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Discussion Starter #1
As I mentioned in one of the other video threads, I did ultimately buy and install a “Back Seat Theater” system.

The folks at TMI Products (the manufacturer) were helpful and patient during each of my 3 calls for information and specs before purchasing.

There are two worthwhile alternatives for buying it: Sam’s Club is $650 for screen, VCR and 2 wireless headphones. Direct from the mfr is $700 without headphones, but the mfr includes a “remote eye” with the VCR (which I consider useless without it), and you don’t pay sales tax direct (whereas Sam’s charges tax in all 50 states). Some on the Ody board mentioned they thought any infrared wireless headphones would work. I haven’t tested that, but it’s food for thought. Let me know if you want me to test it and I’ll try and find my IR headphones J

Here’s what I like about the system compared to the “permanent” pod-mounted ones:

- Easy DIY job. 2 wires to the dome light, 1 plug to a power outlet.
- Wireless (2.4GHz connection) from the VCR (or DVD) to the screen, so you don’t have to run wires
- Built-in speakers (if your kid’s too young to wear/use headphones). Also helps avoid the install of an FM modulator to connect to the stereo.
- You can easily remove the screen and store it
- Reasonbly stealth installation. You can’t really see it when it’s flipped up. It looks like a sunvisor.
- When you switch cars, you can remove it, leaving behind just 2 nickel-sized holes in the headliner, which you could plug with a plastic piece like the one that covers the manual sunroof crank mechanism.
- If you have more than1 car, you can buy an extra ceiling mount/install kit and move the screen from car-to-car. Neat consideration for peeps who sometimes alternate cars for roadtrips (e.g. the dual MDX-Ody owners out there).
- Damn cheap.

Here’s what I like better about the “permanent” pod-mounted ones:

- Look stock if they’re installed well
- No risk of interference from wireless transmissions
- Better integration of screen controls and VCR/DVD controls (depending on brand). On this one, all the screen controls are on the screen; the VCR is separate. On some of the integrated pod-mounts, you can control the screen/VCR/DVD/etc through one remote by pointing @ the screen.

If I had a grand more $ to spend (household projects right now), I’d probably have gone for a permanent mounted system. Best case a headrest deal. But for $650 you can’t go wrong with this one.

We put it to the test on a recent 1k mile roadtrip. The screen quality is excellent (with good viewing angles from all rear seating positions) and the sound from the built-in speakers is more than adequate. There was one instance of minute-long radio interference near a CHP truck weigh station, but that was it. In all honesty, being the anal retentive detail guy I am, I was concerned about whether it would look ugly. It actually looks better in person than in the pics, and is unobtrusive when up.

I would characterize it as "imminently functional" and a good value. Here are some pics w/commentary:

Unit in the up and down positions from the 3rd row (the unit is mounted ~3" back from the sunroof to clear the sunroof frame assembly above the headliner). The unit weighs 2lbs and there is no headliner flex or droop (my biggest worry before installing):



Profile pic (up and down positions) from the second row pax door area (I was outside of the car as you can probably tell) to show how thin it is:


Here’s a borrowed pic from our friends @ Odyclub.com of how it looks if you remove the screen for storage:



Here’s a brightened-up pic of where I mounted the remote eye on top of the D-pillar. Wire is routed behind the molding and door weatherstripping, then to the back of the VCR in the rear storage compartment. There’s enough wire to route the remote eye all the way up front, say, to the right of the steering column, but this works fine – you just point the remote over your shoulder.



Finally, here’s the gear in the rear storage compartment. The VCR fits perfectly. You can just make out the wires running from the rear corner of the storage compartment to underneath the 3rd row seats – I placed the transmitter (about the size of a deck of cards) and the excess wire lengths under there.

FWIW there is adequate room underneath the driver's seat for the VCR. Only issue is proximity and routing of the power cable; you'd need to tap into the power outlet in the center console -- and to adequately route wires you'd have to remove the center console, too. Other caution for using that outlet w/the VCR is that it's on the same fuse as the dash power outlet (where we have a cell phone kit), and I was concerned about the current draw (rear power is on its own fuse). If you're not using the dash power outlet, I'd be inclined to mount the VCR under the driver's seat and run the power under the door sill, then behind the dash and to the dash power.



