Pros: HUGE:AUX In on front; Plays Various CD Formats; Mute; Good output
Cons: Volume settings; # of Bands; Skipping; FM Reception "so so"
History.. You'll be his.. you'll be his.. you'll be His-stor-y!!
This unit replaced my existing factory cassette player in my 95 Mercury Sable. I was starting to get sick of the cassette deck - having wait for tapes to rewind; tape being ruined; distorted/hiss sound etc etc (only took me 10 years??). Further the unit developed a problem with the right side. The volume was way off and I was starting to record with a right side bias which still didn't improve things. To complicate things I wanted to get a portable Mp3 player - I didn't want to fork over a lot of money for both a car deck PLUS a portable unit.
My choices for the car were:
(A) keep the existing deck and use the "cassette converter" to enable external input from a portable device; this was the cheapest solution; problem was, the RIGHT side volume issue; no true digital playback.
(B) buy a car CD player; ok sound quality but stuck without being to listen to external devices (e.g. my Mp3 unit)
(C) buy a car MP3 player; good idea but now paying a premium for Mp3 player that wasn't portable; limited selection of players (1st generation car mp3 players?)
(D) buy a car unit that allowed AUX IN. Ah yes, perhaps a good middle ground. Except the cheapest entry level machine was about $236; Sony CD player that had rear AUX IN
Solution (A) Proved to be a problem since I found the "cassette converter" unit didn't always "seat" properly. Further I was hearing distortion from the external CD player I was using (probably the player due to the poor quality). I was not so happy with this solution.
Solution (B) was poor since I really wanted to plug in an external unit. (C) was limiting (see below note). (D) Was the answer except the cost for the unit was high.
Mp3 Player Note: I bought a portable Koss unit at CostCo for $56 - portable and played CDR/CDRW/Mp3s etc. What a P.O.S. It took about 45-60sec to read the CD (MP3) and read in all the tracks - each time you powered up. It ONLY took two AA batteries; "close to fresh batteries" caused the unit to say "BATTERY LOW" and SHUT OFF!!! The last straw was the fact that it was difficult to manage the Mp3 directory tree. And this is where I really was weary of buying a car unit. When you have 5-7hours of music on ONE CD, you have to have a good way to navigate the tree of songs. You really need a good method of managing the songs -- with playlists. Would buying a car mp3 unit provide a good way to navigate the songs? Would it be as BAD as the Koss? Who knows. I really didn't want to take that chance and pay the premium for a unit that really didn't fit my goal. Because of this fact alone, I am leaning toward a Nomad or iPod as my portable MP3 player of choice.
My other problem was the cost v. security. I really didn't want a high end unit because I didn't want people breaking into my car. The car does not have any security so I figured spending $200 for any solution would risk theft. This UNIT does NOT contain a removable face plate. But that again wasn't important to me.
Then one day I am looking through my flyers - Best Buy was opening up in Canada and they had a 3 day sale "Awai Car CD Unit with Mp3 input" !!! Reading further basically it was a CD player that had an AUX in on the front of the unit. The opening day cost of $110 free install !!! Wow, I thought. So I rushed to the store on Friday morning 10AM and was number 15 of 15 to receive THIS Awai unit. (thanks for the 1/2 hour wait in line to boot!) Later that afternoon it was installed. I needed to only pay $15 more for a Ford converter and parts. Install was simple apparently; no additional hardware required; a SONY unit, I was told, would require a converter side mount kit... so I was told..
** See below for VISA Extended Warranty v. Store Extended Warranty
- This unit came with a REAR amplifier input; you have to get the next model (X227) to get both front and rear. Both useless to me. The next model up also included detachable face plate; ditto useless to me.
- You can adjust Bass; Treble; Balance (Left to Right); Fade (Front to Rear)
- You can turn on High Bass (YES/NO). Haven't really played with this. H-Bass is good. Regular Bass at 4-7 is probably sufficient for me. Again my speakers are factory so I really wasn't concerned with this feature. However, early tests reveal -- the H-Bass does make those speakers rattle -- so I might bring it down then turn the H-Bass on.
- You can adjust the brightness (hi/lo) of the front panel.
- The system will show the clock or radio/cd track
- Demo mode? Others reviewing the higher end models a demo mode. To this day I haven't seen any demo mode with this unit. (perhaps good news?)
- Last but not least; the unit comes with the AUX-IN on the front. You will need a stereo MALE-MALE connector. I will purchase (make one) shortly and will advise within my next update how this faired.
- MUTE - Press power quickly and the unit goes into MUTE mode (really it drops the volume pretty low so you still hear it). Excellent when you want to make or receive a cell phone call and don't want to turn off the unit esp. in middle of CD song.
- Volume -- uses a knob to adjust volume. For more detailed info on the volume system, see below.
