Pros: Good price, high power, MP3/WMA/WAV-cd's, satellite-ready.
Cons: No true "next random song" button for cd.
After several years, I upgraded my existing aftermarket stereo in my Jeep Cherokee - I was happy with my sound, but I wanted to add satellite radio & play MP3 cd's...
Permanent, or Portable Satellite?
I went with XM satellite, because I already had XM in my F250 (previous owner's install), and I could get a good discount on a 2nd XM radio. To save space & complexity, I first looked for a headunit with built-in XM -- I only found one, and it was the older Alpine CDA-9820XM which didn't play MP3. I guess the manufacturers didn't want to lock-in to a certain satellite vendor, so they all seem to require an external satellite tuner box.
I considered some of the "portable" xm tuners such as the Delphi Roady XT and SkyFi 2, since I could hypothetically use them in my Cherokee, Camaro, motorcycle, and home. But after I got to checking I decided it was too much wires and such to buy for each install (or move them all each time) - antenna, power/cig-lighter-plug, etc. And if I use the built-in fm rebroadcaster the sound quality would be inferior (and I didn't really want to buy and install the special converter that plugs in-line to the antenna cable for each vehicle). Also, the portable units are much more likely to be stolen. So, I decided to go with a permanent XM installation.
My previous headunit was a Pioneer DEH-3400 - it was pretty "high power" (about 4x40-watt), and played cd's, had a remote, and had RCA output plugs to connect to my subwoofer. I was pretty happy with it, and wanted something similar (but that could do satellite radio, and play MP3 cd's).
After much comparison shopping, I chose the Pioneer DEH-3800MP, and I have been very happy with the choice! :)
Like my previous unit, it is high-power (4x50-watts peak), plays cd's, has RCA outputs for my subwoofer, and has a very good Pioneer fm supertuner.
Physical/design improvements over my older unit include a much better volume knob, most of the controls are on the left/driver's side (old unit had them split left/right), and you can feed the cd's in directly without flipping down the faceplate.
It also plays computer cd's containing MP3 or WMA music files. This allows me to put a *lot* of songs onto one cd, and basically have a cd "jukebox" (without having to change cd's). For example, I converted about 15 of my favorite custom greatest-hits cd's each containing about 20 songs into 64-kbps WMA files, putting each cd into a separate folder -- I then burned all 15 folders onto a computer-formatted cd (that's about 300 songs, and the cd still wasn't full). The pioneer can play this cd fine, and it shows the name of the song & artist (I used the name of the song & artist as the name of the files). It lets me navigate to the "next" song using the right-button on the remote, or skip to the "next" folder using the up-button on the remote. I usually just put it in "random" mode, and let the headunit pick the next song :) Of course, "compressed" music formats like MP3 and WMA are slightly less quality than regular cd audio, but vehicles are kinda noisy and I don't think you'll notice the difference.
I just can't tell you how great it is to have that many songs at your fingertips, without having to change cd's!
The headunit has an "official" subwoofer output, which allows you to control the crossover via the headunit, which only sends mid/high to your regular speakers and only sends the bass to your subwoofer. But I prefer to send full-range to all my speakers (and my subwoofer has it's own crossover), so I used the other (non-subwoofer) RCA outputs to go to my subwoofer. Depending on your preferences, and your sub, you might go the other way (my sub has it's own volume & sub controls, which might give me more flexibility than some other subs).
As usual, Crutchfield sent a wiring harness adapter. It was color-coded the same as the radio's wiring plug, and I used quick/crimp connectors to attach them. This is much better than just twisting & using electric tape (electric tape always gets hot & comes loose). Soldering the connections and using heat-shrink tubing would have been the "best", but I'm too lazy for that ;)
Now for the XM tuner... there were 2 $99 XM hardware options for this radio. The "XM Direct Package" (which comes in 2 separate pieces), or the Pioneer GEX-P920XM which is a single unit. I opted for the single-unit. Since there is virtually *no* room behind the dash of a 1995 cherokee, I installed this unit under the passenger seat. I removed the seat to make the install easy. I ran the antenna cable under the carpet, along the front door moulding, and out the top/front corner of the door, and around the corner of the roof rack, and attached the magnetic antenna about 6 inches from the rack (this antenna is *much* smaller than the older ones - just a little bigger than a quarter/25-cent coin). I ran the cable bundle under the carpet, and then up the center console at the passenger foot area, and up to the headunit from there (it's a tight fit to run the wires up there, but I fed a wire "loop" down from the radio compartment, and pulled the satellite wire harness up to the radio bay).
When I re-installed the seat, I scraped the floor paint around floorboard at the base of one of the seat bolts, and attached the xm unit's ground to that (adding a washer under the seat-connecting bolt to hold the ground wire securely against the metal floorpan).
I used the same accessories I had used with my previous Pioneer headunit. My front speakers are Polk DB525 (5.25") full-range speakers (these are mounted in the lower door, using the Jeep speaker grills that are built-in to the door). My rear speakers are Polk DB650 (6.5") -- these are larger than the original speakers that came in the Jeep roof-mounted sound-bar. The way I made them fit was to remove the Jeep speaker grills, and then stick the speakers in from the front-side, rather than mounting them totally behind the surface of the soundbar. I then used the Polk speaker grills (it's a very "clean" install, and looks pretty good).
I mounted an Bazooka RS6A subwoofer under the spare tire, and pointing towards the back corner. This is an amplified 6" subwoofer tube. I wired the power directly to the battery, and I connected to the music via RCA cables (alternatively you can 'tap' into the rear speaker signal, but the RCA connection is the better way to go). The RCA cable also has a "trigger/power" wire, which I connected to the radio wire harness (this causes the amp to turn on/off when the radio is turned on/off).
The bazooka has a wired remote, which allows me to control the volume & crossover from the front seat (I keep it in the center console in case I need to make adjustments based on the type of music, or the "disposition" of the passengers in my Jeep ;)
Let me tell you - this system sounds *great*!
It's not a "competition" loud stereo.
It won't make your ears bleed & crack your windows.
But it is way loud enough, and thumps out the tightest bass you could want -- Top 40, Country, Rock, Rapp, Old-School Hip Hop, etc ... it all sounds great!
The FM tuner picks up great.
The audio cd's play great (even shows cd-text).
The MP3/WMA cd's play great.
The XM radio picks up great (16-character display).
Remote controls everything intuitively.
The only thing I wish it had extra is a "next random" button when you're playing cd's - the arrows let you go to the next song on the disk, or the next folder, but I'd like to have a button to let it proceed to the next random song :)
Note: The picture that epinions is using is *wrong*.
To see a real picture, go to crutchfield, or some other website - most all the controls are on the left-hand-side, rather than split left & right like the epinions picture.
Also, I highly recommend http://www.crutchfield.com as a good place to buy this stereo -- they give you a free wiring harness adapter, and directions specific for your car (their directions are very helpful about learning where all the screws are located to take apart your dash, etc :)
Nov 25, 2006 Update:
I've been using this stereo for about 3 months now, in
my primary daily-driver, and have had absolutely no
problems with it. Everything works as well as it did
on the first day (remote, reception, mp3/wma cd's, etc)
and I'm very happy with it.
July, 2007 Update:
Happy to report everything is still working just as well
as it did when it was new, and I am 100% happy with this
radio (and this means a lot coming from me - I'm pretty
picky about my electronics!)
May, 2008 Update:
Everything is still working 100%, just like it should,
and I'm still very happy with this stereo :)