Parrot RNB6 – Supports Android Auto & Apple CarPlay

Parrot RNB6 CES 2015

Parrot RNB6 – Award winning head unit supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

UPDATE – 8-4-15 – Parrot RNB6 Cancelled – Find out why the Parrot RNB6 got eighty-sixed.

While at CES 2015 I was able to take a peak at the new Parrot RNB6.  The Parrot RNB6 definitely has the most vibrant and responsive touch screen of all Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible head units that I have come across.  It’s a high quality screen and it shows.  The image was not at all washed out despite being under bright display lighting.  I assume the Parrot RNB6 will be replacing the Parrot Asteroid Smart which is a head unit that I’ve always had mixed feelings on.

Parrot RNB6 CES 2015
Parrot RNB6 CES 2015

The Parrot Asteroid Smart worked on a similar platform, running an Android operating system and then tethering off your cell phone for wifi to allow access to various apps including a web browser, email, navigation apps and various audio apps.  What I didn’t like about the Parrot Asteroid Smart was it’s sound quality.  It was sub-par.  For a $500 stereo it sounded like a $50 Walmart special (think Boss stereo).  It also lacked standard steering wheel control integration, it required the Parrot Unika which had limited vehicle compatibility and lacked many American vehicles.  Thankfully, Parrot has teamed up with Metra and together they have come up with a solution for that.  The AX-SWC-PARROT will allow for Metra’s ASWC-1 steering wheel control interface to work with Parrot products.

Parrot RNB6 – Sound quality

The verdict is still out on sound quality.  Unfortunately, Parrot did not have an in car display set up for a true audio demonstration.  In fact, I don’t even recall any audio playing from the Parrot RNB6 models themselves.  At each display stand, there was also a monitor above demonstrating the features and capabilities.

Parrot RNB6 EQ
Parrot RNB6 EQ

The Parrot representatives were more than happy to scroll through the various pages of audio adjustments under the Parrot AudioFX menu.  Ever the skeptic, I’m not convinced just yet.

Parrot RNB6 EQ
Parrot RNB6 EQ

Parrot is known for their innovation, their Bluetooth hands free and their Drones.  They’re not exactly a car stereo head unit company so I will not be convinced on sound quality until I hear it.  If it’s anything like the Asteroid Smart, I will be sorely disappointed. On paper however, the Parrot RBN6 looks like it should perform well.  It features:

  • Multiple band EQ
  • Digital time alignment
  • Built in Crossovers
  • 6 Volt pre-amp outputs
  • Preset EQ based on vehicle – Parrot says they’re uploading more and more vehicles to their database, but the unit should come pre-loaded with many popular vehicles (probably mostly European models)
  • Option for using either a simple EQ or advanced EQ depending on user preference
Parrot RNB6 - Preset EQ by Vehicle
Parrot RNB6 – Preset EQ by Vehicle

Parrot RNB6 – Vibrant and responsive touch screen

I definitely think the Parrot RNB6 has the brightest and most responsive capacitive touch screen of all Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible head units so far announced.  You can truly see the vibrancy.  The RNB6 screen quality is probably the closest in quality to your actual smart phone screen.  These sample models were all under bright show room lights and still incredibly vibrant.  This is an important feature and I think it’s a key advantage Parrot will have over Alpine, Kenwood and Pioneer.

Parrot RNB6 Apple CarPlay
Parrot RNB6 Apple CarPlay

Parrot RNB6 – Extra features over Alpine, Kenwood and Pioneer

Like the new Pioneer and Kenwood Apple CarPlay and Android Auto models, the Parrot RNB6 will support both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – not at the same time of course.  However, the Parrot RNB6 offers a lot more than its competitors.  Besides being both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, the Parrot RNB6 itself is running the latest version of the Android operating system, Lolipop 5.0.  This means users can simply pair their phone to this stereo and tether off their cell phone for internet connectivity.  So if you don’t feel like connecting and using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, simply use the onboard Android operating system and apps for your navigation and music.  This unit also includes Bluetooth so you can make and receive phone calls or stream your music wirelessly.

Additionally, it includes Parrot’s stereo microphone – this appears to be the same microphone that comes with their MKI9200 Bluetooth which is the best sounding handsfree kit I have heard or used.  Meaning call sound quality is great – very little background noise, calls are heard clearly thanks to the noise canceling stereo microphone.

Parrot RNB6 - Shallow design makes for easier installation
Parrot RNB6 – Shallow design makes for easier installation

The Parrot RNB6 is similar is size to Alpine’s iLX-007.  It’s quite shallow making installation easier in many vehicles.  For example, I doubt heat and A/C ducts would have to be modified if installing this in a BMW E46.  Other cool perks include Parrot’s Dash Cam.  It’s unclear whether or not this unit will be shipping with the Dash Cam or not.  I believe that is Parrot’s intention.

In Europe it is mandatory to have a Dash Cam installed.  I think that’s a great idea.  I know I’ve been looking at installing BlackVue’s Dash Cam DVR in my own vehicle.  I’ve had too many near miss accidents due to idiots that can’t drive and don’t know or care who has the right of way.  In fact, recently it scared me how angry and aggressive I became after 3 different idiots pulled out in front of me within less than a 1 mile stretch.  I think driving around with a Dash Cam DVR would calm me down a bit and make me a safer, less aggressive driver.  At least I would feel like I had a built in witness on my side should I ever be unable to avoid one of these morons.

Parrot RNB6 Dash Cam
Parrot RNB6 Dash Cam

Other cool features include OBD2 integration for on screen vehicle information.  Check out all the ports on the back of this stereo.  Besides OBD2, there are two HDMI inputs, one standard USB (assuming for Android Auto) one USB for iPod/iPhone (assuming for Apple CarPlay), external GPS antenna connection, Steering Wheel Control connection, Dash Cam connection and an Ethernet connection – which I was told will be for future use and expansion.