The wire routing from the power socket, down and around the jack storage bay, looks worse in the pic than it actually is. Pulling the lower panel from back there is a real bear (you have to remove the 3rd row seatbelts, among other things), so I didn’t feel it was worth the trouble.

I'll probably poke around a bit more to see if there are any better mounting options or ways to hide the power cables. There is the possibility to run underneath the floor, from the jack compartment to the headrest/storage area, but the cig lighter plugs are too big to clear any of the gaps (cut 'n splice required).

I’ll spare posting additional install suggestions unless someone has specific questions. But if you do eventually order this, DO let me know – I have tips to avoid accidentally tearing the headliner and obviously the dome-light removal and wire identification stuff.
 

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Hi,
I was wondering if the visor is pretty flushed with your liner. Does the screen hang a little? I'm very interested in purchasing this item and I want to thank you for posting pics of your B.S.T.

Thank you,
Adrian
 

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Hardware Question

Worm,
Would you know if they offer a package without the VCR? I really like this one. Like you, I wasn't sure about installing a permanent screen. I do have a mobile DVD player already but no screen/monitor as yet.
Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter #4
panday209 - When it's "up" the top of the screen is flush w/the headliner. There's no sag, but the unit is a couple of inches thick. Looks OK.

Nanali - I know they have a DVD option, and I'm almost certain I saw a video-only deal @ Samsclub (tho it's not on their site right now -- maybe outta stock). Call the vendor direct to see. Just be sure that in addition to the screen you get the mounting kit+transmitter.
 

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Worm, maybe I missed it in one of your previous posts - what is the screen size?

What is your opinion on "quality of picture" from a "small-screen-size" perspective (not screen quality itself, just your subjective opinion in comparison to, let's say, 36" Sony WEGA DTV :))

Also, any possible interference from high-voltage lines running alongside highways and stuff?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
vip9,

Size is 6.8". Looks fine to me. I don't think I'd go much smaller for a roofmount, to tell you the truth.

I do prefer our 43" Sony hi-def to the roof mount, but it doesn't leave enough room in the car for our daughter and gear. I think the smaller size is fine -- you're just not going to be reading any subtitles off it. Comparable to the flipdown screens on an airplane (Airbus).

Good question re: power lines. You'd have to call the mfr and ask on that one...if you do, ask for Tech Support rather than Customer Service -- tech support was, well, better with technical info.
 

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I like your setup. My movies are mostly on DVD, so that's the way I would go. But, wondering, a most movies are "wide screen" if there is enough picture left to see with the "letterbox" black lines. Anybody able to comment?
 

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Note from TMI re: DVD

I sent TMI a note asking about a DVD option and got the following response back:

Yes we do have the DVD option available the cost is $799.99 you can order it directly from TMI please our order desk at 1-800-624-7960.

Not sure what I am going to do yet - self install or professional install but thought someone else might be interested.

Wade
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Wade,

You mean you don't know whether you're gonna do the TMI product vs. another professionally-installed one, or you might have the TMI professionally installed?

This is sooooo easy to self-install. I wouldn't pay more than 50 or 75 bucks to have someone do it if time is the issue.

Again, if anyone buys this and self-installs, post here as I'll put up a couple of tips (to avoid tearing the headliner) and I'll measure how far back, exactly, from the sunroof to mount to avoid the sunroof frame assy.
 

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Sorry I wasn't clear

Worm,

Thanks for all of the info you have already given in this thread!

What I meant was I'm not sure if I will get the TMI system and install it myself or have another system professionally installed. If money were no object the choice is a no-brainer. Of course, money is always an object...

Thanks!

