Alpine i109-WRA – 9″ Jeep Wrangler Apple CarPlay Deck Coming Soon

Alpine i109-WRA - 9" Jeep Wrangler Apple CarPlay Head Unit

Alpine introduces 9″ Jeep Wrangler Apple CarPlay Head Unit – Alpine i109-WRA

Although I did not get a chance to attend CES this year, I did hear about a couple cool new car audio products coming out in 2016 including a new 9″ Jeep Wrangler Apple CarPlay deck from Alpine.  After installing one of the X009-WRA units last summer, and seeing how nice the unit looked, felt and functioned, I really couldn’t get over how Alpine could leave out such a popular feature in a $3000 head unit.  Thankfully they sort of came to the same conclusion and created the 9″ Jeep Wrangler CarPlay head unit, the i109-WRA.

Alpine i109-WRA - 9" Jeep Wrangler Apple CarPlay Head Unit
Alpine i109-WRA – 9″ Jeep Wrangler Apple CarPlay Head Unit

This over-sized Jeep Wrangler touch screen stereo features a 9″ glass capacitive touch screen, just like what they use with the iLX-007.  In fact, it is essentially a 9″ version of the iLX-007 but with additional hard buttons that function as short cut keys for Maps, Music and Phone functions.  Although this unit is both attractive and surely a very functional option for a vast number of Jeep Wrangler driving iPhone users, it still leaves some key features off the table.  Unlike the X009-WRA, this unit lacks:

  • Bluetooth (must be connected using USB to lightning cable)
  • iDatalink Maestro Integration (but does have standard steering wheel integration option)
  • SiriusXM Capability (not that I care for SiriusXM, but I know lots of consumers do)
  • CD/DVD (probably not such a big deal these days, but FYI)
  • On board navigation (eh, you can use Apple Maps right?)

I find it somewhat frustrating that Alpine doesn’t make an all inclusive unit such as an X009-WRA with Apple CarPlay, but apparently their market research indicates consumers either want a full featured audio video navigation bluetooth stereo lacking Apple CarPlay OR they want a very minimalistic, but cool and functional Apple CarPlay radio.  I think most of my customers would disagree with that.  In my experience, they are looking for ALL the features in an easy to use platform at a great value (which is why Pioneer has totally domineered this category at our shop).

Speaking of value, the price tag on the Alpine i109-WRA is yet to be determined, but rumored to be at or around $1999.95.  The Alpine i109-WRA is compatible with 2011 and up Jeep Wranglers and will be bundled together with a a vehicle specific wiring harness.  Aside from the obvious Apple CarPlay integration, the Alpine i109-WRA features:

  • 9″ Anti-glare capacitive touch screen
  • Three 2-volt preouts for front, rear and subwoofer
  • Rear aux A/V input
  • Reverse camera input
  • Compatibility with Alpine TuneIt App (which allows access to advanced audio control options including 9 band EQ, time alignment, crossover points, etc.)

Current estimated release date on the Alpine i109-WRA is April 2016.


Wireless CarPlay is Coming for iLX-007

Lose the wires - wireless Apple Carplay for iLX-007

Apple CarPlay users want to go wireless

Alpine iLX-007 Review - The packaging is pretty sweet
Alpine iLX-007 – The packaging led us to believe wireless CarPlay was coming.

When Alpine first announced the iLX-007 in September 2014, everyone seemed to notice the “Wifi Enabled” feature displayed on the packaging and press release. There was very little information from Alpine at the time other than an assumption that the currently useless feature would eventually lead to a wireless version of Apple CarPlay.

However, if and when that would ever happen was anyone’s guess. It seemed to be a decision that was at the hands of Apple. Yet, just last week at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference an announcement was made that CarPlay was going wireless. So where does this leave Alpine iLX users?

One my readers from Europe received this rather disheartening response from Alpine UK regarding wireless CarPlay on the iLX-700. With the announcement that iOS9 would contain wireless CarPlay ability, Paul emailed Alpine UK asking if there would be an update.  Here was the response he received:

“From: AOUK Gait
Date: 10 June 2015 08:07:23 BST
To: Paul
Subject: Re: Fwd: iLX-700
Good Morning Paul

I’m afraid not, the Wifi Chip was only in the first production units and is no longer in the ILX-700, this feature will not be possible on the ILX-700


Well, I can’t speak for what Alpine is doing in the UK, but I did speak with my Alpine rep regarding the iLX-007 and here is what he knew about the situation. His understanding is that Apple changed the wireless CarPlay protocol after Alpine already built in the WiFi feature. So the rumor here is that you need to have both Bluetooth AND Wifi to make Apple CarPlay work wirelessly. The other tidbit of information he gave me is that Alpine didn’t stop building WiFi into the iLX-007, they just stopped listing the feature on the box until they figured out what Apple was doing. I’m wondering if the response Paul got was just some corporate BS reply.

