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Posted in things we like by hemmant jha on January 1, 2013

Finding the Perfect Car Stereo in the Age of Excess.

There are car interiors that are good, and ones that are not. Some spectacular, some barely palatable. But I can safely say that all current production aftermarket car stereos (bar one, maybe two) are terribly, weirdly designed things. I cannot think of any modern car interior that would welcome the addition of any of these sterling examples below.

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Sometime ago, I changed the battery on my M Coupe and unwittingly disabled the stereo. In the year 2000, the BMW anti-theft thinktank felt that disabling the stereo in the event of a power cutoff (signaling theft) would be a good deterrent to theft. Based on the VIN number, an authorized BMW dealer would have to provide a unit specific unlock code to ameliorate the flashing CODE WAIT display on the stereo, and the constant silence from the speakers. A BMW dealer did provide the code, which has not worked as yet. This may be due to one of two reasons :

1.0 : BMW stereos were made by both Blaupunkt and Alpine during those glory years, and are not externally marked as such – therefore, there may actually be two manufacturer specific codes, not just one. I have just one, and obviously the wrong one.

2.0 : In their continued wisdom, the anti-theft committee also threw in a twist – the code may only be entered once the car has been driven uninterrupted for no less than an hour. Or possibly left running for no less than an hour while standing still, which seems like a waste of gasoline and has not been attempted.

So this seemed like as good a time as any to change / upgrade the stereo. If only it were that simple. As some of you may be aware, the M Coupe is a rather nice machine – classically appointed with all manner of perfectly aligned metal rimmed analog gauges right below the stereo area. Of course, for anyone with any aesthetic bent, the stereo would have to match up pretty well. No easy task, as illustrated earlier on.

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In addition to design impetus, had the audiophile bug been allowed to fester, there would have remained either a non-working stereo or a gaping hole in the dash. Thankfully, one stereo does exist that meets all needs – the McIntosh MX406. Classic McIntosh looks, sound and build – in production for a few years now, and it’s the the only one from this most venerable of audio legends.

Accept no substitutes (not that there are any).

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