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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello all- Posting up some of my install notes and findings for the 2005 SLK350 R171 without COMAND, on replacing the A20 with an aftermarket NAV unit (Kenwood, Alpine, Pioneer etc), if it helps someone else.

Some of this info I found in other threads but nothing was consolidated in one place, or, not entirely correct- and then some things I discovered during the install which should make installing an aftermarket head unit with NAV, CarPlay BT etc very easy. I have been customizing cars / bikes for 30+ years, used to own a high end car stereo install shop (long time ago), computer engineer by trade, and general hobbyist. One of my specialties is audio systems design and speaker design.

My 2005 SLK 350 R171 came with the basic audio system A20, no COMAND, no changer, non-HK. Very poor sound. I mean, really bad- But I'm sure plenty of you know this. German cars are more about the car and performance than about the audio. lol. Which is ok by me because we can always upgrade the sound system :D My SLK had a blown driver side speaker when I bought it. I replaced the driver side speaker with a new old stock unit I found on the internet. Actually, these speakers are rather decent for OEM. The main issue is the horrible head unit sound quality and lack of adequate amplification.

The result after upgrade? A major improvement in sound quality- and retains the stock speakers. Not a little improvement, a lot- like 200% better. The stock speakers actually sound quite good with a clean, high quality audio source (ipod, pandora,) and decent amplification. I think you'll be quite impressed as it is, seriously, a dramatic night / day improvement. IMHO, no need to replace speakers unless you just want to or will be entering a sound-off competition (heh). Plus, now I have current modern conveniences such as proper NAV, phone integration and full display / use of iPhone or Android.

1. I chose the Kenwood DNX893SB as the replacement head unit ($700 refurbished to $1200 new). It has a sleek minimalist design, NAV, CarPlay, Android Auto, very good phone system, color matching for the dash lighting, and has negative tilt for the screen, so it can be tilted perfectly horizontal in the dash to eliminate glare. Kenwood has the best sound quality of all the aftermarket head units if you will not use an outboard amplifier. The internal amplification and A/D conversion chips, are top notch, and all of the DNX units crank the sound. The internal DSP settings, crossovers, sound fields, EQ, are the bet on the market and give you the best sound in any car type.

If you plan to use an outboard amplifier then Alpine or Pioneer are good choices too, as well as the Kenwood. I prefer the Kenwood for its DSP, audio settings and source quality. Whatever brand you choose, always buy one of the top line models. Yes they cost more but they have the proper hardware inside to function well and last a long time. The midline models are always buggy and have issues. For example I have a Kenwood DNX9999HD ($1200) in my Nissan 4x4 truck since 2012, and it has been beat to hell, and still cranks, no issues.

2. For the in dash kit to hold the new radio, I chose the 2DIN KT-MB006RB from Spiral Installations $69.99.
Website store, $69.99 w/ free ship: MERCEDES BENZ SLK-Class 2005-2011 Double Din Radio Dash Kit RUBBERIZED by Spiral Installations

This kit is 100% top notch and 100% OEM match in fit and finish. It has the rubberized OEM coating like the rest of the OE dash pieces. Yes it is $70, but, it is worth it. it is very sturdy and allows you to set the depth of the head unit so it sits nice and flush instead of sticking out like a clown nose. it comes with a new metal sleeve and new bezel that fits standard double DIN head units, and all hardware. and it is very easy to assemble and use. plus it is rock solid. The regular plastic $40-$50 dash kits from Metra etc are only black ABS plastic and do not look right when installed.

3. Next we need to make it easy to wire things up, control power on the new head unit, and integrate with the steering wheel controls. there are two kits that make it very easy. The Metra XSVI-9005-NAV harness kit and a AWSC-1 module. https://axxessinterfaces.com/products?Year=2005&Make=Mercedes-Benz&Model=SLK350 - Wiring diagrams for the R171, install guide are all on the AXXESS website and their tech support is top notch if you have questions.

Metra XSVI-9005-NAV $60 avg. Wiring harness with small power relay box (makes wiring easy and emulates OEM power functions with key just like the A20 - this is required for your install: This kit is a very nice professional wire loom and plug adapter from the Mercedes OEM radio plug to your new head unit wiring. it has a computer black box to control key on / off power and emulate OE operation. It has everything you need for quick proper wiring and has a side plug labeled "SWC" for adding the ASWC-1 steering wheel control interface (below).

