I can only really sing the praises of the ICE>Link product from Dension. My experience has been very positive and the installation into my Audi A3 was painless enough.
However, here it is less than two months later and Dension in their wisdom have closed the support forum at their site. The latest firmware version is 2.05 but I am working happily with v2.03.
But that’s not the point. The forum at Dension was generating a lot of good questions and answers – perhaps too many for the good folk at Dension to handle in such a public way, but now we find that a message placed on the forum (or rather, where the forum was) directs us to hackmycar.com. I don’t know about you, but this is hardly a professional, product centred name for the ICE>Link! In fact it feels as if fitting the product to your car is in fact some kind of grubby activity, hacking into an otherwise good car.
Of course, not all hacking is bad… but it feels as if Dension have abdicated responsibility for their own product – they do maintain a standard email based support system, however.
But hold on… what’s this we see… hackmycar.com is in fact a domain that is registered to Dension Audio Systems, specifically Bela Markaus himself. So what gives here?
Anyway, despite all of that, the ICE>Link is providing hours and hours of brilliant music in my car – I wouldn’t be without it (unless a better product that does a similar thing comes along).
Fitting the ICE>Link is simple – the hard part is getting the stereo out of the dashboard. Once clear of the dash you basically unplug a single connector and replace it with the Dension wiring loop. You then re-plug the original connector into the Dension wiring (which is now attached to your stereo head unit) and add the different pieces of the Dension equipment one at a time to the new bit of wiring.
The head unit connects to the link piece, the link piece connects to the cradle (feel a song coming on yet?) and the cradle gets put where you want it.
There is a stray black wire with no label on it on the model ICE>Link that I bought. This turns out to be an earth wire and just needs attaching to any metal part of the head unit. Until you do the ICE>Link won’t power up. As soon as you have got it installed and powered, put the stereo back in the dashboard, careful not to trap any wires, and get to your computer. You need to go to install.dension.com to download the correct file to load to the ICE>Link, identifying the type of head unit you have. In my case, despite the radio being a ‘Blaupunkt’ I used the ‘Audi’ installer file – the unit is in an Audi after all and will have Audi firmware in the radio.
The next thing to download is the latest firmware. There is an instruction .pdf to read too – essentially you load the car config file (which is an .mp3 file) into your ipod, then play that file as you plug the iPod into the cradle. This programs the ICE>Link to be in the right format for your car. You then follow the instructions for the firmware – again it is a set of .MP3 files which you load to your iPod. You find the ‘set up’.mp3 and play that, and the string of many small files will play one after the other. The counter goes up to 99 on your head unit, but there are many more files than that… wait until the iPod display gives you the message that the firmware update has been successful.
Then unplug the iPod from the cradle, turn off the ignition on the car and turn it back on again. You should find that the ICE>Link is now seen as your CD changer. Most CD changers hold 6 discs, but in this case discs 1-5 relate to the first five playlists on your iPod – set them up as you want! Disc 6, if selected, enters you into the Dension menu on the iPod where you get to set up some parameters. It is here that you can ask to use the iPod UI (User Interface) which I strongly recommend. Be aware that you move between the menu items using the buttons on your head unit, not the iPod (the iPod buttons will be disabled at the moment). Set it up as you want, and you should see a message telling you to remove the iPod from the cradle, or similar to that. When you place it back, it’s all done.
I use the iPod interface because I am familiar with it, but also because it lets me access ANY of the playlists I have, and also set up backlighting, etc which is handy when driving at night.
So, all in all I am still really pleased that I got this product – it is the best way to listen to iPod music in your car if you can get it all working. Shame on Dension for closing their support forums – it makes it look as if they don’t care or even wish to support their own product, but we’ll see how the new forums shape up.
HackMyCar.com… whatever next?!!