Pros: Easy installation; decent sound; aux input; good shock resistance; good FM
Cons: Overly jazzy styling; annoying "demo" mode
(Added more information on Nov 3, 2003.)
Car audio for me is in a sort of in-between hell... I have been drifting to using more CDs in the car but I like to listen to books-on-tape, which are still mostly on cassette. Therefore, I wanted a CD car stereo with a convenient front-panel "Aux" jack so that I could plug in a Walkman-style cassette player.
There were only two brands for such a beast in the local stores: Jensen and Aiwa. I have an Eclipse CD car stereo with a rotary volume knob and I like the old-fashioned control much more than the pushbutton volume controls on my other car stereos, so I wanted a volume knob. The Aiwa had this and the Jensen did not. I therefore bought two Aiwa CDC-X227s and installed them in two different vehicles: A 1996 Mazda pickup and a 1993 Porsche 968.
The CDC-X227 installs very easily. I hate having to dig stereos out of the dash to fix a connection problem, so I soldered the wires. Even with soldering, the installation took a leisurely 30 minutes... not counting the time to remove each car's existing stereo (a Blaupunkt in the Porsche and the aformentioned Eclipse in the Mazda).
The first Aiwa CDC-X227 that I installed distorted badly at moderate volume levels, so I exchanged it for another. With a properly working unit, the sound is very good. It's perhaps a little less transparent than the Eclipse but you can't hear that at 55 MPH.
The ergonomics of the Aiwa CDC-X227 are a mixed bag. The unit has the volume knob that I wanted but the knob works slowly and is a little hard to grip. But it's not too bad and it does do the job. The radio station selection buttons are well labeled, positioned and easy to use, and I really like the combination on-off/mute button. There are other buttons clustered around the volume control and these are small and require averting your eyes from the road to press the correct button. Pressing one of these is required to put the CDC-X227 into "aux input" mode.
The front display of the unit provides good information. It also has a large VU meter-like display that serves no useful purpose other than to distract. Overall, I don't really care for the appearance of the CDC-X227. Maybe I'm an old fart, but I prefer basic black instead of the zoomy "boy-racer" looks of the Aiwa CDC-X227.
The most annoying visual problem is that the CDC-X227 fires up initially in "demo" mode. The unit's manual is cryptic about this, but it is the demo mode that causes the front-panel lights to annoyingly switch from red to blue and back every five seconds or so. Once I realized this, I set the color to red and it now stays there. If you get one of these units, the first thing you should do is turn off the demo mode.
The Aiwa wired right up to my four speakers. I do not have an external amplifier, so I do not use the aux output connectors. I do use the aux input and it works perfectly.
The FM reception on the unit seems excellent. Right off the bat, it seems to lock and hold stations much better than either the Eclipse or the Blaupunkt that the two Aiwas replaced.
The unit also has a "super bass" feature that seems to work well. It's a little too ear-pounding for my taste, so I keep it off. Aiwa also claims that the CDC-X227 plays most CD-Rs and CD-RWs, but I haven't tried this yet.
Overall, the Aiwa CDC-X227 installs easily and works well. It is also inexpensive and has the all-important (to me) aux input. It has excellent FM reception and a pretty good volume knob, and it seems very shock-resistant while playing CDs.
I found that during the winter of 2002-2003, one of the two players skipped on CDs quite a bit when the temperature was below 50F. Once the car (my Mazda truck, actually) and the player warmed up, the skip performance improved greatly. The other player has no skip problems and only skips when I hit the hardest of jolts. The FM radio performance remains excellent and both are very good radios. The sound quality is as good as I've heard from a simple car stereo and I have not had any problems with speakers blowing or with the amplifier distorting. And the front-panel Aux jack is holding up quite well to my use... and I use it frequently.
The more I use the Aiwa CDC-X227, the more I think it is an amazing value for $100. One thing I wish it had: I would like to be able to see its digital clock even with the power turned off. It is a nice big digital clock when the stereo is switched on but it would be nice to see it with the player turned off. Otherwise, I have no complaints.
Just be sure that you turn off the @#%&!@# demo mode.
May 11, 2004 update:
As a service to my fellow Aiwa CDC-X227 owners, here are the directions for turning off "demo" mode. It involves three sets of controls: The "SRC" button, the volume control knob and the two up-down switches to the left of the volume control.
1. Press and hold the SRC button until "ILL" appears on the display.
2. Press either the up or down switch until "DE" appears on the display.
3. Rotate the volume control until "DE 0" appears on the display. Don't touch the stereo for several seconds after that, so that it accepts the command and goes back to its normal display.