Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Installing a modern stereo in the old Miata for Apple CarPlay

Hey! Long time no post! Yes, I'm still here - alive and kicking, and the Miata sometimes gets a little attention. Nowadays it's garaged 600 miles away from my main digs and I only get to see it a few months of the year, but when I am with it, the magic is still there. I actually drive it more miles per year than I did for the last five years before I got it painted and fixed it up.

Anyhoo, when I'm at our place in Florida, I get really bored and need things to do, because...well, just because. So last year I decided I would update the technology stack inside the Miata from 1990 tech to 2022 tech. In our other car, we have Apple CarPlay from the factory and we do use it quite a bit for navigation and streaming music and podcasts. So I figured that'd be a nice upgrade for the Miata, even though I never take it on long trips. I still need navigation around town sometimes and well... see above - I was bored. So the pictures here in this blog post show what I did. It's a Pioneer DMH-W2770NEX. It is pretty no-frills, actually. It just has basic stereo receiver, bluetooth, and wireless CarPlay functions (Android Auto, too but I don't use that).

As I am a terrible documentarian, these photos are a bit jumbled and not very well conceived. BUT they do sort of show what I did so let's just go with it. I was able to use the factory stereo bracket to mount this unit. That was just luck. So I didn't need any sort of adapter

As you can see, the NA Miata's stereo mount opening is not really double-din. It's a bit taller so there's a gap under the stereo unit. The following pics show how I dealt with that. For transparency, I didn't dream this up on my own. I found a YouTube video and just copied what they did.

I fashioned some little brackets from aluminum stock to attach to the factory bracket, and a faceplate filler from some bigger stock Plasti-dipped for color. I bought some small cap head screws with washers and bolts to hold it all together and there you go. You can see how the factory bracket isn't really a perfect fit for this stereo, but I was able to get one bolt in a good hole, and two others were a little off but overlapped the bracket just enough to get a hold on it. It's actually quite solid and I'm really glad I didn't have use some stupid adapter kit.

Above, another pretty good view of the three machine screws holding the unit to the factory bracket.

The cap head machine screws with a washer actually look pretty factory. I like it when things don't look too janky. I mean a little janky is ok, but not TOO janky.

Hey, here you can see the Coco mats.

Yeah... it's a little janky.

It's not perfect and I marred the plasti-dip finish a little when installing it, but it's perfectly acceptable.

It pretty much looks like it belongs there, so I'm happy.

Once this was in, I thought it sometimes sounded fine, and other times sounded pretty bad, so I opted to replace the 25 year old Pioneer door speakers with some slightly larger (6.5 inch) Kenwood speakers. It improved the sound a bit, but it's still pretty sad. I've found that when streaming audio from Apple Music to this unit, sometimes it sounds really crappy! If I'm playing songs stored directly on my phone it's quite a bit better. So I'm not sure why but it seems like sometimes the streaming quality drops. My phone is a current model iPhone so maybe it's the wireless CarPlay connection. I'll try it wired and see if it makes a difference, but in any case, I think this stereo would benefit greatly from an amp and maybe a small sub. It's not a big priority for me since I don't really need to listen to music in this car, but maybe the next time I'm bored and need something to do I'll address it.