Metra AXXESS ASWC-1 $50 avg. Steering wheel control interface (lets you use the buttons on the steering wheel to control volume, seek, answer / end calls etc) - Not required if you don't care about using the steering wheel buttons, or, can be easily added later on. You will use the black ASWC-1 box from this kit and plug it directly into the harness of the XSVI-9005-NAV that is labeled "SWC". Couldn't be easier.

4. Last we need to adapt the OEM antenna plug to the new head unit, $10 avg. You'll need a converter like this one, the Metra 40-EU10 Antenna to Radio Adapter Cable for Select 2002-Up BMW/Volkswagen Vehicles: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000329HEK/

5. Hold your phone securely! The Panavise InDash Phone Mount 75128120
$35 avg. http://www.tss-radio.com/satellite-radio-accessories/vehicle-mounts/custom-vehicle-mounts/panavise-indash-mount-75128-1205.html Very cool, best option for providing a universal mount location for your phone. easy to install and super secure. This is just a base piece though- you still need a "holder" to mount to this. I used the iBold Mini PRO AMPS based holder ($15) with the Panavise. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01EVRS7P2/ - Any holder with an AMPS-compatible base will work with the Panavise piece. So, you need the Panavise piece and then also any AMPS-based phone holder. It is a nice setup.

Install Tips
Where to install the GPS antenna and Microphone:
Let's keep everything hidden and stock looking, but, keep things easy too! Suggestion! Disconnect and remove the lame center dash speaker. This center speaker will do nothing for you except sound horrible and consume amplifier power needlessly. Be sure to at least unplug it when using an aftermarket head unit. The other speakers will still work fine if it is left unplugged, no worries. It is easy to access this speaker when removing the factory head unit. You'll need to remove the center speaker in order to accommodate the below install suggestions for the gps antenna and BT mic.

The aftermarket NAV antenna
will go under the dash forward of the center speaker, after you have removed the center speaker look to12:01 position from you ,looking at the dash, in a recess just forward of the center dash speaker and just under the skin of the dash board. Once you have the center dash pod out and have removed the center speaker, it is very obvious where to put the NAV antenna. It will receive signal just fine under the plastic dash material. but, you do not want a magnetic speaker in close proximity so please remove that dumb speaker :D.. Use double stick tape to secure the NAV antenna and a dab of hot glue to ensure it never moves. Easy wire run to the head unit.

The aftermarket microphone will go under the center dash pod, just under the speaker grill opening.
Now that you have removed the center speaker lets use that location for stealth install of the aftermarket head unit mic. holding the speaker pod upside down, you'll see the speaker grill opening. adhere the aftermarket mic to the plastic of the pod so the mic is pointing straight up at the speaker grill opening. this will ensure it gets good reception from your voice. The Kenwood mic comes with a nice mounting base for the mic and double stick tape. It fits perfectly under there, and I used a drop of hot glue to ensure the mic base does not come off. Easy wire run to the head unit.

For the above items, it is very self explanatory once you have the dash speaker pod removed. nothing special in regards to mounting. these are perfect locations and make the overall install a slam dunk easy process.

Great video on removing the factory head unit:

*note
that removing the auto shift handle requires you to turn a plastic bezel to the left, then pull the handle straight up. the bezel is under the leather boot cover at the base of the shift handle. pop the silver plastic shift base up (forward edge first) that houses the drive indicator, pull it up over the shift handle and you'll see the black plastic bezel. turn that left a 1/4 turn then pull the handle up. install is the reverse process.

*note that you can easily pull out the center dash speaker pod once the cup tray is out.
the pod will pull upward and towards you. pull up gently on the left / right edges and forward edge towards you to unseat the clips, then slide it diagonally upwards towards you. you'll see the small center speaker and it removes with two T20 screws and one plug.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Here are some quick photos of the Kenwood DNX893 install in my SLK 350 R171- The Spiral Installations dash kit is a perfect fit and color match to OEM with its factory rubberized texture. Sure it costs a bit more than the typical dash holder but if you want OEM fit and finish, as well as adjustable depth of install on the aftermarket head unit, this is the one to get.

You can see the Panavise phone base mount off the passenger side of the upper console- I have not yet attached the phone holder to it. the white cable on the passenger side floor board is the iphone connect from the kenwood. There is also a separate android usb connection from the kenwood and I tucked that behind the passenger footwell carpet. That additional usb is needed for occasional firmware updates as well as connecting an android phone. Good to leave it easily accessible when needed.





