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Hey guys. I was doing some fine tuning to my wire routing today for the handsfree kit and decided to do a little experiment. I have a Blaupunkt single DIN radio unit that I used in my previous car. It was working fine when I took it out in April and was sitting on a shelf since. I decided to see if it would work with Saab, since it has exactly same layout of connectors in the back (double ISO connectors with the same pin assignment and german style antenna connector). So I put it in, it fits perfectly, but doesn’t work. I read before that some people don’t get sound right because of the amp but their head units work. Mine didn’t turn on at all. No power, no nothing. Another weird thing – after turning ignition on SID displayed the info on how many keys and transponders are programmed to the car (normally displayed when you press “trunk open” button but I didn’t press it). That was puzzling… I then took it out and put the stock (pioneer) head unit back and everything worked fine. Oh, I have the SE version with HK setup.

So my question is why my Blaupunkt didn’t work? Does the stock head have to be divorced before any (even aftermarket) other unit is plugged in? Can Saab computer cut the power to radio if the stock head is not responding and was not divorced properly? Or is there something wrong with my Blaupunkt (unlikely, fairly new unit, known to be very sturdy, and worked perfect last time I checked)?


Thanks!
 

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Hi Walmark,

I successfully transplanted a Sony minidisc head unit and CD changer from my old car, but Saab have not made it very easy. IMHO the stock system is totally overengineered for the rather average results it delivers.

The ISO connector is supposed to be standard, but some manufacturers have slightly different interpretations of it.

Some manufacturers swap the battery and ignition switched supplies over. Also, some of the auxiliary pins for dash lights, automatic antenna, etc, vary between cars. If you want to install the new unit, I suggest you only connect up the pins you need, such as battery, ignition switch, ground, etc and leave the rest disconnected. Your head unit may be putting out voltages onto pins which SAAB use for other purposes. It's further complicated by the fact the Saab headunit talks to a I-bus data circuit to operate the CD changer, check its marriage status, put messages on the SID, and get instructions from the steering wheel controls. Putting any wrong signals onto this bus will cause all kinds of problems.

The car will still supply power to the connector even if the old radio has not been divorced or is not detected as being present.

However, the biggest problem is that SAAB in their infinite wisdom fitted an external amplifier to the system which is mounted in the footwell (drivers side in the UK, passenger side most other places) and the front/rear left/right outputs from the headunit are low-level line outputs, which must be amplified by the amplifer before being applied to the speakers. An aftermarket head unit will have internal amplifiers which will drive the speakers directly, but Saab's wiring loom will connect these high-level outputs into the inputs of their amplifier. The result, at best, will be extremely loud and distorted audio, at worst it will be a damaged head unit and amplifier.

In theory you could bypass the amplifier by removing it, and connecting the outputs from the headunit directly to the speakers. However, this is not simple, as the SAAB amplifier also contains active cross-over filters to pass the bass to the door speakers and the mid and highs to the dash speakers via separate amplifier channels, all in the one box. A standard aftermakret head unit will not be able to do this and will need external passive crossovers installing.

I solved the problem by transferring a 4-chan amp from the old car, and buying an external active crossover unit. I feed the front output of the head unit into the crossover, and use the four chan amp to give to two bass channels, one to each door, and two mid/high channels to each dash speaker. I disconnected the wiring plug to the SAAB amp, and "spliced" in the speaker cables from the new amp, to use the existing wiring to the speakers. All in, it took 2 weekends worth of fiddling about, and is not a job I would recommend to anyone unless they are confident. The standard speakers are not up too much either, so perhaps one day I will get round to replacing those too.

A good website to get the audio wiring info from is:-
http://www.mitt-eget.com/saab/faq_audio.shtml

regards,

Alan
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks Alan, that was exactly the answer I was looking for. I am not looking to replace my audio system, just wanted to know why a standard aftermarket unit may not work.

Contrary to your observation though, I found the Harman Kardon system in my saab to be excellent, on par or better woth most today's high end car audios (including Audi Symphony in recent A8). I wonder why you had a different experience? Did you have the AS3 Prestige system with amp and speakers by HK? Or the regular (Premium) Pioneer setup? I heard there is a whole world of difference between them.

Thanks a lot for your answer, I'll keep my Blaupunkt for my g/f's car.

Cheers
 

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Mine was the standard (AS2?) Pioneer CD/tape unit, with external amplifier. I believe the basic (CD only - AS1) does not have the amplifier, so would presumably be easier to fit an after-market HU into.

Unfortunately I have not heard the HK unit, but a few people have said it sounds much better than the standard unit. Shame SAAB have made it nigh on impossible to do an after market upgrade from the Pioneer to HK system. Seems a very ignorant approach, that only the original purchaser gets to choose what audio system is fitted, and that any subsequent purchasers are stuck by that decision.

Audio systems are such a matter of personal taste/preference that manufacturers should be more flexible in upgrades/alterations.
 
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