- The unit has three sources of input. Radio (5 bands; 18FM presets and 12AM); CD and AUX. The system loops with "SRC" button .. "FM1 -> FM2 -> FM3 -> AM1 -> AM2 -> CD -> AUX" (CD - not shown if no CD in player).
- You have 5 bands - each with 6 presets -- for a total of 30 presets (3FM 2AM). You can press BAND to go within the RADIO bands only (FM1->FM2->FM3->AM1->AM2).
- Quite useless to me. I really only like about 3 or 4 stations. On the high end perhaps I like 8 FM stations - I would prefer to get a unit with 1FM/1AM and 8 buttons. The presets are a pain really. If I have 3FM stations on FM1, and want to hear the news on AM1, I have to hit BAND 3 times. To listen to FM again I have to press BAND twice. Cumbersome. Again LESS looping and MORE buttons would be better.
- Negative: No auto scanning stations as with the old deck (cheap really considering this is easy. Then again never really used this feature that much. But still!
- FM quality doesn't appear to be as good as the old deck; if the arial alone decides this then I am crazy. But I do believe it does not pick in stations "as good". But we are talking subtle changes. I will post a fol
- Auto-Preset. You can press and hold a button and it will automatically setup your presets. Of course if you have all your presets setup, and you do this, YES you will lose all of YOUR presets. The funny line is "to cancel automatic presetting, press PS/A.ME again". Yes. But the presets are so FAST that by the time you realize what you just did, it is tooooooo late.
- Resumes play (where it left off) once the player is restarted (from Radio or OFF)
- Oddly no PAUSE button (apparently not all units in general have this)
- Standard stuff: Random; Intro; Repeat ONE song; At the end of the last track it automatically plays the first song again
- It was able to play standard STORE CDs.
- I was able to burn and play CDR and CDRW made from my Yamaha 4416S.
- My Yamaha cannot burn high speed 80m/700MB CDRs. I was able to burn a CDR at my father's and it played on this unit without fail.
A yellow sheet came with the unit saying that CDR/CDRW burned on some units may not play on this unit. Further when playing one CDR or CDRW, the CD had problems finding the song. I had to press NEXT SONG to get it to work. Another occasion an error came on the screen. I had to eject and re-insert the CDR/CDRW to play. Only once each has this happened.
- CDR Note: My friend's 1999 Honda had a factory CD player. When playing a 80m CDR that was made on my father's CD writer, his unit constantly took forever to seek and find a song. Not so with my unit. So be aware of this(!!) [I am sure the Honda unit is an older unit that does not even play CDRW]
- CDRW Note: There is a slightly longer pause from insertion to first play with my CDRW discs. However, once in, they play perfectly and also change songs (when advancing manually) without problems.
- Skipping I have found this unit does skip depending on the terrain. With the portable CD player I borrowed in my initial tests (with "cassette converter" it had a button to press that enabled it to have up to 10 seconds of anti-skip. Without this turned on the unit was constantly skipping all over the place. However, on HUGE bumps it worked fine. With this unit, for the most part the unit rarely skips. When it does it is due to a giant pot hole or bump taken hard on the road. Interestingly when visiting other CD player sites (Pioneer and Sony) I found that Sony on one unit I checked made NO mention of anti-skipping, and the Pioneer site simply said "anti skipping". My point here is.. this unit does not appear to have any sophisticated anti-skip capabilities. But there must be something since it would be skipping all over the place like the portable. Anyways, I am surprised the other manufacturers don't make a mention on how good their anti-skip is with cars like the portable units and their "up to 45 seconds of anti-skip.. blah blah blah". Note: The next model up (X227) likewise made no mention of anti-skip.
ETC ETC ETC
Volume Settings .. Can you hear me?
Two problems exist with this unit. The first is with this unit specifically. They use a "TURN KNOB" approach for volume adjustment. Not my cup of tea. My old unit had two push buttons that you held or pushed quickly to move volume up or down. As I drove before as I do today, I have to constantly adjust the volume (e.g. in traffic, road, highway). The knob really is annoying. Perhaps I will get use to it. Perhaps.
The second issue pertains to the first but to ALL manufacturers. Why didn't they add in a VOLUME PRESET function? My friend's GM Safari has a button that will adjust the volume of the stereo depending on the speed of the car. Not sure how that works or how effective - plus it would be hard to wire that into this unit. With this unit they could have had a button that allows you to preset up to 3 volumes (Stopped; Road; Highway). Then a quick press and you have the volume that you desire without having to constantly adjust. I would prefer THREE buttons for this function and less BAND presets.
One nice feature they did include is a VOLUME SYNC. You have up THREE sources of audio. Band (FM/AM); CD and AUX. They give you the ability to INCREASE or DECREASE the volume to LEVEL OUT all three units (at least closely). I have already made use of this and found it to be pretty good.
