Mercedes-Benz Forum banner

1 - 20 of 21 Posts

·
Registered
1988 560SL
Joined
·
59 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Greetings forum!
I usually lurk around the R107 forum with my grandmothers/my '88 560SL, but I come here today for some advice.

My grandfather has a 2003 S500 4Matic and has grown displeased with the stock radio. He's looking to upgrade to a more capable unit. I searched the W220 forum but didn't find anything solid.

His main complaint is that the radio reception is not as good as it should be. He's looking for that improvement, along with satellite radio, possibly some internet radio capability, bluetooth phone (maybe voice controls?) and to try and keep the stock functionality of the wheel controls/buttons, etc, as much as possible.

Any tips/suggestions/words of persuasion would be greatly appreciated.

TB

P.S. Here's a picture of the car when I got to borrow it last winter during finals week.

 

·
W221 & Audio Moderator
2013 S550
Joined
·
10,874 Posts
One of the more recent threads on this topic is at http://www.benzworld.org/forums/w220-s-class/1618981-removing-command-system.html - also post #3 at DANG! - MBWorld.org Forums and http://www.benzworld.org/forums/w220-s-class/1460281-s-class-how-make-double-din-3.html - also see Aftermarket Speaker and Amplifier install pictures - MBWorld.org Forums

While they are not definitive, I think they will give you a good start.

As to specific replacement head units, consider brands such as the Kenwood Excelon series, Pioneer, and Alpine. Search the forum with those brand names as well as terms such as "Double DIN head unit." There are some cheap Chinese COMAND replacements you might want to avoid - see InCarTronics' comments at http://www.benzworld.org/forums/w220-s-class/1620569-any-one-install-ebay-touchscreen-command.html

While you mentioned goals besides curing poor radio reception, be advised that poor reception (especially AM) can be caused by using metallic tint on the rear window; and both AM and AM reception can be harmed by failure of the inline amplifiers for the antenna system - the amps are just in front of the rear window, under the headliner.

A full fiber optics bus replacement - which is what you're talking about - can be quite expensive. Be sure you're looking to your grandfather's interests. Some of the things on your shopping list - like internet radio - don't sound "grandfatherly."

And if you proceed, be sure you have the work done by a high-end audio shop that has a good deal of Mercedes experience. It's not a job for most big-box stores.
 

·
Registered
2006 Mercedes S55 AMG
Joined
·
719 Posts
I have the 03 head unit.. It works fine with the factory bluetooth.. I have a Kenwood satelite radio reciever that goes into the antenna reciever of the radio and you get clear quality.. only issue is you require another screen to operate sat radio.. but the phone, nav, radio etc all come up in the cluster, and that to me is a big deal.. the cheap eBay ones are junk, stay away from those, my buddies shop put one in the other day and I played around with it for an hour or so and it was HORRIBLE.. as for reception, that has nothing to do with the headunit.. these cars have not so great reception.. mine is getting weak and my antenna amp doesn't alway come on.. I will be replacing it soon in hopes that will resolve the problem.. if you guys just can't handle the stock unit you can probably get $500 for it on eBay.. You can install a double din Pioneer or other brand unit and have everything.. I have the 1100t which was a flagship model and it's great.. the nav is wonderful, along with everything else.. You can get the wheel controls to work, volume and selection, but selection will change the cluster around while changing the radio.. And the phone buttons won't work anymore.. You will also loose your Teleaid, Telematic, CD Changer and Voice Command..
 

·
Registered
1988 560SL
Joined
·
59 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Be sure you're looking to your grandfather's interests. Some of the things on your shopping list - like internet radio - don't sound "grandfatherly."
I am paying attention to what he's looking for. He asked me about the possibility of all those features. My grandma bought a new car about a year ago that has a fancy satellite radio/infotainment system they both enjoy. They recently finished a 2 year remodel on a new house in Florida for their annual 4-month winter vacation. My grandparents are definitely do not have a typical grandparent demeanor. I think the term is 'forever 40'. He even has a Blackberry.

He's an attorney so he has lots of 'friends' who shoot straight with him, lol. He's already said he knows a stereo installer at a high-end shop. I understand and respect these cars, so I wouldn't let him take it to a big-box store.

In regard to the metallic tint, is that something that's OEM? The car is still in original OEM condition. No aftermarket bits.

Thanks for the suggestions and info so far. I have to wait until school is out before I can start on this project. Final exams are fast approaching.

TB
 

·
Registered
2000 and 2003 W220 S500
Joined
·
930 Posts
As a counterpoint and addition to the other suggestions, I would suggest using an iPhone passed through the AUX input.

