Car MP3 Units: Preferences

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Angelo.M, Jun 19, 2003.

  1. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    In the market for one, and my only strict criterion is that is must handle VBR files. Any brand preferences? Was thinking Alpine, Blaupunkt, but are brands like Rockford-Fosgate, Pioneer, Sony, Panasonic, JVC any good?

    Thanks, in advance...
     
  2. Seth_L

    Seth_L Screenwriter

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    I have a JVC 909. As of when I bought last fall the JVCs seemed to be the best ones out there. Best thing to do is to make a CD-R of mp3s and go to various stores trying them out. Be sure to make the disc how you would for playback in the car. Also, you should probably try some long filenames and some 8.3 filenames as well as some tracks with no id3 tag, tracks with only id3 v1.1 tags, some with only id3 v2.0 tags, and some with both. You'll be surprised how some players handle those.
     
  3. David Lawson

    David Lawson Screenwriter

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    I agree with Seth; you can research the playback capabilities all you like (Highway MP3 is a good source), but it's imperative to bring your own test MP3 CD if you're going to be purchasing (or testing) locally.

    I went the cheap(er) route and bought a Jensen MP3510 over a year ago. It handles VBR files without a problem, but it won't display ID3 tags higher than v1.1. The manual also recommends burning CDs in ISO 9660 format, but I've had no problems burning in the hybrid Mac/PC format on my Mac.

    My main complaints about the unit are the radio tuner (not that it gets much use) and the "default" volume setting; whenever the car is turned off and back on, it always reverts to a preprogrammed volume level, instead of remembering how loud it was when the car was turned off. It picks up right where it left off in the songs, so I'm not sure why it can't do the same for the volume.

    If their catalog is your cup of tea, I highly recommend an eMusic subscription to complement the deck. I'll never run out of new music.
     
  4. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    Great advice about bringing a test CD. I was checking out the JVC KD-S890 on Crutchfield's site, and it seemed impressive, although I have no experience w/ the JVC brand. I'll burn a disc and go shopping...
     
  5. Shane Bos

    Shane Bos Second Unit

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    I bought the Sony CDX-MP450X about 2 years ago. Reason I decided on it is that it was the best model available at the time. The only other 2 were one from AIWA and one from Panasonic. I love it. Nothing beats having 150 tracks on one disc especially when I put it on random.
     
  6. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    Shane: My wife really likes the look of the current Sony MP3 player (MP40, I think). I've heard some iffy things about the quality of the player, however. Any thoughts?
     
  7. Clinton McClure

    Clinton McClure Casual Enthusiast
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    I have a Kenwood DPX-MP4030 in my Celica. It's a double-din CD/MP3 unit which to me looks better than a single or 1.5 din. I just checked the Kenwood site and it seems to have been phased out.
     
  8. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    I have the new Sony CDX-MP40 and I did have the Jensen model that David had. I fell in love with MP3 Car CD players from the first time I put a compilation of 10 of my CDs in for a long trip and random accessed them all. It was like having a radio station worth something.

    The Jensen was a good learning experience, so I went with the Sony thinking that I had all the bases covered. I didn't quite, but it is still quite impressive. Here are the features that I consider to be "must haves" now based on my experience with both of them:
    • Fast Forward and Rewind within an MP3
    • Shuffle/Random that can shuffle within the folder as well as across the whole disc if you choose
    • ID3 compatibility
    • Constant scroll of the Tag for Artist/Album/Title if requested (the Sony doesn't do this)
    • A silence mode for button presses
    • Solid buttons and easy to use and solid removable face plate mechanism
    One thing that the Sony does right now that I hate is that it will beep several times after the car is turned off if I haven't taken the removable face off. The engineers obviously want you to take it because the beep combination is remarkably annoying, especially after the first 100 times you hear it. Apparently the only way to get it to stop is to install an amp (which I really don't need for how I listen to music). This is the kind of thing I could never have known in the store demonstration.

    Despite those, I really like the Sony. Especially nice is that it doesn't have a super gaudy color scheme and layout, which seems to be in favor with most of the MP3 players out there. I really like the subdued style it has and will look for something similar in my next player.
     
