I’m not sure about you, but music is a huge part of driving for me. I love nothing more than the combination of a great car, a great road and a great playlist!
As a serial second hand car buyer it can be hit-or-miss on whether the car I‘ve chosen has Bluetooth connectivity or not – and even if it does sometimes it isn’t possible to stream audio anyway.
So worry not – I’ve been through this recently and I have a SOLID way of retrofitting the Bluetooth audio streaming module to your E81 BMW 1 Series Hatchback!
At a glance…
- Your car may have Bluetooth hands-free functionality, but still NOT have audio streaming
- You CAN add Bluetooth audio functionality to your E81 BMW 1 Series Hatchback easily
- Tune2Air is the best Bluetooth streaming kit for most people (you can check it out here)
- It is compatible with all streaming services (Spotify/Apple Music/Amazon Music)
- Bluetooth vs FM tuners – FM tuners suck, please avoid them!
- Installation is hassle free and takes less than 2 minutes
Does my E81 BMW 1 Series Hatchback have Bluetooth?
A classic response I am afraid – it is best to check the manual and original spec sheet if possible to be sure.
Frustratingly, cars of this age were born into the crossover of Bluetooth technology so some models will have Bluetooth audio streaming, while many more others don’t.
Confusingly many will have Bluetooth hands free functionality (mine has this) but without the kit to enable audio streaming.
Can I retrofit Bluetooth audio streaming to my E81 BMW 1 Series?
Yes – you absolutely CAN retrofit a Bluetooth audio streaming kit to your car to enable music to be played wirelessly.
I raked around for quite a while to find the best solution – a few of the features that were important to me were:
- Retain the OEM hands free voice call functionality – I didn’t want to add additional wiring and microphones to the car so I wanted to keep the original hands free system in place. This has the bonus of not requiring the car to be stripped to pieces when installing!
- OEM or factory integration / looks – I didn’t want anything that looked too aftermarket stuck on to my dash. For example Parrot kits are good but I just don’t like the look of them inside. Additionally they require more pain to install – I didn’t want to remove any panels or interior if I could help it.
- Retain steering wheel / head unit controls – again I wanted as ‘factory’ an application of audio Bluetooth as possible which meant retaining any steering wheel or head unit controls when streaming. For example my kit just now I can skip tracks in Spotify using the knob on the headunit (saves me some embarrassment if a bad song comes on!)
- Display song names on the OEM headunit – having song or artist on the OEM displays is a big plus as it makes the install look much slicker and it can be helpful if skipping through long Spotify playlists!
Some of these points may be less important to you – and maybe some others are more important (shoot me an email if so – I’d love to know if I’ve missed something) but I’m simply sharing my priorities when I was looking for the best bluetooth adapter for my E81 BMW 1 Series.
Is the Bluetooth adapter compatible with Spotify/Amazon Music/Apple Music?
Another feature I looked for was compatability with music streaming services – I use Spotify almost exclusively for music so it was essential any retrofit kit would be compatible with it.
The great thing about my recommended adapter is that it means there is no need for any bespoke apps for my iPhone (or wife’s Samsung Galaxy – she is different just to be awkward 🙂 ) and the music can be controlled either via the steering wheel controls (if you have them), the OEM headunit or through your phones native Spotify/Apple/Amazon/Tidal app.
This is really quite slick – especially compared to the likes of the SONOS app which tries to integrate all the services into its own application. That smells like something that could go wrong in future – I prefer to use the services own apps where I can!
Why FM tuners suck
Before moving on – a quick word on FM tuners. I’ve had two of these in the past and just want to say the quality is absolutely rubbish and they are not worth your time if you are serious about music.
They rely on the availability of a free FM channel which is not guaranteed and the quality that they stream across is garbage. Please avoid these – genuinely you would be better just listening to the radio (or a CD, remember those?!)
Which Bluetooth kit should I buy for my E81 BMW 1 Series Hatchback?
If you value OEM integration, ease of use and you DO NOT want to rip your car interior apart then there is really only one option… a Tune2Air!
I have compared below to another popular option from GROM – I’ve used GROM in other cars previously so I am well placed to compare the two:
|Installation type||Plug & play||Requires dismantling the interior|
|Time to install||Less than 2 minutes||1 hour+|
|Features||Bluetooth streaming||Depends on modules installed – generally at additional cost|
|Retain use of OEM multi-function steering wheel||Yes||Yes|
|Compatible with your iPhone / Samsung / Other||Yes||Yes|
|Cost||One-off purchase||Need to purchase GROM unit plus additional modules if extending functionality.|
Range can be confusing
|Best for||Best for most people||Best for those who can’t get a Tune2Air compatible with their car|
|Check latest price||Check latest price on Amazon||Check latest price on Amazon|
As I said – the clear winner is the Tune2Air for most people. I’ve used both, I like both, but if I have the option in future I will continue to install Tune2Air whenever possible.
How to install your adapter in less than 2 minutes(!)
Step 1 – Take your Tune2Air and get into your car
Step 2 – Locate your plug ports – here you can see I have a 3.5mm audio jack and USB port. Your car may have a slightly different plug and location, but conceptually the directions are the same regardless.
Step 3 – Plug the Tune2Air in
Step 4 – Navigate to the newly-enabled iPod setting in your car (below is from my installation – you may have slightly different screen / settings to follow)
Step 5 – Connect to your Tune2Air via your Bluetooth settings. After the first pairing your phone will connect automatically when you unlock your car with your phone within range.
Step 6 – Pick a track (or podcast) and get listening!
Is the kit compatible with my car model?
The Tune2Air Bluetooth retrofit kit is compatible with all E81 BMW 1 Series models that have a USB port and 3.5mm audio cable (check for these before ordering), including:
- E81 1 series 116i, 118i, 120i, 130i, 116d, 118d, 123d or 120d
Whenever I change my car I set about ensuring that I can stream my music playlists (alright, I really want the podcasts!) from Spotify through the stereo. As you have probably noticed by now I have a preference to keep the interior as OEM as possible – including retaining steering wheel and headunit controls!
Hopefully by now you are satisfied that it is very easy to retrofit Bluetooth audio streaming in most E81 BMW 1 Series models by using the Tune2Air product reviewed above.
If you have any issues or want to discuss specifics with your car model – please drop by the contact page and send me an email!