It gives you everything you've been looking for except satellite radio.

I have pics doing this procedure and the '03 is the simplest year to do it on.

Regarding the tints, not using metallic (ceramic instead) is most critical in the rear windows
where the defogger can short, but it also reduces AM signals in other windows of the car.
 

·
Registered
1988 560SL
Joined
·
59 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
As a counterpoint and addition to the other suggestions, I would suggest using an iPhone passed through the AUX input.

It gives you everything you've been looking for except satellite radio.
I am aware of the AUX input. I've used it myself a few times. My grandpa is stuck on his Blackberry though. My grandma bought an iPhone a few months ago and has been trying to get him to switch, but he refuses. He likes all the buttons, just like me. :D

I've tried internet radio in my own car and out here the signal (or maybe device) just isn't strong enough to support a constant stream. I don't even bother in my car anymore because it cuts out half way through or doesn't even get started. We're both on Verizon and they're the best out here.

TB
 

·
W221 & Audio Moderator
2013 S550
Joined
·
10,874 Posts
If the Blackberry has an earphone jack, he could use it the same way as the iPhone. However, neither the iPhone nor any other phone will "integrate" with the COMAND system just by plugging it into the AUX jack; all selections and control (except volume) must be done on the cell phone. That could be a huge driver distraction. Incidentally, among W220 models, only the '03 came with an AUX jack.

BTW, my wife, a long-time Blackberry fan, is disgusted with her 18 month old BB. Missed calls, missed voice mails, dropped calls are constant, and not just when she is in the car - and she is on Verizon, which has excellent coverage here. We have even experimented, calling her BB while it was in the house - many times, it just doesn't respond, and it wasn't during one of RIM's famous outages. Two of our neighbors report similar problems with their recent BBs. On the other hand, my iPhone 4 does just great on AT&T (I got tired of Verizon not getting off the dime with the iPhone). I think the problem is the Blackberry.

I gave you some links on replacing the COMAND unit with something more modern; there are those that have Pandora radio, and of course, Sirius, among the brands I suggested. However, as the links should have made you aware, you could wind up replacing all of the equipment on the fiber optic loop - while the HU would have the phone, nav, DVD/CD, radio and other features you want, you would likely wind up replacing the amp, possibly the speakers, and also needing something like an Audion Bit-1 processor to replace the equalization algorithms tailored for the car and built into the equipment you are removing. That can get expensive - $5K or more, easily, for the whole project.

Much of what I have read involves adding 3rd party HUs to be added to a MOST-based amp, or allowing a 3rd party amp to be used with an original MOST-based HU. See, e.g., Mobile Electronics Magazine. At one time, mObridge was manufacturing a DA-2000 interface for the latter. I don't see it on their site now (there is a DA-1000).

Unfortunately, they are all for MOST-equipped cars. The '03 W220 is D2B based. I know there have been some efforts at adapting MOST equipment to D2B, but I don't know where those efforts are now. D2B was proprietary to Mercedes; as far as I know, only Volkswagen ever licensed it - so the D2B market is small. MOST has become the industry standard, so more equipment is available for it.

---From a grandpa-aged attorney - though my daughters have not yet made me a grandpa.
 

·
Registered
2001 mercedes S430, 2010 mercedes E550 4matic
Joined
·
338 Posts
I drive a 2001 s430 and the only time i have bad reception is when i have my Iphone fm transmitter plugged into the cigarette lighter. Might want to check if anything is plugged in besides the lighter, Just a suggestion.
 

·
Registered
2001 S500
Joined
·
30 Posts
This is what I did for my dad

Basically, if you plan to upgrade, you will have to replace everything but the speakers. Yes, even the AM/FM antenna. See it as adding a system to a car that never had a system.

Questions to ask are: how "integrated" does he want his phone to be? Just for calls or more? Does he want navigation, capability for the HU to interface to the phone for more than just an audio out? Does he want a "dock" like I put in so he can just slide his phone in on a long trip?

The X930BT, which can have Sirius or XM added can be had for about $520, then an extra $100 (sometimes $80) for either XM or Sirius, same if you want to add HD radio and/or a traffic receiver. Then, you will spend about $45 for each PAC-SWI unit you require. My dads car needed two: one for the CAN bus and one to go between the CAN bus module and the radio. If you have an available vehicle speed signal then you won't need something like a CANPULSE2. An amp, like the one I bought which can support a 2-ohm speaker, is about $200. Oh, and the microphone to calibrate the EQ for the car is another $20. Plus, factor in the RCA's to go from the front to the rear which can range anywhere from dirt cheap to really expensive. The faceplate my dad got, which is so-so and we are getting more and more tired of it, is like $170. It did come with the brackets to mount a double-DIN radio into the hole that was left, though. A cradle can vary if you want one. They can be as cheap as $10 upto, say, if you want a spiffy German one from either MB or BMW or Audi, $300. Them of course if the cable to adapt your phone to the car. The cradle I bought was $50 plus $15 for the cable.