I’ve been told that Alpine is coming up with a solution and it will most likely be a Bluetooth dongle that connects to the USB which will add the Bluetooth necessary for wireless CarPlay. I assume there will probably also be a software update for the unit too. There is no ETA on this Wireless CarPlay dongle at this time. Additionally, I wonder if Pioneer will follow suit and create a USB WiFi dongle to allow wireless CarPlay with their models.

Either way, I think wireless CarPlay will be a huge hit. When I show a customer Apple CarPlay for the first time, that is the first question they always have, “Does it have to be connected?”. Apparently we all want everything to work wirelessly. Once Alpine figures it out, I think wireless CarPlay will be a huge hit.


Cadillac Escalade gets Restyled with an Alpine X008U

Alpine X008-U installed in Cadillac Escalade with KTX-ESD8 dash kit

This week in the shop we installed an Alpine X008U with Alpine’s KTX-ESD8 dash kit in a 2010 Cadillac Escalade.

The OEM 2007 – 2014 Cadillac Escalade navigation systems are known for being problematic.  Screens blacking out, loss of GPS signal and “MAP DVD Read Error” messages are just a few of the common problems, but consumers who go to their dealer may be shocked to find out a new OEM navigation system goes for $2495 plus install. Yikes. Alpine saw this as an opportunity to develop a pretty sweet Cadillac Escalade dash kit. You may recall seeing the Alpine Cadillac Escalade dash kit from my Alpine CES 2015 coverage.

Alpine KTX-ESD8 Cadillac Dash Kit
Alpine KTX-ESD8 Cadillac Dash Kit shown at CES 2015 with Alpine X008U

Compared to other aftermarket navigation options on the market, the Alpine X008U is really the only smart choice. Take a look at where Metra places the stereo in their Cadillac Escalade dash kit:

Metra Cadillac Escalade Navigation Kit
Metra Cadillac Escalade Navigation Kit

And remember this is what the car looked like from the factory:

Cadillac Escalade Navigation Dash
Cadillac Escalade Navigation Dash

Why Metra designed a dash kit that lowers the position of the touch screen is beyond me. They did the same thing with the 2013 – up Ford F-150 dash kit. I wouldn’t recommend that to any customer. People are distracted enough as it is with technology while driving. I really don’t want to encourage them to look down any more than they have to. By the way if you have a 2013 up Ford F-150 with the 4.3″ My Ford radio check out iDatalink’s new K150 dash kit here.

The point is, if you have a 2007 – 2014 Cadillac Escalade and your stock navigation system has crapped out, the Alpine X008U and KTX-ESD8 kit is the best aftermarket solution for your vehicle at this time. I wouldn’t feel good about selling another product to replace the Cadillac Escalade navigation system. The 8″ Alpine X008U fits perfectly in the dash and ships with almost everything you need. Take a peak:

Alpine X008-U installed in Cadillac Escalade with KTX-ESD8 dash kit
Alpine X008U installed in Cadillac Escalade with KTX-ESD8 dash kit

The dash kit is OEM fit and finish and includes the flush mounted USB, AUX and HDMI inputs. It also includes a Pac Audio interface to retain things like steering wheel controls, rear seat entertainment, Onstar, reverse camera and factory SiriusXM radio.

This is my only complaint.

For the customer with SiriusXM, that really likes and uses SiriusXM, it’s worth it to pay extra for the iDatalink Maestro interface. Here’s why. To access the factory SiriusXM using the Pac Audio interface you have to select AUX on the radio as your source (which means that flush mount AUX really isn’t functional because we’re using it for factory SiriusXM retention) and then you have to press and hold the “Source” button on the steering wheel to enable SiriusXM control.

Retaining SiriusXM with aftermarket stereo using Pac Audio
Retaining SiriusXM with aftermarket stereo using Pac Audio

Once you press and hold Source on the steering wheel controls you will hear a beep and see this pop up on your instrument cluster:

Retaining SiriusXM with Cadillac Escalade kit KTX-ESD8
Retaining SiriusXM with Cadillac Escalade kit KTX-ESD8

Then you can use your steering wheel controls to scroll through channels and presets. Your only display for SiriusXM is that instrument cluster display. All the while your $2100 Alpine stereo is displaying nothing other than “AUX” on it’s big beautiful 8″ touch screen.

SiriusXM retained Cadillac Escalade Alpine X008-U and KTX-ESD8
SiriusXM retained Cadillac Escalade Alpine X008U and KTX-ESD8

It’s definitely a bit confusing. It took me more than a couple minutes to figure out even after reading the instructions. After teaching it to the customer he opted to have us install the SXV300 SiriusXM tuner that would actually show up and be controlled on the Alpine X008U. All in all, I would have preferred to use the iDatalink Maestro interface and AVGM5 harness.

Alpine – Why didn’t you just include the iDatalink Maestro with your KTX-ESD8 Cadillac Escalade kit?

