This is a guide/tutorial to installing a Rio Car/empeg MKII+ in your e36 with premium sound. It should work with any e36 BMW sound system that has a factory amplifier.

In January of 2002 I purchased a Rio Car (here on called empeg) during Sonic Blue's fire sale. Just after I bought it the universe took my life and threw it up in the air. Now, 10 months, 1 job and 1 car later I've finally managed to get this little beauty on wheels. This is it's story...... (shortened to the past 2 days)

IMO the Premium system in the e36 is a good one. It has 8 channels, 10 speakers and can put out 320 watts of power. BMWs are supposedly difficult to get aftermarket systems in. Empegs supposedly have real grounding issues in these cars. There are so many people who complain about this I have to give the story some credit. Personally I experienced none of these problems. I have NO engine noise, the install was very straight forward and I didn't have to remove any interior pieces except the factory head unit. I'd also like to state that I'm a COMPLETE noob to this type of work. I've never done anything with heat shrink tubing before and the last time I operated a soldering iron was some time before recorded history. In other words, if I can do this ANYONE can.

STEP 1. Before you begin tearing out your factory system there's some preparation to be done.
Get the factory radio code for your head unit from a BMW dealer. It's free, and it only takes about 15 minutes to do. If you can, have them completely removed the head unit and put it back in. This will save you some sweating later if the factory 'lock' on the back of your head unit has become stuck (as mine was). When they pull the head unit out of the car, have them show you how to take the connector off.


Gather all the hardware you'll need.

The illustration below depicts most of the basic equipement.

Going left->right: empeg, small diameter heat shrink tubing, Fiskars wire cutters/strippers, BMW factory harness adapter, ISO Power connector provided with empeg, 8 pack larger diameter heat shrink tubing, 2'>= good quality (shielded) RCA cable, working empeg sled.

2b. You can get the BMW factory harness adapter from Crutchfield audio. It's not on their website. You'll have to call them. If they try to sell you an attenuator, you don't need it. You don't even want it.

2c. I would suggest giving a couple 'light tugs' on the wiring coming out of the empeg sled. There was a batch of sleds that the wires would come out of easily; some came out after being installed in the car for some time. It's a warranty issue. If your empeg is still under warranty, SB will take care of it for you. My own original sled had a loose antenna wire. Fortunatly I already have a spare sled, so this didn't slow me down much.

2d. You'll also need a soldering iron, some good self fluxing solder and, if you have access to one, a 'heat gun' is also a good idea.


Prepare the BMW Factory harness adapter and RCA Cable.

Before we start soldering it's a good idea to prepare the connectors.

3a. I decided to twist the +/- speaker wires together. It comes out looking much better @ the end and makes life easier when soldering.

3b. cut 1+1/2 to 2" of small diameter shrink tubing and slide one onto each of the wires of the "BMW adapter". The illustration below shows the tubing on some of the speaker wires.

IMPORTANT: the image shows the tubing too close to the ends of the wire. You'll need to untwist it abit more (1/2") and slide the tubing down as far as you can. This will help keep the tubing from shrinking up during soldering (the wire, even in it's jacket, can get plenty hot)

3c. Slip 1 lengths of the Large heat shrink tubing down over each of the speaker wire pairs. Slide it all the way to the black plug. It should pass over the smaller tubing with out great difficulty. I suggest this step before 3b just to be sure there won't be any fittment problems later.

3d. Cut your RCA Cable 4-6" inches from the end plugs each side. If you want to go a little longer, that's ok. My harness when completed was about 1' long an extra inch wouldn't have hurt. (A side note, it MAY be possible to make it much shorter than 1', say 3-4" long and stuff it all next to the instrument cluster, but I didn't do it that way.) The ground will be on the outside of the cable, and the 'signal' on the inside. You need to be sure you understand this before you go any farther.

3e. Strip the cables so that you have ~3/4" of wire showing on the outside cable. Make sure there's enough of the cable's signal wire insulation (between the ground and signal parts of the RCA Cable) for the Shrink tubing to get a good grip (I would suggest 1/4" minimum).

Ok go warm up the soldering iron!


Making the connections.

Now that your soldering iron is hot, it's tempting to line all the wires up and just melt a whole roll of solder on the bunch and cut to taste. DO NOT DO THIS!!! I/You may be a noob, but we're not retared. Oh, be sure to do every thing else in a well ventilated area on a nonflamable, non conducting surface. Beware of burns; take care; be good to your dog.