Wade
 

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Worm,
I've been looking for a system and this looks like the easiest DIY one out there.
A question on the VCP, are there A/V inputs in the back so a DVD or PS2 could be plugged in there?
Also, I am seriously considering this system so you please post some tips on the installation.
Thanks,
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Answer and Install Tips

Answers
Yes, there is 1 set of extra inputs on the VCR (L/R audio + composite video) so you could pipe a DVD or PS2 through there, and just switch the input on the VCR via remote. Other alternative, depending on mounting area for the 2nd unit, would be to buy an additional wireless transmitter and change the "channel" on the video screen itself (accepts up to 4 inputs).

Install Tips
Complete installation instructions are in PDF format on the manufacturer's site here. This all sounds harder than it is...sorry for the excruciating detail -- but I think it'll save you some time.

You don't need to disconnect the battery. However, you should turn the interior light switch (on the center console) OFF.

Remove the map/dome light cover by gently prying (w/a small flathead screwdriver) the part towards the front of the car. There are 2 tabs (one each about an inch from each side).

Unscrew the domelight assembly. I think they were Torx screws, but a larger flathead screwdriver will work (mine were pretty tight BTW).

Disconnect the wiring harness by pressing the tab and the whole assembly will come out. You might want to move the harness out of the center hole over to the left side for more working room (when you need to wire it later). Don't forget to move it back afterwards, tho!

There's a template provided for mounting and cutting the holes (nickel-sized) in the headliner. I centered the template itself (left to right) by using masking tape/straightedge to make a line between the center of the sunroof manual-crank cap, through the center of the domelight area, through the center of the sunroof visor "handle". Prolly spent more time on this than everything else combined!

The center of each hole is 4.5" back from the sunroof opening. To cut the holes, use a small X-acto knife. The headliner is < 1/8" thick so you don't have to cut deep. Make sure the sunroof visor is closed so you don't accidentally cut through it.

Next step is to attach the metal bracket into which the mounts go. They provide a "tool" to guide the bracket through one hole. It basically screws into one end of the bracket and forms an "L" shaped handle (see "step 9" in the instructions). Before you do anything, tie a piece of string or wire through the hole on the end of the bracket opposite the installation tool.

This is where you need to protect the headliner from tearing. There isn't a lot of clearance above the headliner to guide the bracket, and the bracket itself will rub against the underside of the headliner (where you're pushing it in), risking small tears. I'd suggest putting either masking tape or electrical tape around the hole through which you're inserting the bracket to protect it. You could also use a thin piece of cardboard or plastic (credit card thickness).

As you insert the bracket, the lack of clearance won't allow you to get the bracket all the way in, to the hole on the other side; there will still be a couple of inches of bracket sticking out the insertion hole. Unscrew the L-shaped insertion tool and remove it. Once it's removed, carefully push the bracket the rest of the way in by hand -- be careful not to lose the bracket up there! As soon as you can see it from the other side, grab the string/wire you tied on there to position it properly. Leave the string/wire hanging down in case you need to reposition the bracket or fish it out. It sounds harder than it is.

Don't attach the mounts yet -- you need to get the wires from the mounting area back to the domelight area. Feed the wires from the mounts around the bracket (there's plenty of clearance) toward the domelight area. You could use a wire coathanger, but I just straightened 'em out and fished around (there is enough play in the headliner near the domelight to get a hand (most of the way) up there to feel around). Once you've got those wires hanging out of the domelight area, go ahead and attach the mounts to the bracket (don't forget to remove that string/wire you used earlier to guide it).

You need to tap into 1 wire in the domelight harness, which has wireloom and electrical tape on it. Split the loom (first) with the x-acto and peel it off; then, un-do the tape along the bottom inch or so, taking care not to cut the wires.

Find the white and blue wire. This is your + terminal that attaches to the wire from the bracket. I use wire connectors that look like this as they're more effective than those parallel clip-on deals that sometimes work their way loose. These have a single clip-on to the original wire and use a male crimped deal on the bare wire. Radio Shack or Pep Boys (etc) will have them. I used heatshrink and electrical tape on this (and the neg connection, next paragraph), just to be safe (and to pretend I was a professional).

