit of a noob when it comes to cars :)


Steve



#23 TurboTaylor

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 05:19 AM

Awesome guide. My stereo finally works properly now.


 


Cheers.



#24 UK_Pashtoon

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 04:25 PM

What a fantastic post Imagewerx!!!


Appreciate the time and effort involved in this.


Very interesting and useful information.


Your superb knowledge helped confirm my suspicions regarding the poor quality of MW reception on my radio...


Nice one...Thank you!!!



#25 mophead148

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Posted 29 October 2008 - 08:54 AM

iv just got a pc3-11 cable but there is no pins in the back of may beta radio were it plugs in,but there are holes. Do you just buy new pins and put them in the holes? if so were do you get them from?



#26 Imagewerx

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 03:24 AM

Thanks for the helpful info. Just wondering how do i wire in the car wheel controls to work with a headunit. Mines a PIONEER DEH-P4900IB. There seems to be once iv attached to the autoleads cables, the 3 mini blocks remaining just hanging there.

If that unit has the provision for interfacing with steering wheel controls,you'll need the relevant interface from someone like Autoleads in two parts,the car end and the head unit end,about £40 (ish) for both.

 Well thanks hugely for the tips in this article.  Question tho!

I bought the PC5-52 for my BETA radio as the AM reception was poor.  The wiring in the iso was just like in the picture above and i attached the blue cable to the wire with the yellow arrow (permanent live 2).  The instructions that came with it also stated this (slot5).

After a lot of tugging etc i removed the red/white wire, placed the blue wire from the inline amp, and slotted the red/white wire back in place on top of it.

Was this correct?  The AM is now working fine but i am concerned about power drain from the battery?  Any advice??  Bit of a noob when it comes to cars :)

Steve

No this isn't right on two counts,the first is that you don't (or shouldn't) need the PC5-52 on any OEM VW radio (it says that somewhere up there^^^^^^) as it's already built in,and connecting a switched live wire up to a permanent live means it will always be switched on,which could flatten your battery over a period of time.

iv just got a pc3-11 cable but there is no pins in the back of may beta radio were it plugs in,but there are holes. Do you just buy new pins and put them in the holes? if so were do you get them from?

There should be pins,I've taken hundreds of those radios out and they all have pins in them.

Chris.



#27 shammy

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 08:45 AM

 I've never read through all of it before, but today i did and my god chris you are a genius[Y]



#28 shammy

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 08:45 AM

 I've never read through all of it before, but today i did and my god Chris you are a genius[Y]



#29 shammy

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Posted 23 December 2008 - 04:23 PM

Hi Chris, as you know i bought that Alpine headunit ealier and i was looking at it today and i can see where the brown block of wires go and where the black block of wires go, however where do the yellow, green and blue connectors go? Sorry to be such a numpty [Y]



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Posted 23 December 2008 - 06:52 PM

Hi Chris, as you know i bought that Alpine headunit ealier and i was looking at it today and i can see where the brown block of wires go and where the black block of wires go, however where do the yellow, green and blue connectors go? Sorry to be such a numpty Yes

I take it you mean the three clipped together? If so they don't go anywhere with aftermarket head units,except for the middle green one that can be uses with steering wheel control interfaces.

Chris.







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