The iDatalink interface provides much better SiriusXM retention as it allows you on screen control and access of SiriusXM. Alpine ships this interface with some of their other Restyle kits so I really don’t know why they cheaped out on their Cadillac Escalade kit.

if Alpine would package this kit with the Maestro RR and AVGM5 then the Alpine X008U would display all of this SiriusXM information on screen:

  • Meta Data Display
  • Recall Presets
  • Store Presets
  • Direct Tuning
  • Channel Guide
  • Category Guide
  • Category Seek

Additionally, the iDatalink Maestro RR retains the park assist distance display on screen. The included Pac Audio interface just retains the audible warning chimes. Other cool perks of the iDatalink Maestro include vehicle information like:

  • Tire Pressure Monitor Display
  • Battery Voltage Display
  • Read and Reset Check Engine Codes
  • Door Open Status and Warning
  • User Selectable Gauges

Here’s what the SiriusXM control would look like if you used the iDatalink Maestro interface.

Alpine iDatalink Maestro
Alpine includes the iDatalink Maestro module in their X009-GM kit shown here.

Some of you may be wondering why I keep harping about the SiriusXM retention considering how I truly feel about SiriusXM, but at the end of the day I care mostly about my customer’s experience and I feel it’s in Alpine’s best interest to dump the Pac Audio interface and include the iDatalink module. Dealer cost and consumer retail are pretty much the same so I’m really not sure what their reasoning is behind it.

Have you installed the Alpine X008U in your Cadillac Escalade? What do you think of this Cadillac navigation replacement?

Alpine CES 2015 – New head units, amps, subs & more

Alpine X009-FD2 Heat AC integration

Alpine CES 2015 – Additional Direct Fit solutions for Jeep Wrangler, Dodge Ram, Ford F-150 and GM truck and SUV models.

Alpine’s direct fit line of solutions has expanded with several new vehicle specific models and vehicle specific dash kits for their X008 and X009 models.  Among the new models includes:

  • X009-FD2 for select Ford F-150 models 2013 and up with the 4.2” MyFord Touch radio.
  • X009-GM2 for upper dash style GM Truck and SUV models 2007-2013
  • X009-RAM for 2013 and up Dodge Ram (without 8.4″ factory UConnect radios)
  • X009-WRA for 2012 and up Jeep Wrangler
  • KTX-ESD8 Dash kit for select 2007 – 2014 Cadillac Escalade

All models were on display at Alpine’s booth during CES 2015.

Alpine X009-FD2 at CES 2015
Alpine X009-FD2 at CES 2015

The X009-FD2, like other direct fit solutions from Alpine will ship with iDatalink Maestro integration and offer consumers the option to retain Sync or eliminate the feature and re-map Sync controls for Siri voice activation.

Alpine X009-FD2 Heat AC integration
Alpine X009-FD2 Heat AC integration

This model also includes impressive climate control integration.  Alpine Electronics is proudly fabricating and tooling all of their own dash kits and the quality, fit and finish in some many applications is superior to OEM quality and finish.

Alpine X009-FD2 Close up
Alpine X009-FD2 Close up

On their impressive new X009-GM2 kit, I noticed the texture and finish was actually smoother and of higher quality than the rest of the OEM dash. This kit is designed for the more popular 2007-2013 GM vehicles with upper dash style stereo that GM offers. This is a rather large kit requiring quite a bit of re-working of the factory dash. Alpine has fabricated a kit that includes quality materials which replaces existing heat/AC vents and power ports.

Alpine X009-GM2 at CES 2015
Alpine X009-GM2 at CES 2015

The model shown in this photo is an unfinished prototype. There are two outlets are on the driver side. In the photo, one is open. In the finished product, there will be a USB/AUX port. Alpine’s kit will come complete with everything a consumer would need to install the X009-GM2 in his or her vehicle. These are truly direct fit kits and now come backed with a 3 year warranty.

Alpine X009-RAM at CES 2015
Alpine X009-RAM at CES 2015

Alpine has also added a new model for Dodge Ram vehicles, the X009-RAM which will fit 2013 and up Dodge Ram models (without the 8.4” Uconnect touch screen). The X009-RAM is expected to begin shipping this month.

One of the more exciting additions to the X009 line up is their new 2012 and up Jeep Wrangler X009-WRA (Maybe it’s just more exciting to me because I own a 2013 Jeep Wrangler – I’m totally thinking it needs a new demo head unit).

Alpine X009-WRA for Jeep Wrangler at CES 2015
Alpine X009-WRA for Jeep Wrangler at CES 2015

I had a hard time believing Alpine was able to squeeze a 9” touch screen into that OEM Jeep head unit opening, but leave it to Alpine to fabricate a custom fit dash kit that accomplishes this beautifully. This kit replaces the entire bezel that surrounds the stereo and heat vents and will fit both the two door and 4 door model.

Alpine is looking at an expected ship date on the X009-WRA of March 2015. They are currently working on iDatalink Maestro integration harnesses so this will be more of a plug and play installation allowing retention of OEM steering wheel controls, USB port, Aux port and even displaying vehicle information on the Alpine screen.

Other additions in the direct fit line include a new installation dash kit to house the Alpine X008-U in Cadillac Escalade 2007 -2014.  The KTX-ESD8 will allow Escalade owners to easily install the oversized 8″ Navigation system nice and flush into their dash without modification or custom installation.