Reposition the harness w/newly-spliced wire back into the center of the domelight area (through the hole it was poking through originally).

For the - terminal you can actually use one of the screws from the domelight assembly. I can't remember whether there was already a ring terminal attached to the bracket wire or whether I had to crimp one myself (sorry). Ring terminals for negative grounds are also @ Radio Shack/Pep Boys. BTW, there will be some extra wire length (pos and neg) left over -- just tuck it up into the roof area.

You want the ring terminal between the domelight assembly and the body itself. Just push the screw through the entire assembly, place the - ring terminal over it (topside), and reposition it in place (and screw it in, of course). Don't put the cover on the domelight yet.

Time to check for power. Turn the interior light switch (center console) back to "doors on". Come to think of it, I don't even know whether switching it off to begin with did anything -- the domelight might be negative-switched, and we played with positive wires. Ah well.

When you install the screen itself, you should get a red light indicating power (screen must be in the down position, as it shuts off when up). If you don't have power, the problem is probably a bad negative ground. Give the screw (where the - ring terminal is) a 1/4 turn in either direction to get better contact and re-check for power. If it works, go ahead and replace the domelight cover.

The rest of the install (VCR, transmitter, etc) is pretty basic -- check the original pics above for wire routing and mounting ideas.

Whew! It took me longer to write this than to actually do the work :) Hope it helps.
 

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video question

First let me say that you do a wonderful job passing along information. What an invaluable resource your posts are!

I was curious if in your research/shopping around for your "Theater system", if you came across any info on a unit that would receive TV signals as well as input from a DVD or VCR player?

Thanks again for all your input--it is greatly appreciated.

Mark C


Wating on a Black Toruing Nav....How many minutes till April?????
 

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Discussion Starter #15
TV tuners

Many of the units have built-in TV tuners; some are in the vid display itself, others are through the VCR. A lot of the brands have almost-identical systems, with the tuner being the only difference (I think for $100 or so). This one has a tuner through the VCR, just like the one @ home.

You do need a special antenna for any of the tuners -- most of the places call them "diversity antennas". Some mount externally, some inside the glass, and I recall seeing one that was thin and goes in the headliner. I didn't get one (nor do I plan to @ this point), and the tuner is 100% useless without it.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
jodnkod said:
Do you know how is the quality of the reception of tv stations ?
No idea...I imagine it'd be just like @ home via antenna (people still have those?)...depends on distance, geography/topology and signal strength. All of which vary while you're moving, of course.
 

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Worm,
Thanks for posting the instructions. Also, did you end up buying your system directly from TMI? Did you add any wireless headphones?
NaNaLi,
The price from Gadgetbuys is cheaper, but it doesn't include a VCR, so be aware of that before you order.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I got mine @ SamsClub (included the headphones) but they charge salestax in all states w/it, so it might be a bit less $ to order direct if you're outside CA. I was going to get hit w/tax either way, and since I wasn't sure about the setup I wanted Sam's 30-day no-questions-asked return protection.

One caution on the SamsClub "package": mine did not have the remote extender for the VCR, which renders it useless (IMO) since it's mounted in the cargo area. I did get the extender direct from TMI. I wasn't able to determine in advance or afterwards whether the SamsClub deal is supposed to include it, either, since their customer service is "generic" and they don't have the boxes sitting there (nor does our local store stock them).

I'd be inclined to call TMI direct to order, and if the price is @ least close, get it from them.

I also noticed on TMI's website a pic of a tan- colored unit, which wasn't around when I bought (black only). So that may be another reason to go direct for peeps w/the tan interior :)
 

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Back Seat Thearter

Worm,
Thanks for the great feedback on the "Back Seat Thearter".

You said you had some tips on how not to damage the roof liner and what dome light wires to use when installing. Any tips would be great as I'm getting ready to try this myself.

To say the least, my wife (as well as myself) is very concerned about cutting holes into our new MDX.

Any help and words of confidnec would be appreciated.

Thanks
Wardo:4:
 
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