When I purchased by Nissan Pathfinder back in December, I was faced with a difficult decision. I could either get a barebones audio system and the interior I wanted, or I could pay an additional $3000 to get an audio system that included Bluetooth and support for A2DP audio streaming (from my smartphone). Oh, and I also got leather and an overpriced label on the stereo and speakers. I decided to save the $3000 and go the aftermarket route to fulfill my audio needs.
Unfortunately, Nissan’s “interpretation” of the Double DIN standard is slightly larger and includes an asinine “hump” across the top to allow for the oversized navigation dial on the radio unit. So the only way to get a true “factory” appearance with an aftermarket radio is to do some fiberglass work. I’ll continue looking for other options.
In the interim, I stumbled across a company called New Potato Technologies and a bluetooth audio adapter called TuneLink Auto. Priced at a buck under $100, I thought I would give it a shot. I actually found it on Amazon.com for $88, and with my Prime membership I also had free shipping. I ordered it last week and it arrived last Friday.
Inside the box was the bluetooth adapter, which plugs into the cigarette lighter, as well as a 3.5mm audio cable and a usb-to-iDevice cable (I ordered the iPhone version because it was $12 cheaper than the Android version, even though I have an Android phone, and it works perfectly). Connecting the device was simple. Plug in the device to the cigarette lighter, plug the 3.5mm audio cable into the adapter and then the AUX input on the radio. Set the radio input to AUX. Then, it was time to pair my phone with TuneLink by going to my Bluetooth settings on the phone, scan for devices and pair with the device named TuneLink.
Next, I fired up Spotify (of course) and … nothing. I reached for the directions … NO! I was not going to read the directions. I went back into my Bluetooth settings and clicked the Config button. There it was! I clicked the checkbox for “Use for media audio” and BOOM! AWOLNation was SAIL-ing!
I downloaded the TuneLink app from Google Play, which has some settings that I really liked. For starters, I enabled Auto Connect and Auto Play, which will automatically pair with my phone and start playing music from the default media player. Which means we need to set our default media player. On Android, that means clicking the menu icon, selecting Music and then All Apps. Scroll down to Spotify (or your favorite music player). First, click the Default checkbox, then click Spotify (you can change this in Settings later if needed). Now, whenever you start your vehicle, Spotify will automatically connect to the TuneLink and start playing.
If you don’t have an AUX jack on your radio, you can use the FM Modulator built into the TuneLink and, using the app on your smartphone, select an available radio station to channel music through. I found the audio quality to be poor, so I will be using the AUX input on my stereo.
The TuneLink adapter also has a USB jack to support charging of your smartphone, which is a nice accessory to have. This USB jack also features 2.1 A output, which supports charging of most devices.
The TuneLink includes a feature called HumBuster, which eliminates electrical noise. In my experience, this feature has worked very well, with virtually no detectable noise while either idling or driving.
TuneLink Auto is only a Bluetooth audio adapter for A2DP streaming. It does not support hands-free phone operation, and that is okay with me. I never have been overly pleased with hands-free systems that come factory installed, but I have looked at options like the Parrot MKi9100, simply from a safety perspective.
I am very pleased with the ease of setup of the TuneLink Auto, having the whole thing up and running in about 15 minutes. It’s a good thing, too, as it was 103 degrees that afternoon, and at least that warm in the garage where I was working with this. The best features are the Auto Connect and Auto Play, as that was always the biggest annoyance to me when I was connecting the 3.5mm input directly to my phone (Start the car > Plug in phone > launch Spotify > select playlist > select song/click play > arrive at destination > turn on phone > stop playback > unplug phone > turn off car. Repeat). Now, I start the car, the phone establishes a connection, Spotify is launched and within 10 seconds music is playing.
One thing I found confusing. Prior to purchase, I was looking at Amazon and saw it listed for $87 last Tuesday. When I actually purcahsed it on Wednesday, it was $78. And when I looked it up to write this review, it was back to $87. Not sure why, but if it were me, I would watch it for a few days prior to ordering, or try to order on Wednesday and see if you can save $10!
I hope you enjoyed reading this review, and that the information included can be helpful to you. If you have any questions about TuneLink Auto or are looking for clarification on how this device might work best for you, please leave a comment below. Thanks again for reading, and check back next week for a review of how you can get whole-home audio for less than $50!
UPDATE October 2013
My opinion of the TuneLink Auto has changed since my original review, and here’s why. After working flawlessly for about 8 weeks, it suddenly died. So I contacted Amazon and ordered a replacement unit. The replacement unit arrived and worked for 8 minutes before crapping out. Just like the one I ordered for my wife’s car and for my brother’s Christmas present. I replaced mine one more time and it once again worked for about 6-8 weeks before dying. If you’ve had better luck with the TuneLink Auto, I’d like to hear about it in the comments.