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Using your cell phone in your car is not only potentially dangerous, but is also increasingly becoming illegal - unless used with a hands-free device.

Here's a brilliantly convenient solution.

 
 
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Parrot CK3000 Bluetooth HandsFree Unit

Permanently installed in-car unit for cellphones
 

For the ultimate in quality and convenience, you want to have a hard wired and permanently installed hands-free system in your car.

This is what you need.

Part of our series on Bluetooth - more articles listed on the right.

 

 

Do you want to have a removable, plug into the cigarette lighter type in-car hands-free kit, or would you prefer a hardwired system like this?

Obviously the permanently installed unit can only be used in one car.  But - and as you might also have guessed, in the one car in which it is installed, it will give you much better sound quality than a cigarette lighter driven accessory.

You decide which is right for you.


What you Get

The Parrot CK3000 unit comes packed in a box, containing a lot of wiring harnesses and adapters, plus the user control unit, the main box, and the remote microphone.  Helpful instructions for your installer make his job easy (and thereby reduce your installation cost) and an excellent manual make it easy for you to quickly become familiar with this wonderful device.

The unit sells for $200-230 and has a one year warranty.

Compatibility

The CK3000 unit is compatible with the Bluetooth 1.1 specification, which makes it compatible with most other Bluetooth devices.

Unlike some earlier inferior model Bluetooth products, the Parrot CK3000 contains profiles for both headset and hands-free usage, and so will work with just about every cell phone out there.

The unit can be paired with three different phones simultaneously.

Configuring the CK3000 to work with your Phone(s)

This is tremendously simple.  Unlike many headsets, there is no need to do anything special to the CK3000 itself to switch it into pairing mode.

Simply use your phone to find the new Bluetooth device and pair with it through the phone, using the password 1234.  You'll have instructions on how to do this with your phone; in addition, there are careful step by step instructions included with the unit for most Bluetooth capable phones.

Using the CK3000

Get into your car, with your cell phone somewhere in the car as well.  The phone and CK3000 automatically link up.  You'll hear a short confirming beep from your speakers after the devices have synchronized.  Any incoming calls will now ring through the CK3000 unit and your car's speakers, without you needing to make any changes to the phone at all.

To place a call, you can either use the last number redial or the voice activated dialing features of the CK3000, or you can use your phone's keypad to dial the number and then speak to the other person through the CK3000.

When you get out of your car, your phone automatically switches back to normal operation, until such time as you return to your car.

My favorite feature is that when you are using your phone, this unit automatically mutes your sound system.  And as soon as you've finished using the phone, the sound system switches back on again.

There's nothing to remember.  Nothing to adjust or program.  You act totally normally, leaving everything to your phone and the CK3000 unit to do automatically on your behalf.

This is surely the ultimate in phone convenience.

Sound Quality

Of course the person you're speaking with will notice you're using some type of speaker phone, but in general, sound quality is very good, and the unit has digital signal processing that results in background noise reduction, making it practical to have a conversation while driving in a noisy environment.

The CK3000 has no volume control and instead accepts commands from the volume control on your phone.

The unit supports full duplex conversation - both you and the other person can be talking simultaneously, and has very little echo.

Other Comments and Considerations

It cost me another $200 to have the CK3000 professionally installed into my 1995 Jaguar XJS.  The unit comes with standard wiring harnesses to speed up and simplify the installation into newer less exotic cars, and so the chances are your installation cost will be less than mine.

There are two illuminated buttons on the control unit.  One, with a green handset printed on it, is your 'answer/place call/yes' button, and the other, with a red handset printed on it, is your 'hang up' button.  This is easy to understand and remember, and sufficiently intuitively simple that you don't need to refresh your memory with the product manual if it is a while since you last used the unit.

The CK3000 does not have an on/off switch, but is instead hard-wired into the ignition.  When you turn your ignition on, the CK3000 comes on, and when you turn it, it also turns off.  This is fine, but I chose to add a separate on/off switch to my unit, so I can manually turn it off if for some reason I don't want it to be on.  The cost of adding the manual on/off switch is minimal, and the extra flexibility seemed to be well worth this minor addition.  You might want to consider doing the same thing.

The unit does not need your radio/stereo system to be turned on to work.  I loved the way it automatically muted the sound system whenever there was a call in progress, although I was not quite so pleased that any time you even touched the phone's keypad - eg, just to look up a number, it would immediately mute the sound system.  I'd prefer it to only mute the sound system when actual calls were active.

The manufacturer - Parrot in France - has a helpful website with copies of manuals and other support materials.

There is no mute function, although this could be achieved by transferring the call back to your phone and muting it there.

The unit supports call 'flashing' - eg, to answer a call waiting call, by simply briefly pressing the green button.

Legal Issues

If you live in a state or country where it is illegal to hold your phone and have a conversation with it while driving, you should consider one of these as the best way to legally use your phone hands-free.

And even if you live in a region where it remains legal to use your phone while driving, increasingly, lawsuits are being filed against drivers who have accidents while on the phone, asserting that the drivers were prima facie inattentive.

A hands free kit, such as this, might save your life, or, less dramatically, might save you from a major lawsuit.

Technological Obsolescence?

If you're spending $200 on one of these units, and probably that much again to have a professional installer fit the CK3000 into your car, you want to be sure your investment is protected for an extended time.

Bluetooth capabilities are rapidly evolving, and today's equipment will likely not be able to handle new features in future Bluetooth gear.

Parrot have already thought of this.  The unit can have its firmware (operating system) flashed with a newer version, as and when any future enhancements might be released, or in the event that new phones come out in the future that offer extra features that the CK3000 could take advantage of.

This is a wonderful convenience and gives you the confidence you'll need to invest in this unit.

An Investment

High end cars are now starting to offer Bluetooth kits as options, and for sure, over the next few years, this capability will become more common and will move down into mid level cars as well.

It is possible that having a high quality built-in Bluetooth hands-free kit in your car might add to its resale value, and certainly will add to its desirability.

Cost and Where to Buy

The unit has a recommended retail price of $229, but can be found for less on some websites.  Pro Travel Gear - the manufacturers of the Plane Quiet headphones, sell the unit for $199 on their website, and offer Travel Insider readers a 5% discount if you quote the discount code travelinsider when completing your purchase.

Comparison

See also our review of Parrot's DriveBlue plug-in car hands-free kit and the new Easydrive Bluetooth hands-free kit that has now replaced the DriveBlue.

The CK3000 has several advantages compared to the DriveBlue.  It gives better sound quality to you, and probably to the person you are speaking with as well.  The sound quality difference is not so noticeable with the Easydrive.

Because it is hard wired in to your car, there is nothing to 'go wrong' or to be forgotten.  It is also unobtrusive - all a person sees is the very small little control unit, which measures only 1" x 1" x ", and so is not likely to attract the attention of any car thieves.

It automatically mutes your car's sound system for calls.

On the other hand, the DriveBlue and Easydrive are portable, enabling you to use them in more than one vehicle.  They are also cheaper to purchase, and have no installation cost associated with them.

Summary

This unit is very easy to operate, and provides an excellent convenience for people wishing to use their phone while in the car.  Sound quality is good.

Recommended.

Read more in the Bluetooth articles series

See the links at the top right of the page to visit other articles in our Bluetooth series.

 

If so, please donate to keep the website free and fund the addition of more articles like this. Any help is most appreciated - simply click below to securely send a contribution through a credit card and Paypal.

 

Originally published 30 April 2004, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 

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