 

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Hello all- Below is a nice review link of the Kenwood DNX893S with video - From my testing and using it so far, this is actually a very impressive head unit. The sound quality is top notch, and believe me I am very particular with sound quality. I was actually laughing (and so was my wife) with how freaking awesome the stock speakers sound with this Kenwood head unit and good quality audio files via Pandora, Amazon Music, or local music library.

The Kenwood is capable of 192/24 playback from FLAC or AAC files, which is impressive. I thought for sure the stock speakers would simply crap out with the added powr from the Kenwood, but no, they really came to life especially after finessing with the Kenwood EQ and DSP settings. Really nice. Would it benefit from better speakers and an outboard amp / sub? Sure, of course- But really, you should listen to it as is first before incurring the added expense.

With the Kenwood units it is sort of hit n miss with which models work well and which ones are glitchy. the DN893S is definitely at the top of its game.
If you are looking for a simple, all in one self amplified replacement for the stock SLK head unit, you'd be hard pressed to beat the DNX893S.

Sneak peak at the Kenwood DNX893S - Car Stereo Reviews & News + Tuning, Wiring, How to Guide's
 

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Here is a couple of shots of the iBolt phone holder mounted to the Panavise bracket. iBolt Mini PRO AMPS based holder ($15) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01EVRS7P2/
Very solid and well made holder and easy to use. I used some zip ties and some heat shrink tubing to make a "Spacer" on the iBolt holder. it basically holds the right side arm outwards a bit to make it easier to put the phone in / remove it. Once you mount this you'll see what I mean. Doing this is just nice extra convenience factor.



 

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Discussion Starter #6
Adding the R171-specific setup and install docs for Metra XSVI (power harness) and AXXESS ASWC-1 (Steering Wheel Interface box) covered in post #1 . These instructions work fine I used them myself. This also greatly simplifies the wiring of the installation of any aftermarket head unit to the R171 and it is very clean / professional. These adapters may also work for R230 and R170, as well as other similar year model MB's but you would have to contact Metra to confirm. They are very helpful via phone or email.
 

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After much thought I have decided to move forward with this upgrade. I was going to do a custom iPad dash install as I am pretty good with fiberglass and such. The reason for giving up on that idea was mainly the fact that I could not find someone in the area who wanted to take on the challenge of doing rewirring needed to remove the stock headunit and providing the nessesary parts for achieving quality sound. If I tried I am even able to do it. That's if I had the time to focus and figure things out. Having two little kids kind of puts a damper on that.

However this install is a pretty cut and dry install that I can follow along and do myself. No time spent trying to figure things out, just follow along. Ya, I'm sure I might hit a minor snag and have to get some tech support, but for the most part cut and dry. I do have a very good understanding of 12volt with my years of experience with micro-controllers micro-processors.

Wish me luck.:wink:
 

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After much thought I have decided to move forward with this upgrade. I was going to do a custom iPad dash install as I am pretty good with fiberglass and such. The reason for giving up on that idea was mainly the fact that I could not find someone in the area who wanted to take on the challenge of doing rewirring needed to remove the stock headunit and providing the nessesary parts for achieving quality sound. If I tried I am even able to do it. That's if I had the time to focus and figure things out. Having two little kids kind of puts a damper on that.

However this install is a pretty cut and dry install that I can follow along and do myself. No time spent trying to figure things out, just follow along. Ya, I'm sure I might hit a minor snag and have to get some tech support, but for the most part cut and dry. I do have a very good understanding of 12volt with my years of experience with micro-controllers micro-processors.

Wish me luck.:wink:
It will be worth your time if you want good sound. If you have COMAND then it will be a bit more difficult. My posts #4 - #6 cover a non-COMAND system where there is no fiber optic involved and the factory head unit served as both the audio processor and amplifier. With the parts I specified, wiring and in-dash install of the Kenwood head unit is actually quite simple. The stock speakers are actually quite adequate, they sound (a lot!) better when powered by a quality preamp/amplifier and clean source. I was prepared to completely replace the factory speakers but as of yet, no need.

IMO, running an ipad for a head unit will take additional steps and tuning to have it sound good. For starters you will need an outboard 4ch amplifier. You'll then need to run some type of custom app on the ipad that can act as a DSP and EQ the audio, provide some type of F/R fading, low pass crossover for the front and rear channels, and, output an acceptable preamp-level signal to the aftermarket amplifier. Or, run the audio output from the ipad to a hardware DSP processor that can handle those necessary adjustments, then to the amplifier. Otherwise it will sound very marginal - probably like garbage.