Alpine KTX-ESD8 Cadillac Dash Kit
Alpine KTX-ESD8 Cadillac Dash Kit

Direct Fit Sound Systems for 2007 – 2013 GM Trucks

Staying along the same lines of their direct fit head unit solutions, Alpine is introducing a new total audio upgrade solution that is vehicle specific. One of the first kits they will be offering is for GM trucks.

New Alpine GM Truck Audio Uprade Package PSS-21GM
New Alpine GM Truck Audio Uprade Package PSS-21GM

The PSS-21GM is designed for 2007 – 2013 GM trucks and includes a set of GM specific 6.5” component speakers and 6.5” coaxial speakers complete with OEM style tweeter pods and GM speaker mounting brackets.

New Alpine GM Component Speakers SPT-21GM
New Alpine GM Component Speakers SPT-21GM displayed at CES 2015

This system also includes a new 5 channel amplifier, the MRV-V500. This new amplifier provides roughly 50 watts x 4 to the interior speakers and 250 watts x 1 to the subwoofer channel.  This new amp will be offered separate from the GM package as well at a retail price of $350 and is expected to ship in late Spring.

It’s all about the bass

No car audio system is complete without a subwoofer and Alpine has thought of a space saving design and solution for GM truck owners who do not want to sacrifice under seat storage. Their new Direct Fit subwoofer for 2007 – 2013 GM 4 door trucks is designed to fit behind the back of the rear seat and includes a shallow mount 10” driver in a ported enclosure.

New Alpine GM Truck Subwoofer
New Alpine GM Truck Subwoofer on display at CES 2015

This design is very similar to what you might find in a new GM with a factory Bose system. Alpine is providing consumers with a seamless way to enhance their audio system with a solution that is designed specifically for their vehicle. They’re trying to keep the total package cost around $1000 plus installation, but price and availability has yet to be announced.

New Reverse Cameras introduced by Alpine at CES 2015

Focusing in on the safety of their truck customers, Alpine is introducing a new line of OEM style reverse cameras with multi-view option and capability. These new Alpine reverse cameras are OEM fit and finish and even include new lock cylinder and LED accent lighting.

New Alpine GM Reverse Camera at CES 2015 HCE-TG130GM
New Alpine GM Reverse Camera at CES 2015 HCE-TG130GM

The lock is designed to learn your key after you install it and insert your key into the lock for the first time. The new camera has 4 viewing modes: Rear, Ground, Corner and Panorama. It will only work with their AVN units that offer the Alpine Direct Connection Rear Camera Connection.  Don’t own a GM truck? Don’t worry. Alpine has a nice universal camera that also features Rear, Ground, Corner and Panoramic View.

Alpine HCE-C252RD at CES 2015
New Alpine Reverse Camera HCE-C252RD at CES 2015

The HCE-C252RD rear view camera from Alpine is pictured here with optional universal license plate mount KTX-C10LP frame. Like the previous camera, this is also an Alpine Direct Connection style camera and will only work with Alpine models that support this connection.

New Double Din and Single Din head units from Alpine revealed at CES 2015

Alpine is replacing their INE-W940, an entry level double din touch screen navigation with the all new INE-W960. The INE-W960 features a 6.1” touch screen, rear USB port, rear AUX in, SiriusXM capability, Bluetooth for handsfree and audio streaming and 4 Volt preouts.

Alpine INE-W960 revealed at CES 2015
Alpine INE-W960 revealed at CES 2015

The new INE-W960 will be competitively priced at $699. The INE-W957HD will remain as a carryover model since it was only recently introduced mid year. That model adds 7” screen, iDatalink Maestro capability, HDMI input, HD Radio and Digital output.

New Alpine Navigation at CES 2015 the INE-W960
New Alpine Navigation at CES 2015 the INE-W960

Alpine also has a new double din (non AVN) style unit to offer consumers. This year at CES 2015, Alpine introduced the CDE-W265BT. This model features an easy to use layout, large display, large volume knob and quality hard buttons that are logically laid out. The CDE-W265BT features: AM/FM tuner, SiriusXM capability, Bluetooth for handsfree calling and audio streaming, front USB port, front AUX port, multicolor illumination, three 4 volt preouts, 9 band EQ, high pass filter, low pass filter, sublevel control and Pandora control. I think the only thing missing is HD Radio. This model is slated to come in around $260.

Alpine CDE-W265BT CES 2015
Alpine CDE-W265BT CES 2015

Prefer a good old fashioned single din Alpine head unit? Alpine is introducing one new single din head unit this year, the CDE-164BT which will be replacing the CDE-154BT. The CDE-164BT is very similar in features to the CDE-154BT. Single CD, AM/FM tuner, SiriusXM ready, Bluetooth for handsfree calling and audio streaming, USB, AUX in, 9 Band EQ, three 4 volt preouts, high pass filter, low pass filter, sub level control and multicolor illumination.  The CDE-164BT will sell for around $230.