Finally - volume itself is pretty good. I have no complaints about the unit's output (bass/treble etc etc)
FYI: VISA Extended Warranty?
My VISA card provides extended warranty up to 1 year. However, when buying this unit I decided to inquire if this unit was covered or not. It just so happens IT IS NOT COVERED. The VISA warranty only covers "tangible, moveable property for personal use". The warranty does not cover AUTOMOBILES and accessories attached. Remember this when you pass on the "Extended warranty" provided by the store. In this case the unit would be covered for 3 additional years for $49. However, I felt the unit only being $110, the cost of the extended warranty was too high. If I had paid $200 for the unit, I would probably consider the extended warranty.
Worse case, I felt, I could always use the AUX IN if the CD malfunctions. (Another HUGE plus for the AUX IN).
- I will post a follow-up in a couple of months to give you more thoughts about the unit
- All $$ include taxes; in US dollars. $1US=$1.60CDN)
Total paid only includes UNIT cost (incl taxes); does not include installation plus extra parts.
- My 95 Sable had an extra SCAN/VOLUME UP/DOWN button above my receiver - that feature has been disabled with the new unit. Yes, that hurt, but fortunately I knew going into this purchase I would lose it.
Update July 16, 2003
I have had this player for about 6mths and can offer some more feedback.
- I have tried various RW medias (Maxell 650MB; TDK 700MB). Both will - when the disc is HOT -- not play and actually error out. RW in general take a little longer to "start" and I have found they will start, but if you QUICKLY change songs the unit has problems and then errors out and you have to EJECT then try again. (even moreso during a hot day).
To this date I probably had it error out on a purchased music CD once (what is that? like they made things call records too?) and on one homemade CD. *Note* The RWs play OK when cold so not sure what the problem is (as again the CDRs are always fine) (read more below)
- There is little to no anti-skip protection. Again I am not sure how much is provided with other car players, but if you are buying one ensure they have something like 30-60secs.
- The volume is a pain as described above; "round" knob is really a pain. The "mute" again is "nice" but the music stays on but at a lower volume. If I have the volume way up the MUTE alone may not bring it down enough and I have to drop the volume a bit then hit mute.
- Scanning - again no scanning. And what REALLY burns me - if you are on a station say "91.1" and hit "UP" instead of "finding" the next higher station, it goes to "91.2". It should be 'press quickly' goes to next station; PRESS HOLD - fine tune. Like how many times does one have to fine tune a station with a digital deck? NEVER?
- CD/RW any good really?
The advantage of a RW is obvious - I write 650-700MB of music and after I have heard it a thousand times, I erase and re-burn something else. Again this player has problems once the CDRW itself gets too hot; take it out for about 5 minutes and it is ok again for a while. However, I am not the cleanest individual (NO Belly say it ain't so!!!.. yes it is true!). The problem is - the CDRW aren't always treated properly and get scratched easily. Today CDR can be had for say around 50c or less. But CDRW are still in excess of $1.25-1.50. So the bottom line is .. I will be burning CD-R exclusively due to cost. (NOT due to the fact the unit has problems after a while; a pain nonetheless)
*** RATING CHANGE ****
I have decided to downgrade the unit based on the above update. Unheard of? Should not be. I think EVERYONE should followup after 6mths and then re-think their review. (I read some of these LAME-O reviews and they SUCK - and the people slap on 'high' ratings to things. Crap!! Tell you what, as Hank Hill would say, I would say most reviews are no better than myself looking at the bloody box. That's bad!!)
- Sound Quality - Will drop to a "more realistic" 4. If it cost 2-3X more, it "SHOULD" be a 5.
- Ease of Use - down to "3" due to volume and station scanning
-Durability - 3 is probably too high but 2 is too low so I will keep it as 3. Will update you all if this thing decides to die.
- Rating - will drop it to average due to lack of anti-skip and CDRW heat issues
* By the way; my "bottom line" stands. I tried the AUX-IN and it worked ok. I have not got an ipod yet (my dream) but if/when I do, or should this unit die with the CD mechanism, I can at least use the AUX-IN.
Cheers - Belly
Update August 10, 2005
- Volume control first thing to not work properly - unless I press hard the volume will not change anymore. Perhaps dirty - haven't cleaned with a spray yet
- Unit still plays CDs fine (don't use CDRW as they tend to have problems after a while - heat related)
- Getting close to buy a digital MP3 player - I will then use a simple cord from the player to my AIWA - via the AUX-IN....... my buddy has an IPOD and to get it working in the car, he ended up getting an iTRIP wireless transmitter. Sure it is wireless (always superior in that you won't forget to unplug - no tangles - can't comment on actual quality of output) - but not a cheap accessory.
-- RATING STILL STANDS..