To help you get the best result for your efforts, be sure you buy a good head unit like the Kenwood DNX893S. Kenwood's excelon units are the best sounding as far as stand-alone self amplified in dash units go. they have incredibly clean output and very good power, excellent DSP controls and you can really dial in your system to the SLK's stock speakers. Top end units from Alpine, Pioneer and some others are very clean as well but will require using external amplifiers. their built in amplifiers are not nearly as good as the Kenwoon excelon units.

JMHO from someone who used to own a custom high end mobile audio shop, and is an ongoing high end audio enthusiast.

Tuning notes for the SLK with standard speakers, using the very robust Kenwood DSP controls:
I have the F/R fader set to +2 bias towards the rear (fronts are excessively bright and slight rear bias helps balance the system to your listening position)
Low pass crossover cuts off the bass frequency for front at 80hz, and rear at 50hz.
Crossover cut off slope is 18db front and 18db rear - This is critical to clean, loud volume through the stock speakers. by using the low pass crossovers you are controlling excessive bass and keeping the sound clean- but it does not limit or inhibit the "thump" of the system. Anything below 50hz you really do not hear in a car from typical 6" or smaller full range or sub speakers. the rear stock "sub" in the SLK is decent and thumps pretty good- but will not work for outputting much below 50hz. you will however be extremely surprised and pleased with how good the system sounds with these settings applied. the system could use a "real" sub for adequate sound output of 60hz and below frequencies. You could build a high power sealed 8" sub enclosure for the passenger foot well area and hide a digital high power mono amplifier behind the passenger seat. The Kenwood has a very good sub output channel

For EQ settings I have the center midrange frequencies turned down a bit, the front door speaker 8" midbass tends to exaggerate that area of sound. it will not output sub bass which is why it is optimal to cross over the front channel at 80hz so bass starts rolling off at that point.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
There was no computer programming or fiber optic couplers needed ? Did that start with the 2006 or did the Audio 20 never have that level of integration ?
I can only speak for my SLK - the Audio 20 head unit was not using the fiber ring, removing it and replacing it with the Kenwood was very straight forward. However you do need the associated aftermarket power modules / wiring harnesses specified in my posts to be able to power the aftermarket head unit properly and retain use of the steering wheel controls.
 

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Thanks to you

First off I want to say that the reason this install is a simple install for me is because of the hard work you put into it. All the pic, locations for parts and pdf's you posted will be a huge help. Following along should be a breeze, again thanks to you.

I just ordered all my parts. Very excited. I will post an update later. Thanks LA.
 

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Just want to be sure before I make an expensive mistake. If all the 171 (2005-2008) has is an 535 Audio 20 and maybe 536 Sirius then changing the head unit to something like this Kenwood is pretty much plug and play ?

If this is not a good unit, what is a better one given that all I really need is an amp, Bluetooth, and aux input and maybe a CD slot to mount the phone clamp.

I do not need or want NAV, my phone does that for me. Steering wheel control would be nice but not necessary as long as I can still control the dash display however it must not need dealer reprogramming to accomplish this.
 

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First off I want to say that the reason this install is a simple install for me is because of the hard work you put into it. All the pic, locations for parts and pdf's you posted will be a huge help. Following along should be a breeze, again thanks to you.

I just ordered all my parts. Very excited. I will post an update later. Thanks LA.
Good luck and post up some pics and your impressions.
 

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Just want to be sure before I make an expensive mistake. If all the 171 (2005-2008) has is an 535 Audio 20 and maybe 536 Sirius then changing the head unit to something like this Kenwood is pretty much plug and play ?

If this is not a good unit, what is a better one given that all I really need is an amp, Bluetooth, and aux input and maybe a CD slot to mount the phone clamp.

I do not need or want NAV, my phone does that for me. Steering wheel control would be nice but not necessary as long as I can still control the dash display however it must not need dealer reprogramming to accomplish this.
It's actually a great, simple head unit for the money and has good mosfet internal amplification. it does not have all the nice DSP options for tuning in the speakers to optimal sound like the higher line units, but it has enough (EQ, xover etc) to make it worth the low price. if you hate it then you have not wasted much money. you will not be able to really see the display in bright sunlight with top down- that is the one big drawback of this unit. the more expensive excelon units like the one I bought has a much better display and can be seen in just about any lighting situation.

