Alpine's iPod Compatible Car Stereos
The very word Alpine draws images to mind like picturesque Alps, winter sports and mountainous central-European nations with hot blonde chicks toting machine guns on skis. But no Alpine daydreams are complete without thoughts of fine car audio.
Alpine has been making iPod compatible head units since 2004 making it first to provide complete in-dash iPod control. As you can imagine the early renditions were frustrating affairs that ensured you would run your car off the road before you'd find the playlist you were looking for.
If "compatibility" requires an add-on adaptor box, is it really "compatible"? You can buy adaptor boxes that make any car stereo head unit with a multi-disk changer port play back music from the iPod. The difference between Alpine's iPod compatible head units and using a CD Changer port is that Alpine offers iPod control through the head unit while charging the iPod. Otherwise you're controlling the iPod at its click wheel - which is not necessarily a bad thing. Units like the CarPlayer can also recharge the iPod while in use.
The iPod compatible head unit I've been using from Alpine is the CDA 9853. Don't get me wrong, it's a fine deck. But I had to spend $100 bucks on the add-on box. The controls offered from the deck itself are truly annoying. The horribleness of the "slide control" cannot be understated (yes, that's a word). You use finger slide control and sometimes it scrolls, sometimes not. Sometimes you can stop at the desired selection but sometimes…not so much. I've found many of the basic controls clunky. It takes three well-timed button presses on two different buttons to set playback to random shuffle.
Alpine has since trashed the slide control on most of its latest models. With the exception of the most expensive deck, the $1600 DVA-9965, there are no more slide controls to be found among Alpine's iPod compatible line. Thank God.
The DVA-9861 is a formidable new deck that allows you to finally dispense with the extra outboard box required to make your car stereo head unit iPod compatible. All you need now is a cable. Don't forget there is no slide control, so you won't wake up screaming in the middle of the night.
Just for kicks, many of Alpine's new premium car stereo decks have a bevy of new tricks like Bluetooth, XM or Sirius Satellite Radio, HD Radio and USB MP3 compatibility. The big drawback is the fact that each neat new feature requires a separate add-on box. If you're looking for any of these features, remember to add the cost of the adaptors to the cost of the head unit.
Although the feature list is impressive at first glance, don't count on using all of them at once. Your ride is liable to end up looking like a bag lady toting a shopping cart full of add-on boxes.