Elizabeth’s E63 630i – Dension audio upgrade
When it comes to entertainment in the 630i, I’ve got the radio, a six-disc glovebox-mounted CD changer and, well, that’s about it. There is an auxiliary cable socket but it’s ultra-basic with no control over the music. There’s no USB audio, none of the media mod-cons that we have been spoilt by and are so used to and so I decided to do something about.
Enter Dension; this Hungarian company has been offering aftermarket multimedia connectivity solutions for years and is an expert in its field, producing some of the best one-box solutions for upgrading older car audio you can buy. It just so happens that Dension offers a number of top-notch products for the E6x platform that were perfect for my needs. My top priority was a USB connector, as I have a lot of music stored on numerous USB sticks. Next, iPhone and iPod connectivity is also a must and something I wouldn’t want to be without and you’ll find Apple connectivity across the board with Dension’s range of products. Finally, I also wanted DAB; analogue TV is long gone here in the UK and it’s only a matter of time before the government makes the decision to switch off the analogue radio signal and I wanted to ensure the 630i was future-proofed on the radio front. There are numerous standalone aftermarket DAB radio solutions out there but I don’t like any of them because they’re add-ons to your existing audio setup rather than being integrated, requiring you to have a separate DAB pod mounted somewhere in order to be able to access digital radio stations. You can also buy DAB-equipped head units but, in modern BMs, replacing the head unit isn’t really an option, certainly not if you want something that looks like it belongs in your dashboard. I wanted something that would integrate with iDrive perfectly and allow me to access DAB as if it had been a standard-fit component of the whole system and here, too, Dension has got you covered.
Having browsed the company’s product range and checked out which box of wonders offered what, my Dension device of choice was the Gateway 500S. Designed to work with cars using the fibre optic MOST system, it offers all the Apple connectivity you could possibly want, USB music playback and perfect iDrive integration. There are a number of different flavours available; the Gateway 500S plugs into the iDrive where your CD changer would normally be, thus replacing it, but I opted for the slightly more expensive dual FOT model, which allows you to retain your existing CD changer. You can also get one with Bluetooth, which allows you to stream music to your car if you so desire. The only thing I needed to add was the optional DAB module, which plugs into the Gateway, giving me the digital radio functionality I wanted and all that added up to under £450, which is not bad at all.
Once all the Dension goodies had arrived I headed off to BMSport to get the whole lot fitted; step one was coding the iDrive as per the instructions in order to ensure everything would work properly and then fitting could begin. This required the CD changer to be removed from the glovebox in order for the Gateway and DAB module to be plugged into the car’s fibre optic cables, power supply and CD changer connector so that the iDrive would recognise the whole setup. The guys tucked everything away neatly and then connected up the CD changer to the Gateway, allowing me to have and use both devices. The DAB antenna was mounted to the windscreen and the USB connector was fed into the glovebox and with that, installation was complete. Coding aside, if I’d been feeling a little braver I might have even been up for having a go at fitting it myself, but I’m one for getting stuff done properly by professionals.
So, the big question: how does it work? I am pleased to report that the answer to that is: brilliantly. All you have to do is pop into the Entertainment menu in iDrive and select the CD changer option and you instantly have access to the Dension components; everything is controlled via the iDrive controller and steering wheel buttons and it works faultlessly. It takes a bit of learning to understand where everything is and what menu does what, but that’s what the instructions are for… Audio sources are organised by pages; CCC iDrive can only display a certain number of options on a single list, so the Gateway splits up radio stations and audio files onto separate pages that you access and scroll through to find what you’re after. USB playback couldn’t be simpler as you can scroll through music by artist, album or song and there are numerous playback options and the steering wheel buttons allow you to skip tracks as you would expect. With DAB you are spoilt for choice when it comes to radio stations and scrolling through them all, choosing and changing between them couldn’t be easier.
There are some really useful features too, like being able to set separate volume levels for each different source; with DAB radio, for example, I’ve always found it to be a little quieter than its FM counterpart, so here I can tweak the volume so that I don’t have to turn it up and down if I’m switching between the two. And, if I find that my MP3 playback volume is much louder than the radio, I can adjust that separately too. It’s a really clever and useful feature and just one example of how Dension has thought of things you didn’t even realise you needed. Above all else, the greatest praise I can give the whole Dension setup is that it just works, which is all you ever want, really. The integration is perfect – you wouldn’t even know it was an aftermarket addition and iDrive makes browsing all the menus a breeze and all the controls are perfect. It’s the sign of a truly exceptional aftermarket product when it feels like a piece of OEM gear. I also think it’s exceptionally reasonably-priced, especially when you consider the functionality you’re getting; in fact, none of Dension’s offerings are expensive and whether you just want DAB, an integrated Bluetooth solution or the full audio works, Dension has got you covered with something for every requirement. I’m over the moon with my Dension setup, it’s the perfect way to add modern tech to older tech and it works brilliantly, so I couldn’t be happier and having this on-board has made spending time in the Six even more pleasurable.
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