JMHO- it would be silly to not get the steering wheel interface - it is inexpensive, it is easy to wire up, and adds so much value to the install. besides, you are installing the power harness and power module - the steering wheel module plugs into the power module harness as well, there is a built in plug for it. just be sure you do not mix up the module plugs - the steering wheel module and power module look exactly the same so you may want to put a piece of tape on them to tell them apart. and be SURE to plug the modules into their proper plugs on the harness- don;t mix them up or you will burn them up.- one of the plugs on the power harness should have a sticker that says "SWC", that is where you will plug in the steering wheel module. .

having built in nav is a nice backup if you are in a bad cell area. i pretty much use the carplay all the time and the iphone nav, it is really slick displayed onto the kenwood and feels very integrated.

if you do go with the Kenwood DPX592BT i look forward to your finished results.
 

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If you can get them , swap,out the stock A20 speakers with the HK ones (transfer the caps and coils over from the standard units) ... they’re better again , and respond well if you decide, like I did, to add extra amplification ...
 

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Thank you. Is there a Kenwood unit then that is sunlight readable but does not have the Nav ? Where I live, I use my cell phone for just about everything and just have one subscription to manage. Voice is important but do not look at displays while driving.

As to the SWC, just said it was not as important as ease of install, not that it wouldn't be a Good Thing to have.
 

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Thank you. Is there a Kenwood unit then that is sunlight readable but does not have the Nav ? Where I live, I use my cell phone for just about everything and just have one subscription to manage. Voice is important but do not look at displays while driving.

As to the SWC, just said it was not as important as ease of install, not that it wouldn't be a Good Thing to have.
You'll have to research the various Excelon models- I think there may be one that only uses carplay or android and no built in nav, but still has the nicer display - check the kenwood usa website for current models and amazon for older models up to 2yrs past. honestly though, usually you only get the premium features on the premium priced models :D
 

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I understand just often mfrs have a mid-line or badge-engineered model that uses the same electronics as the super-deluxe but at a significantly lower price. Can get lost in specs very easily. Personally like Clarions for a single-Din mainly because I know where the buttons are and are capable of a lot of clear volume.
 

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I understand just often mfrs have a mid-line or badge-engineered model that uses the same electronics as the super-deluxe but at a significantly lower price. Can get lost in specs very easily. Personally like Clarions for a single-Din mainly because I know where the buttons are and are capable of a lot of clear volume.
The SLK has a complex speaker system and layout. It requires a robust head unit -or- head unit + amp combo that has a strong mosfet amplifier section that can handle a decent ohm load, a clean preamp / DSP section, and enough speaker tuning controls to make all of those SLK speakers sound good.

I like Clarion but not for this application. it will not sound good.

Kenwood only puts premium features in their top two models of a given year, and the top model always has a better cpu processor for faster operation. the low priced kenwood you found does have the nice mosfet amp but I doubt it has the good dsp chip. it may however be a decent tradeoff between price and quality results. i can't say for sure though.

I can only share with you what I know works in this particular car and will give very good results. If you plan to deviate then your results will vary.

These would be fairly good and cost less then the one I bought, and has no built in navigation:

https://www.amazon.com/Kenwood-DDX774-DDX774BH-Receiver-Bluetooth/dp/B01N0YTO87/ (good) but not my first choice

https://www.amazon.com/Kenwood-DDX9702S-Bluetooth-Touchscreen-Receiver/dp/B010OR8LPO/ (better)

Kenwood eXcelon Bluetooth Multimedia Receiver - DDX-6904S (best, and has the new clear resistive touch panel) this is the one i would get without nav.

A good mobile audio head unit these days costs $600 to $1000. If you want a good functioning head unit that will last a long time, sound good, work well with phone, and not give you fits later on, I would urge you to spend a bit more here. you don't need to upgrade the speakers so that lets you put more $$ into the head unit.
 

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Got all the part in the mail. Just waiting for my headunit which is supposed to arrive tomorrow. I did go ahead and purchase a refurbished units. So i do have the question about well a refurb units works in comparison to a new unit. Do you know LA_BENZ?

Very excited! I just hope that I don't open up my dash only to find a fiber optic system. My datasheet says Audio 20, but it also says 19" AMG wheels which happens to be incorrect.
 
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