The, factor in the labor. This can vary quite a bit. I pulled back the carpet, carefully removed the form-fitting foam, and ran the audio out from the headunit to the trunk. This took awhile as the interconnects I used were rather beefy. If I were to do it again, I'd look into removing the driver seat and rear seat, and running the cables down the center of the car, under the rear seat, and into the trunk. In the trunk, once you remove all of what is there (if you like), you will have to determine which cables are constant power and others that turn-on when the key is in ACC. Or, run a remote turn on wire. Oh, and find the diagram for the speakers and there is probably a center speaker (so maybe a 6-channel amp?). Then, you will have to mount the amp somewhere. The amp I chose is kinda big so the only real option would have been under the sub, hanging down a bit, or, against the tank. We chose to mount it against the tank on the X-brace that is there. So, that will involve some fabrication. I then went the extra step and spray-painted all the hardware black so it would be more subdued and not stand out.

Connecting the headunit and all of its counterparts can also be a challenge. Again, if I were to do it again, I would have liked to have run the IP-bus cable into the trunk to where the AMP/CD changer was, and connect the XM radio there. Then, had the XM antenna on the trunk lid. The GPS antenna I hid in front of the rear-view mirror and that is also where I ran the microphone for the hands-free calling. The best thing to do for the headunit, and kinda the only real way, is to label the car wires you need, separate them from the existing looms, and make new ones. Otherwise it's a tangled mess.

I think, two pro-installers, could do it in a day. I say that as they will not have to suffer the learning curve like I did. But, you will probably need two as one will have to tackle the trunk: remove all interior lining, find the proper wires, organize them, make the amp mount, connect everything, finish it all up so it looks nice. Front installer: remove old head unit, identify wires, create new looms, install hands free mic, cradle and associated cables, GPS antenna, XM antenna, install, and probably have to fiddle with the alignment of the headunit in whatever fascia panel you will use.

Oh, you will also have to probably install a new AM/FM antenna. I'd have to check on your specific application, but for the 2001 S500, the COMAND unit sends logic signals to the AM/FM antenna. The antenna is a diversity antenna with FOUR, yes, FOUR antennas. If there is bad reception the COMAND unit will tell the antenna control module to switch to a different antenna. Or, switch to AM. Any ways, the stock antenna will probably not work with an aftermarket head unit. For the 2001 S500, I'll be hiding it in the rear bumper, I bought an AM/FM antenna amp ($15) and I'll install a dipole. This should work. But, a pro-shop would probably charge a pretty penny.

Assuming they knew all this and have the MB WEB ETM/STAR on hand to look up the diagrams. Those diagrams are very helpful.

I should host a workshop or something.
 

·
Registered
2000 S500, 2006 R500, 2003 TT FX35
Joined
·
134 Posts
hate to say this but it is a fact worth noting... this is one mod that no matter how well done, it will cost you quite a bit and at the same time it will also kill the resale value of the car quite a bit...

no matter how awesome the new system may be to you or how well installed, doesn't even matter, it's still going to make your benz worth quite a bit less when resale comes into the picture. this is a great mod to do on a keeper, where resale doesn't matter, but if resale value is a consideration this is something to at least think about...

an upgrade like cmcpro did is probably one of the ways to affect the value as little as possible, there I don't think it would hurt the value all that much, although it still might a little... but nothing like doing a whole aftermarket system...
 

·
Registered
2001 S500
Joined
·
30 Posts
I doubt his grandfather is leasing the S500 or plan on selling soon as its a 2003. It's basically 9 years old at this point and the peak of its value has subsided.

Any ways, I would suggest looking at compatible MB upgrades. See if any other model year COMAND systems will fit in. It's a real PITA to install or will cost some money to do it right. But, I'll help out if you guys need it. Hopefully, there are some other MB options from more recent models that can be retrofitted in. Maybe swap to MOST?

My dad keeps his cars until they are no longer serviceable. So, for him it was a good idea plus my brother and I paid for half of it as a XMAS gift. His COMAND maps were fairly outdated and the COMAND system itself was starting to really flake out.
 

·
Registered
2006 Mercedes S55 AMG
Joined
·
719 Posts
Unfortunately 03 has the best D2b radio available.. A MOST conversion would be far more expensive than what you did, but I guess it would hold value better, although I have to agree with you, at this age I don't think that is much of an issue..
 