Alpine CDE-164BT at CES 2015
Alpine CDE-164BT at CES 2015

Alpine CarPlay CES 2015

I was surprised that Alpine had no new CarPlay models and have no plans at this time to introduce the feature to their X008 and X009 models.  The iLX-007 was recently released in October and there are no additional CarPlay models in the works at this time.  Upon asking about the mystery “Wifi Enabled” feature listed on the iLX-007, I was told this was a feature included by Apple and they’re not exactly sure what Apple plans on doing with it.  The only logical solution we can come up with is Apple eventually wants to allow CarPlay to work wirelessly with the iLX-007, but the details and potential release of that update is all under Apple’s control, not Alpine’s.  I did point out to Alpine that the scrolling ability is quite different on their CarPlay model compared to Pioneer and Kenwood CarPlay models.  Interestingly, Pioneer and Kenwood allow fast flicking style scrolling (exactly like what you can do on your iPhone) whereas the Alpine iLX-007 only allows for one page at a time when scrolling.  No word on if that will ever be changed or updated.

Alpine X009-WRA CES 2015 demo Jeep Wrangler

Alpine Jeep Wrangler Demo CES 2015

Alpine X009-WRA 9″ Navigation for 2012 + Jeep Wrangler is one of several new models revealed by Alpine at CES 2015

Alpine X009-WRA

Alpine revealed several new 9″ direct fit style Navigation units at CES 2015 including an exciting new model specific to Jeep Wrangler 2012 and up, the Alpine X009-WRA. This unit features:

  • Bad ass 9″ Touch Screen
  • Navigation
  • 9 Band EQ, Time Alignment, Vehicle Specific Equalization
  • Digital output
  • 4 Volt RCA Preouts
  • iDatalink Maestro for steering wheel control retention and vehicle information integration
  • Bluetooth Handsfree
  • Bluetooth Audio Streaming
  • Voice Activation (for Siri)
  • USB
  • Rear Aux
  • SiriusXM ready
  • Multicolor display (Blue, Green, Amber, Red or Black)
  • Pandora Control
  • HD Radio
Alpine X009-WRA CES 2015
Alpine X009-WRA CES 2015 – The screen is washed out because of the showroom lighting, it’s actually quite sharp.

The oversized stereo sits nicely in the custom dash kit that ships with the Alpine X009-WRA.  I had questions about vehicle compatibility while visiting Alpine’s booth at CES 2015.  I was surprised to see it would only fit 2012 and up considering it’s the same Metra dash kit from 2007 and up.  Also, Alpine initially stated it would only work with the 4 door Wrangler and then later back tracked and said it would also work for the two door.  The window switch pod appears to be the same so 2-door vs 4 door shouldn’t be an issue.

Will fit this dash:

Jeep Wrangler 2012 and up dash
Alpine X009-WRA will fit the 2012 and up Jeep Wrangler Dash

Not this dash:

2007 - 2011 Jeep Wrangler Dash
Alpine X009-WRA will not fit the 2007 – 2011 Jeep Wrangler Dash

A quick google image search showed the heat/AC vents vary slightly from previous years and it looks like that change in style happened maybe mid 2011.  Basically, if your heat/AC vents and window switch pod look exactly like the one shown in Alpine’s Jeep at CES 2015 it should work.  For now, Alpine is stating that the X009-WRA is only compatible with 2012 + up Jeep Wrangler.

Alpine Jeep Wrangler Demo CES 2015
Alpine Jeep Wrangler Demo CES 2015

Alpine is working on making sure the X009-WRA is packaged with all necessary iDatalink retention harnesses including the ability to retain the OEM USB port and AUX input.  Alpine is also extending their standard 1 year product warranty on all X009 models to a 3 year product warranty (including those X009 models already purchased).  This oversized 9″ Alpine navigation for Jeep is expected to ship in March 2015.  Price is to be determined, but I imagine it will be in the $2500 – $3000 price range like other X009 models.

CES 2015 – Android Auto Pioneer & Kenwood, Alpine 9″ Jeep Wrangler Deck

Alpine X009-WRA Jeep Wrangler CES 2015

Highlights from CES 2015 in Car Stereo

CES is always fun, but it is always a lot of work.  Yesterday was a long day of traveling for me and today was a long day of walking, talking, learning, testing, trying, questioning, note taking and photo taking.  SO this will be a brief post summarizing all the cool stuff I will be delving into and writing about over the next couple days.  LOTS of photos will come shortly, and a couple videos – one on Pioneer Android Auto and another on Alpine’s new Jeep Stereo.  I apologize I can’t post it all now, but the internet speed (wired) at the Monte Carlo is atrocious and my 5 minute you tube video still has 375 minutes remaining to upload!

Android Auto – finally!

