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      06-02-2012, 05:23 AM   #1
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Location: Sandbach

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Post Review: The Infamous BMW Y Cable

The Infamous BMW Y Cable

What is it?
The BMW Y cable is for those who did not opt for the Enhanced Bluetooth facility- which for some reason enables the user to plug a standard iPod / iPhone cable directly into the USB port of their car. Without this feature, BMW force you to purchase an over priced (but well built I will add) 'Y' cable. It is called a Y cable, as it splits from an iPod connector to USB and Aux (3.5mm stereo jack)- thus using both ports in your arm rest.

The downsides
The Y cable has a couple of downsides to it. The first being that it requires both inputs in your armrest- preventing anything else from being attached. You might be thinking; why does it need both ports? And even though I will explain why right now, you will still be wondering why they did this, when less expensive manufactures offer the feature for free. It actually feels like BMW went out of their way to build a system which involved the end users who didn't opt for the more expensive features, to spend more money anyway.

Why does it need both ports?
You need both ports because, the USB port allows the iDrive to read the music and display it to you on the screen. The interface is pretty good, allowing you to browse just as when using a USB stick. It is not, however, 100% compatible with iTunes match. Any music you have previously played, or chosen to download via your iPod app will be available to play, but nothing else will be. I also experianced this limitation on gym equipment, so believe its more an apple problem, not offering the correct APIs to let older equipment work in a seamless way.

The Aux input comes into play once you find a song to play, and click play- which is when the music is streamed, over analog, through the aux input. Pretty crude, but it works.

Sound quality
The sound quality that comes out of the Aux input is an area of debate. The same song file being played via USB and iPhone sounds Undoubtedly better when being played via the USB stick. The why could be because of a number of things:
  • The USB stick is playing via Digital output, while the iPod / iPhone is outputting via Analog
  • The USB stick has a high quality MP3, where the iPhone has downloaded what could be (unkown to us) a lower quality M4A, optimised for streamed download via iTunes match.

I gave Spotify a go, which needs a Spotify Premium account, which you can get a 30 day trial from here My results found the following:
  • You can play music using spotify
  • Artist and Album are displayed on the iDrive screen
  • Track is not displayed, instead a 'Please Wait..' is displayed indefinitely
  • Using the scroll on the steering wheel results in some random tracks being displayed from your iPod- which upon selection will switch back to iPod play
  • You cannot browse for music using the iDrive

The conclusion on spotify is that it's useful, if you have hands on access to the device. I think spotify could probably do more in getting the track information out, and Apple provide better 3rd party support for apps.

Where the iPhone offers convenience of having all your tracks available to you, the USB stick has better quality music. I think I'll keep the Y cable, and route it to my dashboard dock for use with spotify- but only for those new tunes, which you just want to quickly play- for dub step, it has to be USB every time.

How can i buy one?
You should only buy one from your BMW dealer, or if you are 100% sure you are buying an original from eBay or Amazon or similar. This is due to BMW's fantastic idea to put a chip in the split on the cable, ensuring that it will only work properly with an OEM cable.

I got 12.5% discount on the item, which resulted in it costing me 37. Make sure you ask nicely