  9. Scott L

    Scott L Producer

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    There are people on this on this forum who own a PhatBox, which is basically a 40gig media card that stores and play MP3s, VBRs and all. No more scratches, skipping, cd changing, or burning. Downside; I think the cost hovers around $850. This is what I plan getting in my next car.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Philip_G

    Philip_G Producer

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    I cheaped out too and purchased a kenwood MPV-619 on closeout for 180 bucks.
    I haven't tried VBR files, but don't have any complaints. Most of my files don't have ID tags on them so I just display the file name, guess I'm not much help [​IMG]
     
  11. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    This is all great help.

    Alex: thanks for your mini-review of the Sony. The non-scrolling display may be a deal-breaker for me; I think the Pioneer units have it. Also, in the store set-up, the Sony faceplate and buttons didn't seem up to the quality of Pioneer or Alpine.

    Think I'll pick up one of those and install it myself. Seems very easy to do.
     
  12. Philip_G

    Philip_G Producer

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    Oh, I'll add the only requirement I have of a cd/mp3 deck is a ROTARY volume knob. I HATE buttons.
     
  13. john harshman

    john harshman Stunt Coordinator

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    hands down alpines are the best out there right now
    whats your budget
    9807-- $200
    9813-- $300
    9815-- $400
    all can be had on ebay for tose prices

    these have fast load times
    you can listen to music while you search the disc
    very nice
     
  14. Shane Martin

    Shane Martin Producer

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    A friend of mine just bought an Alpine(9815) I think locally for $400 + tax which isn't a bad price. That head unit rocks and is darn near bullet proof like most Alpine products I've owned and my friends have owned.
     
  15. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    Good luck Angelo

    It's so weird. It will scroll once but never again. There are times when I think their programmers fall asleep at the wheel because it can have an outstanding interface in some places and then the most head smackingly bad decisions elsewhere.
     
  16. DaveGTP

    DaveGTP Cinematographer

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  17. Brian Teal

    Brian Teal Extra

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    I was in the same boat as you last December, and I finally decided on a Kenwood blah-X859. It was the only unit available at the time that fit all of my needs: completely blacked out when turned off (detachable faces dont cut it these days, the best option is to not let them know you have it), a display that can be angled up (I mounted it in a lower DIN slot, keeping my stock system as a decoy and clock), and a two line display for text.

    I should say that the laser pickup on my original unit failed. This does not sit well with me, but the customer and warranty service from Kenwood has been top notch so far.

    I got a Kenwood, but only because Alpine did not offer anything that did what I needed it to do (and Nakamichi does not make mp3 players). IMHO, get an Alpine if you find one that suits your needs. They offer wonderful sound quality and almost too much tweakability. I have been nothing but satisfied with the Kenwood as well (other than the laser pickup breaking on me, of course). Stay away from Sony. Their car audio division has gone downhill in a hurry these past few years. From what I have heard/seen, Pioneers are solid units. I don't know much about other brands.

    In the end, only you know what you want. As others have mentioned, make a test CD. Do not just throw a few mp3's on it. Make a full CD with multiple folders. Some units have a long load time on full cd's, and you want to know how it will handle what you throw at it.
     
  18. Philip_T

    Philip_T Supporting Actor

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    Philip,
    You really must be my twin. I just went through the process of getting a new mp3 head unit for my car. I'll, admit, I didn't do as much homework as I normally do with these kina purchases, but thats because I have only and probably will only buy Alpines. I just picked up the 9811 for $331 locally. This is a great unit with scrolling text, folder search, tilt face, remote control and did I mention the sound? Also has time correction and media expander.

    Philip
     
  19. Trenton McNeil

    Trenton McNeil Second Unit

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    JVC KD-SH909 here. No regrets at ALL. Great load times, very high sound quality, and a 7 band EQ.

    I would prefer Alpine's directory navigation/scrolling to the JVC method, but the JVC does across the disc random, and has no problem scrolling tags (continuously if you like). Clean brushed aluminum faceplate with three tilt angles for viewability, and no gaudy colors, just a smart functional and handsome display. HIGHLY recommended.

    Mosfet amp built in to allow for clean loud speakers, as well as TWO pre-outs for front/rear as well as a STEREO preout for the Subwoofer, and selectable crossover and gain for the sub output.

    Oh....I paid $250 for it online, but its a little hard to find now that this year's model is out (KD-SH9750).
     
  20. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    Trenton: does the JVC handle VBR files?

    I have a lot of auditioning to do. Short list is Alpine, Pioneer, JVC. Back in the day, Blaupunkt made some good stuff; what about their current head units?
     

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