Harman Kardon debuts Drive + Play 2 car integration kit

Significantly updating its earlier Drive + Play Premium Car Integration Kit for iPods, Harman Kardon today announced Drive + Play 2, a color-screened, user-expandable update. The new model begins with the same elements found in Drive + Play—a car-mounted control knob, a separate display screen for iPod menu navigation, and a hub for connection to a car’s cigarette lighter port, your iPod, and the car’s audio system—but upgrades each for a more deluxe user experience.

Rather than running a wire from the hub to the unit’s control knob, Harman’s new knob—still featuring a twist mechanism and buttons for scrolling and selection—is wireless. New features accessible from the control knob include a one-touch “more like this” button that lets you call up more or fewer songs from the same artist, album, or genre, plus an automatic “Dynamic Channel creation” function that auto-sorts an iPod’s content into groupings that can be broadened or narrowed at the user’s discretion. The knob also includes incrementally faster scrolling, bolstered by voice-based letter announcement and voice menu prompting features, letting users hear the menu and/or letter of a song list they’re currently accessing.

A new 3.5” full-color screen is Drive + Play 2’s most conspicuous improvement. Now using an interface that looks more like a Microsoft Portable Media Center than the iPod’s, the unit displays menu options in light blue text on a dark blue background, with translucent highlights, green scroll bars and menu titles, and small icons. Harman notes that the system is additionally compatible with non-iPod portable media devices, and can be expanded with optional modules to include support for Bluetooth mobile phones, Sirius Satellite Radio playback, and future devices and functionality. The Bluetooth adapter will include an embedded microphone for hands-free cellular use, as well as the ability to stream music from an A2DP-supporting phone to the system.

According to Harman, “Drive + Play 2 is easily installed in any make and model automobile using an auxiliary line connection, hardwired FM connection or included wireless FM transmitter,” with the wireless FM transmitter and 3.5mm cable-based audio hub included in the core package. Hardwired connections will require additional installation expertise, but be aided by an included hard-wire harness capable of concealing the hub and cables. It will be priced at $400 – twice the cost of its predecessor – and is planned for Spring 2007 availability.

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