4a. Look at the diagram supplied with the BMW adapter. Figure out exactly which wires on it connect with the wires on your RCA Cables (you cut the one you had up, so now you should have 2!). You're going to use one as the Front left/right and the other as the Rear left/right. Get which connects to which sorted out; the following is a general description of how to solder the wires together.

4b. Make sure the tubing is far enough down the wire so you don't shrink it up. I didn't the first connection I soldered. It was a real bother to get the tubing cut off and then to have to re-solder it.

4c. I remembered hearing something about the metal in the connections needing maximum connection area, and that the wires should be 'twisted' together. What seemed to deliver both, and help make the joint plenty strong was to 'mesh' them together (abit like clasping your own hands)

After this I carefully twisted them together. Escuse the lack of photo, but my hands were full @ the time.

4d. Get a bead of solder onto the wires. Melt it until it flows smoothly into the wires. You may want to do this in little steps; keep an eye on that shrink tubing! Roll the wire over (It should be well connected by the time you're done with the first bead). Repeat the process until all of the meshed wire has a coating of solder. If you did it right, you should be able to see the individual wires. The solder should have melted through the whole mesh. Once your done, grab the wire on either side of the new connection and give a quick (but not 'wussified') tug.

If it holds together you're set. Now slide the small diameter tubing over the connection and past it as far as you can (while still covering the naked wire).

DO NOT shrink the tubing; that comes later. Repeat for all the speaker wire connections.

4e. Now that you've done all the speakers go over your work to make sure you didn't mis-wire one. OK. Now we do the ISO connector wires. Figure out which goes where. You've still got some large diameter tubing left. I chose to use on on the power wires, and one on the light and antenna wires (I don't like big messy spaghetti wires) I chose not to twist the power wires together because the colors didn't match up between the ISO and the BMW adapter. I wanted to be very clear which was soldered to which. Solder up these connections just like you did the speakers.

4d. Double check your work. DO NOT shrink any of the tubing!!!!!


Test it.

5a. Take your almost completed wiring harness and your empeg + sled out to your shiny e36.

5b. Pull out the factory radio.

There may be a black cable that connectes to a plug on the back of the head unit labeled 'amp'; get it out of the way. You don't need it. The bmw tech didn't know what it was but thought it might have to do with the factory alarm (which I don't have).

5c. Connect the wiring harness to your sled, then connect it to the factory harness. Put the empeg in the sled. There should be enough cable for you to set the empeg on the seat. 5c1. If you have a tuner, hook it up to the antenna and the sled. If it's an original empeg tuner, no adapters are required.

5d. Try to turn on the empeg with the key in the 'off' position. It shouldn't be possible. 5e. Turn on the car. The empeg should go through it's boot sequence. If it powers down, try to power it up again. 5f. Play a song. Turn up the volume to 0.0db. It should be acceptibly loud. (if not there Active Gain Control units you can buy. I didn't think it needs one.) 5g. If you have a tuner, try it out, tune to various stations. Reception quality should be on par with your factory head unit. Reception quality seemed to improve slightly as the unit warmed up.

If you want to test fit the sled and wires, now would be a good time to do so (with engine and empeg out of sled of course) see STEP 7. for wiring layout.

Assuming everything worked properly, unplug it all and go shrink up the tubing.



If you have access to a heat gun, us it. This part is the most challenging from a patience perspective.

The general proceedure is: 6a. Shrink all the small tubing until it has a good grip on the wires. (english is soo wierd!) 6b. Slide the large tubing up and over the small tubing. Shrink it in same manner.

Pointers: Be sure not to shrink the large tubing untill you've got all the small stuff done. If you only have access to a soldering iron turn it up as high as it will go. Hold the iron under the bottom of the tubing as close as you can. Run it VERY SLOWLY along the length of the tubing, rotate tubing as needed to achieve a tight fit.

When you're done it should look something like this.


Putting the empeg and wires in the dash.

You're almost done, and so am I. I'm going to put pics up. They're worth more than words. I'll finish up later.

Tuner inserted (best place for it.)

ISO connector hooked up. Note the harness routing. (it goes BEHIND the plastic 'stop')

All wires connected. A good time for a last minute test!

Sled installed. It's a bugger to get it seated firmly. The plastic behind the dash doesn't allow for good leverage.

Intersate Love Song by STP. Need I say more?

If you have questions you can email me. Don't forget to 'correct' the email address.