Pioneer AVH-X3800DAB In-car Stereo – Upgrade your unit

It finally happened, I got so fed up of the awful MediaNav unit in my Stepway that it had to go – the bluetooth audio streaming was poor, the phone call quality was awful, came through 1 speaker and needed to be at maximum volume, the bluetooth would decide if it wanted to auto connect or make you manually do it and then there was the SatNav part, not an overly bad SatNav but the maps were stupidly expensive!

So I went looking and looked at a lot of units and found that information on their function is somewhat lacking, even the ‘specialist’ in Halfords didn’t know – mind you I had to point out that they hadn’t wired in the speakers to their demo unit!

I had initially found a lower spec Pioneer model but Halfords had this on sale and then an extra 25% discount if you traded in a Sat Nav system, so out came the very old system I bought years ago from Tesco and had outlived its life span!  The result, a very big discount on what started off as a near enough £400 unit!

In the box

I used to install stereos 20 years ago and wasn’t surprised to find that the box design and contents are pretty much the same as then, just the units are more complicated!

  • Head Unit
  • Mounting Cage
  • Selection of screws
  • ISO wiring loom
  • Microphone and clip
  • Installation manual
  • User manual

Installation

Installation isn’t overly difficult but there are factors that can change this, essentially its plug it in and mount the unit.  For me there was a little more involved due to needing cable adapters, fascias and such like.

I also took the opportunity to install a reversing camera and use a standard lightning cable to connect my iPhone.

Setup

Setup is very simple, when you first power on the unit there is a simple question and answer section for the initial setup – this will get you up and running in a matter of minutes and you don’t need to set anything else.

Other settings are more tweaks and customisation of the unit, the menu system is easy to use and very intuitive, my only complaint is that the scroll bar could be bigger meaning you won’t accidentally click into a menu sub-item.

This is an important bit – there is a green handbrake connection cable, if you don’t connect this then you won’t be able to play DVDs, not a massive issue you think, but in addition to this several menu items are disabled, items such as screen callibration and dimmer settings.

You can either connect the wire, or, have a search on ebay for an aftermarket bypass circuit (don’t listen to the people who say ground the green wire, it won’t work) – yes it’ll cost you around £20 but connect those 3 little wires up correctly and it fools the unit into thinking the handbrake is on and will enable all the features and menu options.

Now this unit has the ability to display content from your smartphone, the content it can display depends on both your phone and your connection method.  For me I’ve connected a standard lightning cable into the USB port on the rear of the head unit and installed the Pioneer software from the App store.

The software – don’t bother!!  It has limited app support, unreliable during use and is heavily reliant on your data connection on your smartphone, this last point isn’t a problem providing you have a decent data connection and a generous data bundle.  I have the generous data bundle but I live in Wales and the mobile signal can vary from full 4G to no signal in less than half a mile!

It may be a different case on Android devices but my experience on my iPhone isn’t great.

Use

So my phone is connected via cable to use the iPod option on the unit and via Bluetooth for calls and streaming.  How is this helpful?  Well, I use Sygic for Sat Nav on my iphone as it has lifetime map updates and was a fraction of the price of 1 update from Dacia.  This app will stream the instructons via bluetooth, so I can play my music via the cable and the volume will automatically reduce whilst the voice instructions are announced via bluetooth streaming.  The same is also for playing the Radio and also for streaming music via bluetooth (for other apps like Youtube, Amazon Music etc).

Phonecalls – clear, crisp and through multiple speakers, you can also change your microphone gain if the person you are speaking to is having trouble hearing you, mine is on default and I’ve not had to change it yet.

Bluetooth – has connected each and every time since I installed this unit some 3 months ago.

DVD – only tried it once during initial testing, worked well with a clean picture, thats down to the resolution of the screen.

USB music playback – not tried this yet as my music is on my phone, but I do have a small USB key with my xmas music so that will come out in December.

Quality – the sound quality of the unit is amazing, its loud when I crank it up to 16 and is normally set at 12 with the occasional song being dropped down to 10.  Compare this to the MediaNav where it would max out at 31 (yes I know, what an odd number!) and still not be loud, normal volume was 22-24!

Reversing Camera – comes on automatically when you engage reverse and the picture quality is dependant on your camera, but it does support both PAL and NTSC formats as well as positive and negative signalling.

Verdict

This is a great headunit, so much better than the OE offering from Dacia.  It works for a start which is always a positive, has loads of features, is easy to use and the audio quality is awesome.  The fact that the optional software apps don’t work very well is a bit of a disappointment but its not a major issue as the unit doesn’t rely on it and there are such a small selection of supported apps (especially as in the US there appears to be a larger selection of supported apps).

Update – May 2017

Spotify – Having now signed up to Spotify I’ve had the chance to play with this aspect and I like it, one thing to note.  The free Spotify account will still connect to your phone but the play/pause button doesn’t do anything and you still need to control it from your phone but once you have a premium account this functionality is there.

Music quality is excellent, of course this is down to the data stream and what speed you are connected to your mobile provider, here in the UK I was on O2 and for my drive into work I found other streaming services didn’t work due to poor data connection, however I’ve moved to 3 and I have 4G all through my journey and have never had a dropout or pause.

2 thoughts on “Pioneer AVH-X3800DAB In-car Stereo – Upgrade your unit

  1. Simon Cunvin June 19, 2017 / 5:47 pm

    Grounding the the handbrake wire to the back of the head unit worked for me, and in regards to spotify, i always download my play list to my phone over wifi, then no need to worry about data allowance, or connection 🙂

    Like

    • GFR2 Reviews June 19, 2017 / 5:55 pm

      Apparently some versions of the Pioneer firmware detect the grounding of handbrake wire so for some that trick may not work.
      I have too much data and not enough space on my phone so the download is limited for me, but for my 2+ hours a day in the car streaming works wonders.

      Like

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