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Is it possible to enable voice control/speech dialogue system in an Audi cabriolet? (A3/A4 B7/A5/S5/TT/R8) (by LoCal)

14.12.2009 (updated 21.2.2010) - LoCal sent in an answer to this frequently asked question.

Short answer: Probably, depends on the model and equipment level.

Long answer: Audi ships most, if not all, of their cabriolets and roadsters (cars that have non-fixed roofs) with voice control/speech dialogue system disabled or removed, even when the car is specced with equipment that in a fixed-roof Audi would include voice control. Assumedly this is because increased noise levels would diminish reliability of voice control functions. (For brevity I will call the Audi speech dialogue system (SDS) and telephony voice controls just "voice control" in this article.)

However, practice has shown voice control in a cabriolet is not usually unreliable, especially with the roof up. With the current crop of well-insulated acoustic fabric roofs noise levels are not far from fixed-roof cars anyway. In fact, voice control is reportedly possible even with the roof down on a highway! So either Audi has some hidden agenda or they are just playing it safe on this one (I would bet on the latter reason) - but there are no major show-stoppers technically in using voice control features in a cabriolet. Except the inconvenient fact that Audi has disabled them.

So, for whatever reasons, disabled or removed they are (if yours aren't, consider yourself a lucky exception!) - and the question is, can they be re-enabled or retrofitted. Recent Audi cabriolets (and roadsters, but I'll just call them all cabriolets for brevity) have shipped with basically three scenarios (voice control wise): 1) cars with factory phone-prep/factory phone (but without MMI 3G), 2) A3/A4 B7/TT/R8 cars with RNS-E DVD navigation and 3) A5/S5 with MMI 3G Navigation or Navigation Plus. BTW, MMI 3G means a very specific thing technically, only available in a non-fixed roof Audi with factory navigation, I repeat only with factory navigation, in A5/S5 Cabriolet. If you are unsure what e.g. RNS-E or MMI 3G means, see this article first.

The three scenarios have been sorted according to difficulty, 1) being easy/trivial to solve, 2) harder but doable and 3) currently unknown (could be easy, could be hard, nobody knows or tells at the time of writing).

1) cars with factory phone-prep/factory phone (but without MMI 3G)

You will need to have a multi-function steering wheel (which always has a talk button in recent Audis) to use voice control (or alternatively an Audi phone-prep phone cradle with a talk button), if you do, read on...

In this scenario you are definitely in luck, your car already has the microphone in place due to the phone-preparation and all recent Audi telephony modules include voice control for phone functions - it has simply been disabled for the cabriolets. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to simply pick a language (out of a few built-in choices) and operating mode (language dialogue or voice tags only, so called speaker dependent mode) - and then code Telephone (77) module accordingly with VAG-COM. See this article for the codes.

This should also apply to A5/S5 Cabriolets with the MMI lookalike radio Concert/Symphony and phone-prep. (This fix might also work with MMI 3G cars with phone-prep/factory phone if there is a separate telephone module in the car, but at least the SAP phone in not separate.)

2) A3/A4 B7/TT/R8 cars with RNS-E DVD navigation

RNS-E is the colour-screen DVD navigation in non-MMI cars (I know it claims to be an MMI, but it is not, it is RNS-E - again, see this article). The part-numbers for RNS-E with voice control (speech dialogue system) and without are different, the differences being in the firmware installed. You will also need the multi-function steering wheel and microphone installed. If you just want to use the phone voice control functions and you have factory phone functionality, see 1) cars with factory phone-prep/factory phone (but without MMI 3G) above, it should work for you too. Also, see 1) cars with factory phone-prep/factory phone (but without MMI 3G) if you have the non-colour red and black Audi CD navigation BNS 5.0.

If you have the pre-requisites and you want to go full voice control with the RNS-E, you will either need to replace the RNS-E unit with a version what includes voice control (unless you by some chance already have such a unit) or search online for manual methods of updating the firmware to include voice control. This may void warranty and break after next update, so of course replacing the entire unit is the more approved way of approaching this. Also, if your car already has a microphone for factory phone functionality, you will need to reroute microphone cables (that now go direct to the phone module) via the RNS-E. Then a little VAG-COM magic is needed to code it all together. These things done, you should be able to get full voice control (speech dialogue system) in an Audi cabriolet with RNS-E.

