Pros: Excellent sound quality and muscle, well built, mp3 playback
Cons: too many lights and colors, a bit pricey unless you shop around
When I finally got fed up with my old cassette player, I went with a brand of CD player that I learned to trust years ago: Nakamichi. After installing a CD-45z, I was amazed at how unimpressed I could be by a CD player. It had to go. And, went it did. I decided to go with the new Alpine CDA-9813. It offered more power than the CDA-9811 and saved me $100 by not buying the two line display of the CDA-9815. Although I was never an Alpine fan in the past, I must admit to being very impressed by the CDA-9813.
The sound of the CDA-9813 is excellent. My CDs and mp3s sound alive. The extra power (27W RMS/60W peak) provides plenty of reserve for deeper base and improved clarity at all volume levels. (Tech Note: More power is more important for sound clarity than for just playing loud!) Most CD players offer around 17 to 23 watts rms. (Tech Note 2: The RMS watts are more important than peak, since most of the time youre not playing at peak.) The CDA-9813 offers 27W. This means that amplifier cost and installation are not absolute necessities. For those who prefer the improved punch of an external amplifier, the CDA-9813 offer a 4 volt set of preamp outputs. Sony, by comparison, offers only 2V on most of their players.
The CDA-9813 offers a wide array of potential for customizing your sound. In addition to fader and balance, it has a five band equalizer with four presets or ability to customize your own. The only drawback here is that it is not quickly accessed or adjusted. Think: set well and forget. Another great feature of the CDA-9813 is ability to set time delays for each individual speaker, including subwoofer. Rather than merely turn the front or back volume up or down to compensate for your vehicles design, time correction actually delays the signal to the speakers by a few milliseconds. This allows you to adjust the sound to put it right where YOU want it. Awesome feature. The CDA-9813 also has adjustable crossovers for all speakers and Media Expander, which makes individual sounds more distinct.
The CDA-9813 plays .mp3 and .wma files. This means you can put up to about 150 songs on a single CD-R or CD-RW and play them like an enormous juke box. In the 4 months Ive had my CDA-9813, playback has always been flawless. The ability to play by folder or complete disc, play randomly within a folder or the complete disc, and ability to search quickly makes mp3 playback as quick and easy as normal CDs. Ive noticed no appreciable difference between store-bought CDs and mp3 in my car, as far as sound quality is concerned. The display can also be set to scroll file information, give folder and track number, or time information. If you dont like all the blinking and flashing lights, the CDA-9813 also has a dark mode which turns the display off except when buttons are pushed or adjusted.
Upon pulling the CDA-9813 out of the box, the first thing that impressed me was the build quality. Compared to other CD players I looked at, Nakamichi included, the Alpine was far above any of the others. It was devoid of cheap feeling plastic. It fit together well and had a very solid feel. I have had no problems whatsoever in my four months of ownership. The rotary knob is even surrounded by grippy rubber. Nice attention to detail.
Although I use neither function, the CDA-9813 is capable of playing XM radio signals and acting as a hands free cell phone receiver. Both require additional hardware.
The CDA-9813 has ability to connect to and control multiple Alpine CD changers. It can also connect to non-Alpine units, such as I have with a 10 disc Sony, via an additional adapter which allows an RCA connection to the rear of the unit (the CDA-9813 has no RCA input). This extra adapter is about $20 from Crutchfield (http://www.epinions.com/content_52951617156). There is also the ability to change the name displayed for the auxiliary device, in case you hook a DVD player, game console, etc.
The CDA-9813 wireless remote is a good size with only one gimmick: face display tilt adjustment. Yeah, I change that pretty often. Otherwise, button layout is well thought out with good button texture differentiation.
A few other features: auto dim when connected to the light switch, pause/mute button, removable faceplate, faceplate angle/tilt adjustment (in case your stereo mounts loooooowwww in your dash, 12FM/6AM presets, radio station titling (suggestion: instead of entering the radio call-letters, enter the radio station phone number in case you know the trivia question to win that trip to Cancun or $1000. suggestion II: send me $10 for a great suggestion.), 1 year warranty.
There are too many lights, blinking lights, colors, colored blinking lights, and green buttons for my not-quite-geriatric taste. My looked MUCH better in my dash. Fortunately, there is the dark mode button I mentioned above.
The CDA-9813 isnt cheap. Most places sell them for $399. However, I paid $300 including the RCA input adapter, and S&H from SBHCorp.com. Considering what you get, especially compared to the competition, this is actually a pretty good value.
The complex sound customization is not very intuitive. Expect at least an hour setting in the car with the manual in your lap to get the benefits of what the CDA-9813 has to offer. A month later, expect no idea how to change it, shy of punching buttons until you come across it.
FM and AM reception could be better. It isnt bad, but they didnt put much emphasis on it either.
Crutchfield recommends a 10 gauge wire connection directly to the battery. Alpine doesnt recommend it though. I ran the wire and I have had no issues with dimming or seeming to run out of power. If your not experienced in stereo installation, it could be a problem. If a less than reputable retailer (think: Circuit City) installs it for you, you likely will NOT get a 10 gauge connection to anything!
The faceplate is motorized to move out of the way when inserting or removing a disc. Good for some AAHHHs and OOHHHs from friends, but a mechnical liability in the long run. Fortunately, the build quality make make up for this over the long haul. I'd beware of cheaper brands with this dubious "feature".
The CDA-9813 is a well built CD/mp3/wma player with very good sound and muscle. Its shortcomings are few and, in most cases, easily overcome. Overall, its a very solid unit. Id recommend it to a friend.