This is pretty exciting.  Both Kenwood and Pioneer are offering Android Auto compatible radios this year (which are also CarPlay compatible too).  Both operate by connecting through USB to micro USB and require Android 5.0 Lollipop.  Kenwood offers 1.5 amp charging and Pioneer is 1 amp.  Both companies had no charging issues and their phones had full charges and had been connected and operating on these stereos alone for the past couple days.  Pioneer was using a Nexus 5 and I actually forgot to ask Kenwood which phone they were using, but plan to follow up on that tomorrow.  My concern is there may still be charging issues for Samsung users as this has been an issue I’ve seen in the past using the most popular Samsung phones (S4, S5, Note 3) with App Radio Mode.

DDX9902S - Android Auto CES 2015
DDX9902S – Android Auto CES 2015

Couple key things about Android Auto to know:

  • It locks the phone out – Once connected, you have to do everything through the stereo which is largely voice activated.  Personally, I think this is a great thing and I think it will seriously help stop people from looking down and playing with their phone with one hand when they should have both hands on the wheel and eyes ahead on the road.
  • You can have audio from another source playing (such as SiriusXM, HD Radio or even a CD) while using Android Auto for navigation purposes.
  • Android Auto currently uses Google Maps with traffic information fed by Waze.

Alpine – New 9″ Navigation models for Dodge Ram, Ford F150, GM, and Jeep

I had to see it to believe it.  I didn’t see how they fit a 9″ touch screen in the OEM Jeep Wrangler stereo location.  Yet Alpine has done it and has fabricated a beautiful OEM fit and finish dash kit and packaged it along with an iDatalink Maestro integration module to retain select OEM features, steering wheel control functions and vehicle information details.

Alpine X009-WRA Jeep Wrangler CES 2015
Alpine X009-WRA Jeep Wrangler CES 2015

They are also expected to start shipping a new 9″ model for Dodge Ram 2013 – up (without 8.4″ UConnect radio) this month, that’s the X009-RAM.  Additionally they will be releasing a new model for Ford F-150  with the 4.2″ MyFord Touch radio, the X009-FD2.

Additional detailed posts will come shortly including full write ups, photos and videos on all the new products from Alpine, Kenwood, Pioneer and JL Audio for 2015.  Check back soon for more information.

Car Stereo Chick is getting ready for CES 2015

Car Stereo Chick is going to CES 2015

Christmas is over and the new year is here – CES 2015 is next.

When Christmas is over and the new year is here that can only mean one thing for Car Stereo Chick.  The shop is booked with plenty of work and the consumer electronics show is only days away.  It’s time to get ready for CES 2015!  I’ll only be there for two days so I’ve narrowed down which brands I’ll be focusing on and what information I will be seeking.

Alpine CES 2015

Alpine will be my 1st stop during CES 2015.  Alpine will be revealing several new applications for their 9” truck and SUV AVN system including – get ready for it –  Dodge Ram, Toyota Tundra and JEEP WRANGLER.  I own a 2013 Jeep Wrangler and we do a lot of Jeep Wrangler audio systems in our shop so I’m pretty excited about this one; it should be a very hot model.

Alpine X009-GM
Alpine X009-GM installed in a GMC Yukon

Alpine has definitely branched out from their competitors by focusing in on these niche customers.  It makes a lot of sense; these are the types of customers that drop thousands of dollars into customizing their vehicles with upgraded tires, wheels, exhaust, lift kits, etc.  Why not build a stereo specifically for these customers?

Alpine has done just that designing a line of 9″ touch screen navigation stereos that seamlessly integrate with existing factory features such as SiriusXM, Bluetooth, Rear Seat Entertainment, and Onstar.  The Alpine X-009 series even integrates vehicle information such as tire pressure monitoring and the ability to read and reset vehicle error codes (through iDatalink Maestro integration modules).

Alpine X009-GM
Alpine X009-GM – Using the HDMI input you could watch movies from your iPad – not while driving of course.

All the Alpine X-009 models feature a 9″ touch screen, Navigation, Bluetooth, DVD, HDMI input and each model comes with some serious bragging rights.  Who else on the block really has a stereo this big and this cool?  I can’t wait to see Alpine’s X009 for the Jeep Wrangler at CES 2015.

Pioneer CES 2015 – when will we see Android Auto?

It’s not often, something really big and exciting comes along in the car audio industry, but I have to say Apple CarPlay has been one of those big things.  I’m happy I’ve been able to learn about it, adopt it and promote it.

Pioneer CarPlay update is finaly here
Pioneer CarPlay on AppRadio 4

Now that Apple CarPlay is out, I am eagerly anticipating Android’s answer to CarPlay.  And I’m hoping Pioneer has some answers for me at CES 2015 on when we can expect to see Android Auto integrated with a Pioneer head unit.

I’m pretty sure Pioneer will be the 1st to feature Android Auto aftermarket and I have lots of questions for Pioneer regarding this.  Will there be a software update for existing models (like Apple CarPlay)?  Will there be a model that features both CarPlay and Android Auto (unlike what we’ve seen from car manufacturers)?  When will we see a product like this hit the market?  I hope to find answers during CES 2015.