For the part-numbers of RNS-E and VAG-COM codes as well as installation instructions for the voice control firmware and microphone re-routing, please search audiforum.us/rns-e. That forum is the best place to read and ask about RNS-E related retrofits and issues. Google is also your friend, look for RNS-E and SDS.

Note that there are two major revisions of the RNS-E, the original and the new and improved one (better screen, new processor etc.) released in 2009. Also note, U.S. RNS-E apparently do not have voice control, a change to European firmware or something like that is apparently required there to get voice control.

3) A5/S5 with MMI 3G Navigation or Navigation Plus

Update 21.2.2010: Solution for this at the end of the article!

Prior to launching the A5/S5 (and possible future A7 Cabriolet), Audi never shipped full MMI in a non-fixed roof car. Earlier cabriolets relied on radios or RNS-E (and its predecessors). As far as I know, the previous full MMI, MMI 2G, never shipped in an Audi cabriolet and the MMI 3G in A5/S5 Cabriolet with (and only with) factory navigation is the first full MMI in an Audi cabriolet. If for some reason (market differences or something), someone has an Audi cabriolet with the earlier MMI 2G, see this article for how to retrofit a voice control module in MMI 2G. In MMI 3G there is no separate voice control module.

So, in MMI 3G there is no separate voice control module, it is all built in the MMI 3G main unit. In fact, voice control is standard on the MMI 3G in known markets and vastly improved over the old voice control in MMI 2G which was optional. It is just that, again, for whatever reason, Audi has chosen to strip this feature from the A5/S5 Cabriolet. This is reflected in the price of the MMI 3G, which is a little lower on the A5/S5 Cabriolet compared to the A5/S5 Coupé. But if the MMI 3G main unit (located at address 5F for all you VAG-COMmers out there) already houses voice control, surely it can be re-enabled simply?

One can hope. Judging by the scenarios 1) and 2) above, either of two possibilities is likely: the voice control may be there, just dormant, and require a simple coding activation - or, it might be like the RNS-E, that the voice control has been removed from the firmware/hard drive (unlike RNS-E, the MMI 3G, the Plus version, also has a hard drive) and requires firmware changing to work. But there are also some more sinister scenarios, one of them relating to the way SVM (Software Version Management) system and codes are employed by Audi in the MMI 3G, the system might require a code and a real-time online authorization from Audi to get voice control, and judging from past experience Audi might not give you such a code/permission - probably not even for a price.

Retrofitting an MMI 3G from a car with voice control might work, but again the SVM system, component protection etc. requiring dealer attention (that they may be unwilling or unable to give) are bogey men hunting you when it comes to MMI 3G retrofits (you may want to read this and this as well as the links there).

At the time of writing (and I am sure this will change down the road as more is researched), the main problem is: the info just isn't out there and Audi sure ain't talking. Let us hope for a good outcome for this, best being a simple VAG-COM coding solution...


UPDATE 20.2.2010 / 21.2.2010:

A5 Cabriolet voice control is discussed e.g. here:

AudiForum.us: Change SDS language MMI 3G

Possible solution!

Voice control in MMI 3G Audi A5 Cabriolet: javii reports at AudiForum.us (http://audiforum.us/mmi/13459-change-sds-language-mmi-3g.html) that coding module 5F to e.g. 01010001010681ED01002B1E000000010000 where the underlined number was changed from 0 to 1 will enable the speech dialogue system that is normally disabled in Cabriolet. After that, go to the MMI car menu, setup, change the language to a different one for a while, and then change it back to your language. (For more VAG COM coding advice and codes: https://a6retrofit.tripod.com/articles/a5vagcodes.html)


Some forums to watch: the A5 & S5 forum in motor-talk.de as well as A5OC.com, in addition to the ever-reliable and cutting edge audiforum.us/mmi.

By LoCal

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