Parrot MKi9200 in Astra H + UNIKA

Written by Haydn Williams

I’ve recently part-installed a Parrot MKi9200 into my Vauxhall Astra, with a Parrot UNIKA to enable me to control the Parrot using the steering wheel buttons in the Astra. This post isn’t a full installation guide, but is just the interesting tidbits I picked up along the way, or questions I couldn’t find the answers to before I bought and installed the kit. This installation was in a 55 plate Astra H Design estate, with a standard CD30 stereo and the graphical display screen. The Parrot came with software version 1.4, but was upgraded to v2.1. Instructions for this are on the Parrot website.

A full installation guide including wiring diagrams for the Parrot can be found on the Parrot website. There’s also a Quick Start guide for the UNIKA. That’s a general guide; if you use the “Compatibility” tab on the UNIKA support page then you can get a guide specific to your car. I’d strongly recommend doing this, as there are important details regarding what Bus your car uses, the Mode which the UNIKA will run in, and the pin-outs from your stereo. The guides are generally quite good, except for one small glitch with the Astra-specific UNIKA guide – see below for more info.

GENERAL NOTES

  • Music and phone calls come through all four speakers (two front, two rear).
  • The Parrot is completely independent of your stereo (the SOT lead you use to connect the Parrot stands for “Sound On Top“, and that’s exactly what it is – Parrot sound on top of whatever else is already connected to the speakers, i.e. the stereo). This means that none of the controls on your stereo have any effect whatsoever on the Parrot, and therefore no effect on the volume of calls or the bass/treble of music, for example. The Parrot has its own amplifier, volume and sound controls (including an EQ and some presets).
  • If you install a UNIKA, you can still use the buttons to control your stereo, as per factory settings. You press a special key combination to activate the Parrot menu, so there’s no loss of function (although make sure you read the section about mute cables, below).
  • If you’re using an iPhone then you won’t be able to sync your Contacts’ photos to the MKi9200. Users of phones with Symbian, Windows Mobile or Blackberry OS’s are in luck though (page 25 of the manual).


INSTALLING THE UNIKA

1) Make sure the Parrot is installed correctly
It will show the  message “goodbye” on screen when the ignition is turned off. If the screen just suddenly goes dead then you need to swap the red (12V constant) and orange (12V ignition) wires as described on page seven of the installation manual. Note that I did have to swap the wires around on my Astra H.

12V permanent and ignition wires from UNIKA to vehicle supply - note the swap between red and orange.  © Haydn Williams 2012
12V permanent and ignition wires from UNIKA to vehicle supply – note the swap between red and orange. © Haydn Williams 2012

2) Pay attention to the “Mute” wires

There are three sockets labelled ‘Mute‘ on the Parrot wiring loom which you may wish to connect to the UNIKA mute wire. This determines whether the stereo knows that an external source is connected, and ‘mutes’ accordingly. Why is this important? Because it can have an adverse impact when you’re listening to your car stereo (radio or CD) and try to use the UNIKA to navigate through the Parrot menu to call someone, for example. The buttons on the steering wheel control the Parrot via the UNIKA magic, but if the ‘mute’ wire isn’t connected then the button presses will also be carrying out their original functions too at the same time, i.e. switching radio stations and controlling the volume on your stereo in the background. If you connect the ‘mute’ wire then when you access the Parrot menu, the stereo ignores the commands. This means your button presses only affect the Parrot, and your stereo remains unaffected. There are three mute wires on the Parrot loom – I found that number one was the correct one for my CD30.

The lone yellow 'mute' wire from the Parrot to the selected socket on the SOT lead (number one in my case). © Haydn Williams 2012
The lone yellow ‘mute’ wire from the Parrot to the selected socket on the SOT lead (number one in my case). © Haydn Williams 2012
With the 'mute' cable connected, the stereo will display "Extern in", and will ignore the steering wheel controls when you use them to control the Parrot. © Haydn Williams 2012
With the ‘mute’ cable connected, the stereo will display “Extern in”, and will ignore the steering wheel controls when you use them to control the Parrot. © Haydn Williams 2012
If you leave the 'mute' cable unplugged, you get to keep the nice display without the "Extern in" message, but the steering wheel controls will play havoc with your stereo when you use them to control the Parrot. © Haydn Williams 2012
If you leave the ‘mute’ cable unplugged, you get to keep the nice display without the “Extern in” message, but the steering wheel controls will play havoc with your stereo when you use them to control the Parrot. © Haydn Williams 2012

3) Work out where the CANBUS cables go
The UNIKA wiring diagram provided by Parrot shows CAN-H and CAN-L wires leading into the middle of nowhere (page four). Needless to say, they do actually need to be connected to something! On the next page, it states that they should be connected to the CAN-H and CAN-L pin-outs on the car stereo. This is fine in theory, but in practice there’s a sodding big wiring loom plugged into it. The solution is to solder / tape / staple / blu-tack the UNIKA wires into the existing CAN-H and CAN-L wires. Rather than do this directly into the car’s loom, I’d recommend following some advice I was given and doing it into the SOT lead (if you mess it up,  it’s much easier to replace the SOT lead than the car’s loom!). I actually chose to wire in some sockets instead of directly wiring the UNIKA in; this means I can easily just plug the UNIKA in, and easily remove it in future if required. The sockets came from Halfords for the princely sum of £1.69, and were crimped to fit (backed up with tape!).

The plug on the SOT lead which goes into the back of the stereo. I cut the CAN-H and CAN-L cables from the UNIKA into the grey/blue and white cables which have been detached from the rest in the photo. © Haydn Williams 2012
The plug on the SOT lead which goes into the back of the stereo. I cut the CAN-H and CAN-L cables from the UNIKA into the grey/blue and white cables which have been detached from the rest in the photo. © Haydn Williams 2012

4) Figure out which buttons are which
The UNIKA runs in Mode ‘B’ on an Astra, which means it has five buttons available for use. The controls for the buttons are explained in the manual. The image below shows which steering wheel buttons are used by the UNIKA, using icons from the manual.

How Astra buttons match to UNIKA controls.
How Astra buttons match to UNIKA controls.

2 thoughts on “Parrot MKi9200 in Astra H + UNIKA

  1. Paulo Leal says:

    Hello.

    Can you help me? I’m trying to do the same as you in my Astra H. I have for 11 years and now is “needing” a parrot.
    Can you tell me what 12v ignition source did you use? I tried the lighter but its permanent in my car.

    Thank you very much.

    Kind regards from Portugal.
    Paulo Leal

    • Hi Paulo. I’m afraid I really don’t remember, and I no longer have the car so can’t check for you. Sorry, and good luck! Haydn.

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