Ever since the H3 came out in 2005, customers have been asking for a way to connect their iPod directly to their trucks. General Motors heard the demands and answered with the “Personal Audio Link” (PAL), which is a direct, wired link from your iPod or iPhone directly to the H3’s factory radio.
FM modulators just don’t have the sound clarity that most audiophiles desire, and previously, only aftermarket direct connections were offered and many caused problems with the radios operation – problems that wouldn’t be covered under warranty at the local HUMMER shop. The PAL has gone through GM’s stringent testing process to ensure operation will be “consistent and will not interfere with the operation of any other aspect of the vehicle.”
What does that really mean? It means GM has addressed the concerns that are often problematic with other aftermarket systems such as:
1) Drawing low amounts of power when the vehicle is turned off – leading to dead batteries.
2) Audio distortion from the device or cabling, creating a “whining” noise during operation.
3) Operation in extreme temperatures (-50ºF to +160ºF) will cause device failure.
4) Touching the accessory connector and discharging a static shock can damage the device.
GM has taken all these into account in the construction of the PAL, and while you probably won’t be operating a vehicle at 50 below, I can tell you the whining problem is VERY common among aftermarket audio devices. To fix this, extra devices and wiring often have to be added to reduce the interference. So far, we haven’t experienced anything less than perfect clarity from the PAL.
Operation of the device is similar to other devices – buttons like Category, seek, etc allow you to shuffle through playlist and song options directly from the radio. It definitely takes some getting used-to, but after a while it becomes second nature. One cool feature is the “radio detent knob” speed sensor, which makes advancement through enormous song lists a little easier. When it detects faster knob speed, the faster the PAL will scroll through the list.
Currently the PAL charges your device at the same time, except for the later generation iPods (4th gen Nano, 2G iTouch) and the iPhone 3G and 3GS. These devices require a USB (5V) charge instead of the older 12V charge. For those purchasing in the meantime, a connector that goes between the cable and your later generation device will convert the power to enable charging. That connector will be available free of charge, and is expected to be available in a couple weeks. In a month or two, an entirely new cable will be available for around $25 that will merge those two elements into a single cable. It is currently going through the validation process as described above.
A dealership installation is recommended, but not absolutely necessary – the toughest part of the install is splicing through a wire or two. Though by default the device is programmed for a factory Nav unit with XM, so if you have another radio like the 6CD or single CD, a dealer visit will be required to program the unit to your radio. Some dealers may do this for free, and others may have a small charge which will probably still be less expensive than a complete dealer install.
Overall, we’re impressed with the PAL as an addition to our project H3 sound system with an affordable price to boot.