Glen Turner (vk5tu) wrote,

Standards and car stereos

The Fader knob falling off was the last straw. I could cope with the lack of display and needing to change the volume with a coin in place of its broken knob, but not being able to have ABC Local Radio loud enough in the driver's seat without objections from the Anything-But-AM crowd in the back seat broke my will.

So, off looking for a solid CD+tuner. The Pioneer DEH-1950 is such a beast. Price ranged from $90 (JB Hi-Fi, Father's Day catalogue) to $210, so it paid to shop around. Strathfield and the like wanted another $90 to $120 for installation -- a job I can now estimate should cost less than $60 based on time and materials (using the standard hourly rate for auto electricians, since the skill level of an auto electrican would be higher than that of a car stereo installer). The products were designed to hit price points (up to $400 for the same chassis I bought): so I ignored the lure of additional features and stuck with the bottom of the range.

For the Luddites, I saw one cassette player in my travels.

Physical installation was simple. Thank you DIN for your standard-sized mounting. Of course, Pioneer had to subtely undermine DIN's work, their DIN-sized mounting not using the DIN mounting technique and the DIN special tool. I don't think the Pioneer arrangement is any more resistent to theft. Both the DIN mounting and the DINish Pioneer mounting can be abused to bolt in the unit at the rear, which I did so that the unit cannot merely be removed in a few seconds using the special tool.

The electricals were stupidly complicated. The old and new units had sockets, but they were different. The new stereo came with a header and pigtails. So the only thing to do is to reverse-engineer the old header, cut off the old header, and solder and shrinkwrap the pigtails to the cut wires. Total nonsense -- there's no reason the socket couldn't be standardised and all cars come with the matching header. Space in cars around the dash is too tight and too plastic for ordinary folk to be stuffing about with soldering irons.

Economists will see what is happening here. The difficulty of installation can be used to tie the sale to the installation -- and none of the "car stereo installers" I asked would install a car stereo purchased elsewhere. So we've got a market which cuts out the box movers -- the $90 units -- and forces most customers (those lacking electrical knowledge and soldering skills) into paying more for the unit and for installation on top of that. And installation is liable to be overcharged, since the ordinary customer cannot judge the skill required and the amount of work involved.

A lot of which would be fixed by forcing a standard connector onto the industry. In practice, importers would toss an adaptor into the box. Needless to say, Standards Australia are nowhere to be found.

The "car stereo installers" might not lose much business. The process of teenage boys buying doof-doof noisemakers is unlikely to resemble a rational puchasing decision.

Tags: rant
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