04 December 2009Well, the folks at Infinity Car Audio have come up with a product that allows you to interface virtually any peripheral device with virtually any source unit, OEM or aftermarket product. | This clever little box of common sense is called the Infinity IMS, which is short for Input Management System.
Features and Design
The Infinity IMS is basically composed of two main components, the “junction box,” where all the wiring connections are made, and the dash mounted “control head.” The control head is used to select sources, as well as control often-adjusted functions such as volume, balance, fader, and tone settings. But, the Infinity IMS is much more than a simple connection device with a control knob. Featuring no less than seven separate inputs, the IMS is fully capable of integrating your personal music player, a navigation device, a Bluetooth cell phone, a head unit, and a game console all at once! The control head measures about 4 x 2 x 1 inches in size and it’s designed to be dash mounted, as it will be accessed frequently to select inputs and adjust your overall volume, sub level, balance, fader and tone settings. It also gets used to place hands-free calls, or control audio streaming from a Bluetooth enabled phone. The junction box is a bit larger, (approx 6 x 2 x 2.8 inches in size) but still small enough to easily hide under a dash or bury in any console.The inputs are designed for each specific type of device, so optimum performance is ensured regardless if you’re connecting an iPod Shuffle, Garmin Nuvi, or an Playstation3.
Input 1 is a 3.5mm stereo jack, and it has priority over all other inputs. When a signal is present on Input 1, the Infinity IMS will automatically switch to this input, and then return to the previous input when the signal ceases. This is very handy for products like navigation devices, so the spoken directions are sent automatically through the audio system.
Input 2 works in a similar fashion, and has priority over all other inputs except input 1. This input has Bluetooth wireless connectivity or a 2.5mm stereo jack, and allows hands-free operation of your cell phone. The Infinity IMS also comes with a microphone and surface mount holder for hands-free phone operation, so everything you need is included. When using the Bluetooth hands-free functionality, you can also use the voice dialing function if your phone is so equipped.
Inputs 3 and 4 are conventional 3.5mm stereo jacks for the connection of devices like personal music players, CD players, etc. Someone at Infinity was doing their homework, because these inputs have the higher input sensitivity needed to allow the low output voltages of handheld players to drive the Infinity IMS to its full capability. Although the IMS does not actually control any of the players you connect to it, there is a thoughtfully supplied USB charging port to allow charging of the connected device.
Input 5 is a pair of RCA inputs, designed to make connecting an aftermarket head unit simple and straightforward, and because output levels of head units are all over the map these days, there is also a thoughtfully provided input sensitivity switch. The high sensitivity setting works great for head units with up to about 2 volts of output, and the low sensitivity position is for higher output voltage units.
Input 6 consists of 6 pairs of wires, for interfacing speaker level outputs from the OEM radio or amplifier. Additionally, these inputs can be used to blend bandwidth limited signals together to provide a full range output signal. There are separate level settings for high, mid and low frequency inputs, so you can adjust the system to get the blended signal as flat as possible.
The seventh and final input is a 3.5mm stereo jack on the front panel of the Control Head, which is very convenient for temporary connections, like games or simply for quick access to listening to a friend’s tunes.
The output side of the Infinity IMS provides 5 RCA output jacks for front, rear, and subwoofer outputs. All of the outputs are full range, so your amplifiers will provide the appropriate crossover settings. In addition to the RCA outputs, an RJ45 connector duplicates the audio out signal for use with the Infinity Reference Series of amplifiers. The cable used is standard Cat5 twisted pair, for maximum signal transfer and noise avoidance.
The control head is made up of an easy to read 2.25-inch LCD display, 4 four control buttons for telephone and Bluetooth music playback, and a master control knob. The menus are very basic, and simple to navigate. You select the input, and you can choose a name for the source (Radio, Game, iPod, etc.) from an internal list. A separate subwoofer level adjustment lets you easily dial in the right amount of output from your woofer system. You can adjust the volume for each source separately, and the Infinity IMS will remember the last volume setting for each source. Tone, Balance, and Fader adjustments are applied to all sources. If you are streaming music from your Bluetooth phone, there are control head buttons for Play, Pause, and Skip Ahead and Back.
Using the Infinity IMS is pretty straightforward. You simply select the input you want, and the volume. Bluetooth connection is automatic once you pair your phone the first time, and even if you turn off the IMS during a call, you won’t drop the call, it will simply be transferred to your phone. It should be noted that only one phone at a time can be wirelessly paired with the Infinity IMS. If you are connecting an additional phone via an A2DP dongle to the input jack, the Bluetooth paired phone connection will always have priority.
On The Bench
From an audio perspective, the Infinity IMS is a serious performer. With a maximum output voltage of 8.8 volts, and a measured output impedance of a respectable 270 ohms, the IMS is a great choice to drive your amplifiers. It’s also quite quiet, I measured the signal to noise ratio at better than -81dBA. The frequency response is within -3dB of flat from 10Hz to 20kHz, and stereo separation is good too, at better than 56dB. The tone controls are designed to be useful, and to work well with compressed music sources.
ConclusionThe Infinity IMS is a pretty well designed piece of audio gear. It sounds good, and is completely devoid of clicks and pops when changing sources. As much as I like it, it’s not perfect however. Yes, you have to mount and use the control head, it may not have as many whistles and bells as a few other interfaces, and it does not control an iPod or display any information from an external source. But, it’s just about the only product I can think of that will work in virtually any vehicle, with any peripheral device, and with both OEM and aftermarket radios! Moreover, that “common sense” functionality combined with Infinity’s experience in producing high performance audio may just make the Infinity IMS one of the most popular integration solutions well worth consideration.