There's no denying it-the iPod is a great little gadget. it's no wonder it's so popular when even an "old fogey" like me has one. I have all my favorite tunes and albums (over 2,000 songs and still counting at this point) on my little white 30-gigabyte iPod, along with some home videos I shot and a plethora of digital photos. The amazing thing is all of this fits into my shirt pocket and barely creates a bulge. Even more amazing, I still have over 10 gigabytes of storage space left for more tunes, pix, and flix.
I like my music and so does my wife, Liz. And we like our Corvettes. Of the six Vettes in our stable, we use Liz's '98 C5 ragtop more than any of the others, so I made sure it was well-equipped to keep us in cruising tunes with an in-dash CD player and a 12-disc changer in the trunk. But even with the capability of having 13 CDs at our disposal at any one time, that doesn't even put a small dent in our musical library. And while we also have the requisite AM/FM stereo radio reception and have tried XM Satellite radio, we have a constant and on-going complaint about radio of any genre: you're always at the mercy and discretion of the DJ and program manager as to what you'll be hearing, and that's just not for us. We like to choose what we listen to, and if that makes us control freaks, well then, so be it.
Now, back to the iPod. The problem is you need earphones or ear buds to listen to it, and that isn't convenient or safe while driving, plus only one person can hear the tunes so the other party in the car isn't a happy camper. The ideal situation would be to get the iPod to play through the Corvette's stereo system, while still giving full control of the tone, balance, and fader, and also providing a convenient way to see what tune/track is playing and to control the little wonder without having to fumble around with the iPod itself.
Apparently, someone else thought a device that could do all this would be a good thing, too, and-voila, the folks at Harman/Kardon produced it. It's called the Drive+Play. They tout it as "the smart way to drive your iPod" and, after installing and using it for a while, I concur with that statement totally.
The Drive+Play consists of three major components: the "brain," which is the heart of the system, the display unit, and the controller. Here's how it works: you plug your iPod into a cable that connects to the brain; this provides power for the iPod and transmits your song data from the iPod to the display unit, which shows you the song, artist, track, time, and other pertinent stuff; another cable leads to the controller, which permits you to control the iPod much in the same way its own controller wheel does, but this is a much more tactile and easier-to-use controller.
If you've ever done any type of stereo installation in your vehicle before, this should be a snap. If you decide this is a bit over the top for you, the dealer you purchase your Harman/Kardon Drive+Play from will probably do the installation for you.
Before I get into the nuts-and-bolts of how to install the Drive+Play, there are a few decisions you'll have to make first. As I said, there are three components to the Drive+Play: the brain, display, and controller, but there's also a fourth component-the iPod itself. So you're going to have to decide where to place these items. The brain gets hidden, so that's an easy one; the display should be placed where you can see it without difficulty; the controller will have to be located where you can reach it conveniently; the iPod will have to be connected to the Drive+Play, so you'll have to decide where you want to put it as well. The display and the controller come with a variety of mounts that give you some choices for their possible locations, but free space in the C5 is pretty well spoken for already.
I, too, gave all of this some thought, and here is what I decided: the brain and the bulk of the excess wiring would be tucked away inside the center dash console; the display unit would reside under the flip-up cover in the console that houses the cigarette lighter and ashtray; the controller would mount just in front of the armrest next to the traction control; and the iPod itself would reside in the armrest console, out of sight and harm's way. Doing it this way provided a noninvasive installation, aside from a small hole I made next to the auxiliary 12V power socket in the armrest console to accommodate the iPod connection cable. But you can place these components anywhere you wish; whatever works for you is the way to go.
I also recommend purchasing the optional Harman/Kardon FM transmitter adapter. This is a direct-wired unit that really improves the FM transmission performance, and it's a simple plug-and-play unit, so it doesn't add any additional work to this installation. Please note that you don't need this adapter to install the Drive+Play since it has its own built-in FM transmitter, which works much the same way as the other devices I covered in the companion article in this issue on MP3 road music to go. The wired adapter, however, totally eliminates all the FM transmission problems you might experience going the wireless FM route, which is why I recommend going with the wired adapter.
One more thing: you're going to need an antenna adapter cable since the C5 stereo radio uses a mini-antenna jack and the Harman/Kardon unit uses a standard jack socket. These are available from the dealer you purchase the Drive+Play from or from your local NAPA auto supply or Radio Shack.
No. 15 Torx driver
10mm and 7mm nut drivers or sockets/ratchet
So that's all there is to installing the Harman/Kardon Drive+Play in your C5. But these same installation steps would also apply to any year Corvette (except for the steps pertaining to the console removal, of course). So if you love your iPod and the tunes you have on it, there's no reason not to take them along for the ride. Enjoy!