Some of the hottest 12-volt products featured at CES are starting to ship to dealers or are already available, like the Pioneer DVD player and Alpine iPod-dedicated source unit briefly reviewed below. Also featured this month, we have some other audio/media options, like Kenwood's KDC-HD942U with built-in HD Radio, SoundGate's iO Play for Bluetooth audio and hands-free calling and a security system from Autopage to keep your in-car technology safe.
Soundgate IO Play
Want an upgrade solution for Bluetooth audio and hands-free calling? SoundGate has something simple and easy to install. The iO Play has a control console that can be mounted anywhere in the vehicle and a 60-watt Class D amplifier that will power the sound transmitted via Bluetooth from various portable audio devices, be they MP3 players, mobile phones, or even GPS devices on Soundgate's iO Play. A specialized ground-loop isolation chip in the product allows for great sound quality with no interference. This device easily fits into an existing vehicle's audio system and is compatible with A2DP Bluetooth Stereo, Bluetooth HFP, all generations of iPod and iPhone, and any other device that uses Bluetooth.
If you're a dedicated iPod user, then you'll want an iPod-dedicated source unit like the 305 from Alpine. It has small but sufficient TFT screen that displays your album art. You can add on HD Radio and Sirius tuners-with the former you can have iTunes tagging so if you hear a song you like you can mark it for acquiring later on iTunes. If you're using an iPhone, add the Bluetooth adapter so you can talk hands-free on the multimedia unit.
The iPod interface on the radio is intuitive. It's so easy to use you should be able to get started right away, sans manual. Press the center of the rotary knob and you can access your files instantly. The search ability is very fast. There are alphabet or percentage search options to quickly go through your playlists. Alpine matches the high level in terms of ease of use with sound quality that will play the songs faithfully according to the bitrate at which you converted your songs. Since Alpine included a 24-Bit Burrbrown D/A converter, you get the max sonic effect.
You can connect other devices to the 305 if you happen to be one of those non-conformists unwilling to give in to the Applization of media consumption. You can even play music off a lowly thumb drive. The MSRP may seem high for a unit with no disc slot, but this source unit was made for Apple fans. Since Alpine works closely with Apple to make sure the latter's devices work as they should with the aftermarket manufacturer, you can be assured that you won't run into any software/hardware incompatibility issues. And if you want to play your discs still, you can still buy a disc changer. But if you want to access your videos off your iPhone or iPod, you might want to look elsewhere.
Here's another media option for your car. It's the first CD receiver from Kenwood with a built-in HD Radio tuner and iTunes tagging. It has a cool exterior design that's complemented by solid features internally, such as 4-volt preamp outputs and the company's "Sound Excellence" digital sound processing. It has a 5-line LCD display for viewing multiple text lines from HD Radio channels and is iPod, satellite radio and Bluetooth ready.
Auto Page RF-425LCD Security System
The 4-channel, 2-way security system with starter disable and keyless entry from Auto Page includes two remotes: a 2-way, 4-button LCD remote transmitter and a 5-button standard one-way mini-transmitter with blue LED. With 56-bit random code hopping, over 75 trillion available codes and dedicated chirp delete from the remote, plus passive arming by-pass and a code learning/anti-scan receiver, this is a stout little security system for a reasonable price.
A few years ago you couldn't get near a Pioneer multimedia unit for under a grand. The AVH-P4100DVD is $580 and does everything except cook you dinner. It's a hub for music, video and add-on media options like satellite radio or HD Radio. You can connect an iPhone or iPod to the AVH for music file and video playback. And with Pioneer's Advanced Sound Retriever (ASR), your compressed MP3s, AACs or WMA files will sound a lot better. And the unit has MOSFET 50-watts x 4 amplification, high volt pre-amp outputs, as well as two-way crossovers.
The AVH-P4100DVD plays DivX material as well as DVDs. A new black level control allows for a more refined picture quality. I also played video files off my iPhone and an iPod Touch. There was an issue with the audio not being in sync with the video on these two devices. According to Pioneer that is due to a software issue on the Apple side. I would look for some kind of firmware update on this later. The only other deficiency I found was the low resolution of iPod album art.
Whatever is not available on the AVH-P4100DVD, you can add. If you want Bluetooth, you'll have to buy the adapter. Same goes for HD Radio (iTunes Tagging is not available for this) and satellite radio. And actually, you need to buy the iPod video cable as well. That being said, if you put it all together, not including a backup camera, you would be under $1000 dollars.