JL Audio CES 2015 – party at the Palm’s Casino

JL Audio won’t actually be at the convention center this year and I can’t say that I blame them.  Booth space at the convention center comes at a premium price.  I’m sure they’ll actually be able to present more (and more effectively) outside the convention center.  And with the extra money they’re saving being off the convention floor, I’m sure they’ll also be able to spoil their guests a bit more.

While attending CES 2015, I hope to see two new amplifier models which JL Audio recently announced.  They are incredibly compact, efficient and water proof.

New Amplifiers from JL Audio CES 2015
New Amplifiers from JL Audio CES 2015

These two new amplifiers from JL Audio, the HX280/4 and HX300/1, are offered in both Black and White (Car/Power Sport or Marine).  The HX280/4 is a 4 channel amp producing 50 watts x 4 RMS at 4 ohms.  The HX300/1 is a mono producing 300 watts x 1 at 2 ohms.  Both models have received IPX6 water resistant ratings and feature impressive power handling specs delivered in a tiny, compact package.

JL Audio HX280/4 and HX300/1
JL Audio HX280/4 and HX300/1

Impressive size, impressive ratings and impressive price – only $229.95.  I ordered a couple a few weeks ago and I am still waiting for their arrival.  I hope to see a sample of these new JL Audio amplifiers while attending CES 2015.

Other cool stuff while at CES 2015

I will definitely venture over to Kenwood’s booth and Sony’s booth as well and I will post about any other cool car audio related gadgets I find while at CES 2015.  Check back next weekend to learn about all the latest and greatest in car stereo from CES 2015.

Car Stereo Chick is going to CES 2015
Car Stereo Chick is going to CES 2015

Best CarPlay Stereo – iLX-007 or AppRadio 4 – video post

Alpine iLX-007 vs AppRadio 4

So who makes the best CarPlay stereo?  Alpine or Pioneer?

Update 5/10/15 – Be sure to check out my post on the Pioneer AVH-X4100NEX.  This model is new for 2015 and is both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible.

Well, this past Saturday I spent a few hours comparing these two models side by side.  I made a video for everyone interested in seeing and understanding the key differences between these two models.  I even connected two iPhones and played the same IASCA demo album for true side by side comparison.

Upon my initial comparison, I HAD to have had a setting off on the head unit.  We turn our board off every night and most of these stereos will default to some pretty yucky audio settings (like having bass boost defaulted On or preset EQ set to “Powerful”).

I make it a habit to check all audio settings before demonstrating equipment or doing these types of listening tests.  However I think in my excitement to check out the iLX-007, I had to have missed something on the AppRadio 4 because during that initial listening test, there really was no comparison.  The iLX-007 sounded clean and clear and the Pioneer sounded muddy.  Well, that’s what Bass Boost or a “Powerful” EQ setting will do.

So for this extensive comparison, I was extremely thorough in checking my settings and and also used an IASCA album for the audio comparison.


The difference is so minute it’s hard to even describe.  They’re incredibly similar in sound quality.

During a blind listening test, I think my average customer would find it extremely difficult to pinpoint the difference and then decide which one sounded better.

My co-worker Joe couldn’t tell the difference at all.  My husband John and I could barely hear a difference and what we did hear was an ever so slight difference in detail with Alpine having the edge.

Alpine CarPlay vs Pioneer CarPlay
Alpine CarPlay “now playing” vs Pioneer CarPlay “now playing”

I cannot stress how slight this difference was.  In fact, I do not think sound quality should be a factor in choosing between these two models.  It was that slight.  Consider function, screen size, flexibility and ease of use instead.

Screen size does make a difference when using navigation.  Check out how Apple Maps displays differently on the Alpine CarPlay stereo vs the Pioneer CarPlay.  This is where you can appreciate the larger screen size in Alpine.

Side by Side Alpine iLX-007 Pioneer AppRadio 4
Side by Side Alpine iLX-007 Pioneer AppRadio 4

Contacts are also displayed differently.  I think it’s actually easier to see in the Pioneer AppRadio 4 CarPlay mode due the sharper contrast between white and black vs white and gray in the Alpine CarPlay iLX-007.

Contacts Screen CarPlay Alpine Pioneer
Contacts Screen CarPlay Alpine Pioneer

Same idea in the keypad area of the phone.

Phone KeyPad Alpine CarPlay vs Pioneer CarPlay
Phone KeyPad Alpine CarPlay vs Pioneer CarPlay

And the winner is?

I want to know what the readers think.  A lot of people have been following my posts on these two models lately, so I’m interested in everyone’s feedback.  Since the sound quality is so similar between these two, based on the video and information I’ve posted on this blog, which model do you all prefer?

Personally, and if we’re strictly talking about CarPlay here, I like the Alpine better.  That Siri button makes the iLX-007 the easier to use CarPlay stereo, especially while driving.

Shop CarPlay on Amazon

Alpine Headphones Review

Alpine Headphones Review

Alpine Headphones Review – Can you feel the music?

