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5th Gen ('95-'99): Delco/Delco swap - cassette to CD unit with aux input jack

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5th Gen ('95-'99): Delco/Delco swap - cassette to CD unit with aux input jack

Old 05-30-2015, 07:06 AM
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Default Delco/Delco swap - cassette to CD unit with aux input jack

Ever since they first came out in the mid-'90s, I liked most of Delco's car radios, mainly the ones made for Chevy/GMC and Pontiac. They were a great improvement over the older tiny-button units. These ones from the mid- and late-'90s have a nice ergonomic design, making the most-used buttons larger and placing them on the left, and the least-used ones smaller and on the right. Even now, these are the radios I think of first when it comes to good design, especially for OEM factory-issue units.

With my previous cars, I've replaced the stock radios with good aftermarket ones from Sanyo, Denon, and Sony, and each one was a definite improvement for reliablilty, sound quality, and features. Even so, with the smaller 7" x 2" regular DIN-size units, it's just unavoidable to end up with itty-bitty control buttons; that's why I still think that GM's (and Chrysler's) idea for bigger radio control panels was a good one.

So my '95 Monte still had its original Delco/Chevy AM-FM-cassette unit, and the stock four-speaker setup too. (No duplicate controls on the steering wheel, but since the radio was already close at hand on the right, the duplicates aren't needed anyway.) I haven't used cassettes as a part of my on-the-road entertainment since, let's see… 2001? No doubt then that an upgrade was needed here.

I noticed that various independent car-electronics outfits and entrepreneurs have been selling refurbished Delco units on eBay for about five years now, and not only that, they're adding 3mm auxiliary input jacks for mp3/iPod compatibility as well. Cool, now I could get CD and iPod personal playlist music in the car again, just by swapping out one Delco for another. Simple as that!

The seller I went with was 1factoryradio out of Richmond, Virginia; they had the Delco/Chevy CD unit I was looking for, and had just recently lowered their price for it, too. (Great service, and the new unit does everything it's supposed to, 100%.) When I got it, I noticed the new radio had a mini-fan built into its back panel, whereas my stock cassette version did not. Even so, there were no radio fit problems; just undo two screws in the front silver side brackets, unplug the antenna jack and main harness in the back, and out slides the old unit. The new one slid in to replace it like it was meant to. In fact, the hardest part of the whole swap was having to reattach the large main dashboard panel, wrestling it around the steering column with the 5th-gen's deep left-side pocket sticking out and making re-attachment difficult.

So once everything was finally back in place, the time had come to turn on the new unit and test it out a little; and when I did, I got a few pleasant surprises. First, the volume **** now takes only about one twist to go from quiet to loud, while the one on the cassette unit took two or three. Nice; and not only that, the new unit made the stock speakers really wake up & come alive. I was not expecting that! It must have a stronger built-in amp or something (probably what the mini-fan on the back panel is for). The sound overall seems twice as good as it was, both on FM radio and when playing CDs. Speaking of CDs, this unit will play computer-burned CD-Rs just as well as regular commercial-album CDs, as long as they're recorded in the normal "Audio CD" format. (The unit is still too old to read mp3-encoded CD-Rs, but that's not a deal-breaker to me.) And of course, the song shuffle function is there and works fine; can't exactly do that with a cassette, can we?

Now for the "something extra" part: the 3mm auxiliary audio input jack to enable mp3 player/smartphone use. There are a few options on the market; some units have the jack fitted directly into the radio face somewhere, like near the volume ****, while others have it at the end of a wire that comes out of the back panel so you can locate it somewhere else, and that's what I chose. On 5th-gens, there happens to be a couple of little openings in the main dashboard panel just under the radio, which is a great place for the input jack, out of the way of any radio controls. There's enough space for it to tuck up underneath when not in use, too.
Using it simply involves having the radio on and plugging in the iPod's connecting wire. Doing that mutes the radio and enables the iPod's output signal to go right in. Both the iPod's volume and the radio volume might have to be turned up somewhat, but that's not so unusual with auxiliary sources. It can't charge the iPod while it plays, but the console ashtray makes a handy spot for it when on the move.

And here's my Monte's stock 6x9s. (You chuckle; that's okay, yeah, I know.) My original audio upgrade plan was to do a rear speaker swap first, since I still have a pair of Pioneer 6x9s in great shape with polypropylene cones I can bring out of storage. The annoying top-mount setup makes swapping the speakers more of a project than it ought to be, but since the new CD radio is doing such a good job with the stockers, I might not have to. But in the future, if I ever find that it'd be good to have a tighter bass "punch" coming from the rears, I have an option ready for that.

So, there it is: a far cry from a custom-built aftermarket sound setup, just a cheap and easy audio upgrade that looks stock but does more than it looks like it would.
And it makes the driver happier. And in the end, that's all that really matters, isn't it?
Old 05-30-2015, 10:23 AM
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Thanks for sharing this I will have to try this looks like a great idea. I swapped a few of these out in My sons 97 Monte Carlo when he had it. Mine works pretty well and with me not using it that much I don't always have time to listen to it.
Old 05-31-2015, 05:10 PM
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I didn't realize how much a stock 6th gen cd player was until I found one for $120,some people really like the stock setup but theyre making cars now to where you cant even change them out

if your happy with it that's all that matters
Old 05-31-2015, 05:24 PM
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I actually did the opposite when i had my 97 monte, it had i believe every option but leather sets. I actually swapped the cd player out for a cassette deck so i could use a cassette adapter, not the best thing but it got the job done. This looks like a much better way to go
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