·
Registered
2001 S500
Joined
·
30 Posts
Whats the difference between D2B and MOST, aside from bandwidth?

Are the actual connectors different for the fiber optic loop different? Also, what is the color of the fiber optic loop for a MOST car? The D2B is orange, which typically signifies multimode fiber optic. And, it looked it when I was looking at the numbers on the cable. If the MOST is still orange, and it might be, maybe just adapters to go between the MOST connector on the equipment and the D2B on the loop. There is also the D2B wake-up signal, which is electrical, but, maybe that wire can be also reused. If, say, the COMAND itself is the source of the D2B wake-up signal. Or, does it originate from somewhere else? I do remember seeing 5v logic on that wire, but, the TeleAID system was still present in the car. Which may have been the source of said signal.
 

·
Registered
2006 Mercedes S55 AMG
Joined
·
719 Posts
Teleaid is hardwired in. D2B and Most are entirely different. MOST requires an AGW (Audio Gateway) which a D2B doesn't require, all D2B Comand units have that function built in. The wires do look the same but I don't know about the connections. The D2B wakeup is an analog switched AC wire. Like an AMP wakeup the HU sends a signal via the wire and it starts up. Converting to MOST would require replacing all of the fiber optic components plus adding the gateway, chainging cabling, programing etc. I don't personally find it worth the trouble..
 

·
Registered
2001 S500
Joined
·
30 Posts
Wow. That is rather limiting for a great series of cars. Too bad MB did not have some retro fitting options or something of the like.

There was a satellite radio option, no? Or, was that a MOST option?

So, the OP is stuck with what he has, or, going ALL THE WAY. I tell you what though, it just sounds amazing. It really is so much better. I think its the RF amp I chose.
 

·
Registered
2006 Mercedes S55 AMG
Joined
·
719 Posts
No Sat options for D2B.. only after market.. I would much rather go your way then any other way, I just don't like the look of the bezel, there is too much "wood" on each side, I wish the eBay units weren't such junk.. I was almost wondering, if you took that bezel and masked off the wood patern on each side and painted them black, so it looks like the unit is wider, like factory how good or bad that wood look like.. But obviously the way you went is by far the best route..
 

·
Registered
2001 S500
Joined
·
30 Posts
We have toyed with the idea of buying the upper and lower dash pieces that were in later models. Then, using black plastic on the sides of the double-din. Basically what you suggested but with a better matching wood trim.

I think the "lightness" of that wood trim amplifies it. If it was darker then the radio would not stand out so much.
 

·
Registered
2006 Mercedes S55 AMG
Joined
·
719 Posts
That upper lower thing sounds like a great idea! I have seen them darker and they still don't look great.. but that sounds like it would or atleast could look very good..
 

·
Registered
1988 560SL
Joined
·
59 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
Thanks for the advice everyone. Finals week is behind me and I can now pick up all the things I had to drop for school.

My grandpa has asked me when the new S-class will be coming out (2013MY?) and from that question I suspect he plans to upgrade. Unless I strike it super-lucky and he gives the car to me, the most probable option is resale.

I figured that the radio upgrade would probably hurt the resale value. I think I've gathered enough info from the thread here to give him a fair evaluation of benefit vs cost. My opinion at this point is to try and convince him to just wait for the new S class if he wants a radio upgrade. With under 70K miles and no use for 3-4 months of the year, I think he can wait.

Now I just need to play my cards right and see if I can get him to pass the car down to me when he upgrades ;)

TB
 

·
W221 & Audio Moderator
2013 S550
Joined
·
10,874 Posts
I ran a KBB estimate on the car's current value. I assumed 75,000 miles (10K per year), and KBB did not ask for a zip code - both mileage and location would affect the value (4Matics are very desirable in snow country). I assumed Very Good condition, and accounted for the premium wheels. Trade value today is around $16,000. Private sale value is around $18,500, but I don't know all the options the car has. Of course, the value will decrease over time.

Just points to keep in mind, if your grandfather decides to replace it.

When my wife's '92 Town Car was replaced in '00, it was worth about $8K. Rather than trade, she gave it to a lifelong friend of her family, an elderly man who loved Town Cars and whose son was a mechanic who could maintain it. When she replaced her '00 in '05, it was worth about $15,000. She gave it to her brother, so that he could assist an invalid family member with hospital appointments.

So, there is hope.

And no, she isn't getting rid of her '05 anytime soon. Nor am I. :D
 
1 - 20 of 21 Posts
Top