Alpine’s PR department recently sent me a set of their new Alpine Headphones for review.  After all the hype, I really didn’t know what to expect.  During their initial press release, Alpine made it clear, they want users to not only hear, but feel their music.

The new Alpine Headphones are intended to immerse the headphone wearer in a listening experience that will be akin to the ambiance of a dance party, nightclub or live concert.  They attempt to accomplish this using something they call TKR3 Full Frequency Immersion Technology which Alpine defines as “Unique sound field expansion that recreates a live concert like listening experience”.

Alpine Headphones Review
Alpine Headphones Review – Despite what you see in their press video, these babies are wired.

Initial Impressions – They’re wired

I was initially surprised to see the wire and at first thought maybe this was optional.  True audiophiles out there can usually hear the difference between bluetooth audio streaming and a hard wired connection.  So I thought maybe this was an optional cable for sound quality aficionados.

After a closer look at the instructions, it became apparent the headphone jack cable wasn’t optional, it was necessary.  Yet Apple lists these headphones as Alpine Bluetooth Wireless Over Ear Headphones in their online store.

Alpine Headphones Review
Alpine Headphones Review – Instructions included

The fact that these are wired headphones made the press release video all the more comical to me.  Those Millenials dancing around wearing Alpine Headphones – without wires – weren’t actually listening to anything…weird.

Alpine Headphones Review
Alpine Headphones Review – Soft, comfortable ear pads

The overall design of the headphones are unique and definitely stand out.  They are available in either black or white and have a high gloss finish.  Despite the oddly shaped ear pads, I found the Alpine Headphones to be quite comfortable.

The thick inner band has a good amount of cushion to it and unlike other over ear headphones I’ve tried (Scosche, Beats, Sony) I had no irritation or fatigue even after hours of wearing them.  They’re also surprisingly lightweight.

Level Play App

Although the Level Play App is not really required to enjoy these listening to the Alpine Headphones, I do appreciate it.  The Level Play App scans your music and allows you to select an energy level that suits your particular listening mood.  It’s an easy way to organize music for a work out without having to actually think about it and create a playlist.

Alpine Headphones Review - Level Play App
Alpine Headphones Review – Level Play App

The Level Play App also allows users to easily adjust the sound via the built in 5 band EQ.

Alpine Headphones Review - Level Play App EQ
Alpine Headphones Review – Level Play App EQ

Can you really feel the music?

Upon my first initial listen, I did notice the bass was quite responsive and impressive for a set of headphones – this is coming from someone who sells and installs subwoofers in peoples trunks.  So I didn’t expect much from a couple 40 mm drivers, but what I did hear was impressive considering the size of speakers I was listening to.

Alpine Headphones Review - Feel Your Music
Alpine Headphones Review – Feel Your Music

I didn’t exactly feel it in my core and to be honest, I had to turn the volume up quite a ways to feel anything.  Far louder than my normal or comfortable listening level.

What I did feel was a slight vibration through the upper band.  It reminded me of what you experience in a vehicle with a stock Bose audio system.  Upon their initial listening experience, most people are impressed with the bass response in a Bose audio system.  However, with extended listening it becomes quite apparent the bass is rather muddy and not very deep or punchy.  Even so, the overall impression of bass in these 40 mm drivers is appreciated.

Alpine Headphones Review
Alpine Headphones Review – You definitely pay for the fancy packaging

I liken the audio quality in the Alpine Headphones to be similar to that of their Type R Component and Coaxial speakers.  These headphones have a good amount of mid bass, the upper mid range is rich and warm and the top end is detailed yet smooth.  And unlike Alpine’s head units, there I found there was no exaggeration in the top end frequency range.

Alpine Headphones Review – Are they worth the price and the hype?

Listening at a higher level of volume, I could appreciate the immersion experience.  I could easily tune out the world and feel myself surrounded in the audio experience.  However, I think this same kind of listening experience could be attained with any other headphones at a high volume level.  I think the advantage with the Alpine Headphones is they are smooth enough to sustain longer periods of listening.

For readers out there considering the Alpine Headphones, it may help to know that these headphones have definitely been built with Alpine’s best of the best in mind.  These Alpine Headphones remind me of some of Alpine’s already proven quality car audio products.

For readers that are familiar with Alpine’s PDXF4 Amplifier and Type R Component speakers – it may help to know that these headphones are built with that same level of quality.  They sound like Type R Components being powered through a PDX-F4 – all in a nice compact design you can hang over your head for only $299.

All hype and apps aside – considering the quality of these headphones, I think they’re a great value.

Video Post – Best Double Din Navigation 2014

Easy Source Select AVIC-5000NEX

Car Stereo Chick Hands on Review – Best Double Din Navigation for 2014

I write some pretty long posts.  Not everyone feels like reading them.  Don’t worry.  I started making videos again.

Here is my video reviewing the best double din navigation systems for 2014.  This is a hands on review of the Kenwood DNX691HD, Kenwood DNN991HD, Alpine INE-W940, Alpine INE-W957HD, Pioneer AVIC-5000NEX and Pioneer AVIC-7000NEX.  Enjoy!