Parrot RNB6 - Connections on back of radio
Parrot RNB6 – Connections on back of radio

But wait – there’s more!  Here are the features that people get really excited about, but will probably only work with a handful of cars.  Parrot’s demo of the RBN6 included screen shots of:

  • Heat and A/C controls on screen
  • Park assist sensor integration
  • Front/Rear camera integration
  • Lane assist integration
Parrot RNB6 Climate Control
Parrot RNB6 Climate Control – Most likely a CAN bus only feature

I asked Parrot how this is being accomplished and they told me it was through CAN.  CAN stands for Control Area Network (little side note here – I learned about CAN years ago from Larry Perzan who sadly passed away last weekend.  Larry owned and ran Perzan Auto Radio in Upper Darby Pennsylvania.  He was a true innovator and genius when it came to car electronics and installation.  He was an invaluable asset to this industry and he will be missed dearly.).  CAN is basically just communication lines.  It’s kind of like positive and negative, cars with CAN have CAN hi and CAN lo wires.  Information from the vehicle computers and modules flow along these lines.  By tapping into and reading CAN this information can then be displayed and even integrated with (this is how iDatalink’s Maestro works).  So I have a feeling that in order to use these features, your vehicle will already have to be equipped with these systems and this information must also be communicated on the vehicle CAN Bus system.

Parrot RNB6
Parrot RNB6

Overall, the Parrot RNB6 looks quite promising.  I can’t wait to take a listen to one in my shop on my own sound board.  Parrot did not have an estimated price or release date at this time – they are still working out the details.  My guess is it will be similar to other soon to be released Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible models and fall in the $700 – $800 price range, but please understand that’s just my professional guess.  If they do end up packaging it with the Dash Cam, I would expect it to be in the $1100 – $1200 price range.  I will be sure to post an in depth review once the product ships and I get my hands on one.


Kenwood CarPlay & Android Auto – DDX9902s & DDX9702s

Kenwood DDX9902s - Spotify on display at CES 2015

Kenwood reveals two new Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible models at CES 2015 – DDX9902s and DDX9702s

My first stop at CES 2015 was over at the Kenwood booth in the North Hall and my timing couldn’t have been better.  I wandered into the unattended room which was displaying the DDX9902s and DDX9702s, Kenwood’s new Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible models.  I would later find out this room was normally closed off to attendees and only accessible via supervised demonstration by appointment.  Luckily I snuck in before their first appointment of the day and I was able to sit in on the demonstration and ask questions.

DDX9902s - Home screen CES 2015
DDX9902s – Home screen CES 2015

Kenwood has two versions of this stereo.  The regular Kenwood model is the DDX9702s and the Kenwood eXcelon model is the DDX9902s.  The stereo menu and user interface is essentially the same as last year’s DDX8901.  I was concerned about processing speed as it was always lagging a bit on the DDX8901, Kenwood was unsure at this time whether or not the processor has been upgraded over last year.  For what it’s worth, I did not see any lag time in any operations in either Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

Kenwood DDX9902s - CES 2015
Kenwood DDX9902s – CES 2015

The DDX9902s will include the standard Kenwood eXcelon 13 band EQ, digital time alignment, built in crossvers, 5 volt preouts, high quality digital to analog convertor.  The regular Kenwood version, the DDX9702s will still have 4 volt preouts and most likely come with a more basic EQ like what we saw in last year’s DDX771.  The exact details of the EQ are still to be determined.

Kenwood DDX9702s - CES 2015
Kenwood DDX9702s – CES 2015

You have to keep in mind, these models are prototypes.  Often what vendors display at CES are products they are still developing that are about to go into production. Because these products are still being developed and they are not finished samples off the production line, there were some questions I had that were left with open ended answers and flat out, “We don’t know yet” responses.

Here is what I do know about the DDX9902s and DDX9702s

  • Compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but not at the same time.
  • Both models include a separate GPS antenna designed to work with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto devices.  The stereo takes information from both the external GPS antenna and the information from the phone for the best GPS coverage.
  • When using Android Auto – the phone is locked, everything must be accessed from the stereo (not the same for Apple CarPlay).
  • You can access music from other sources such as HD Radio or SiriusXM while accessing Google Maps from Android Auto or Apple Maps from CarPlay.  The audio prompts from the navigation are overlaid and reduce volume on whatever media source is playing.
  • Android Auto relays traffic information when using Google Maps app.
  • There is no on screen phonebook access – Android Auto really wants drivers to rely on Google Voice and this feature encourages them to keep their eyes on the road.
  • Connection for Android Auto through USB to micro.
  • Connection for CarPlay through USB to lightning.
  • Probably will have two USB ports, but not positive at this time.
  • Will have HDMI input and can use new optional Miracast adapter KCA-WL100 to wirelessly mirror audio and video from phone (kind of like Airplay from Apple)
  • Will support iDatalink Maestro integration
  • Samsung phones will still most likely need a tip adapter.
  • Android Auto requires Lollipop 5.0 or higher.
  • You still can’t have more than two phones paired at the same time for BOTH handsfree and audio – you can have one paired for music and one paired for phone calls, but that’s it.
  • Estimated release date May 2015

Whether you’re using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, there is a huge push by developers to get drivers to rely on their smartphone’s voice control.  Android Auto’s voice control function was impressive.  Not only can you tell it what artist to play, but you can tell it which app to use to do so.  In all verbal test commands, Android Auto obliged. See image below, this is from the command “Play artist Maroon 5 on Spotify”.  It was spot on (LOL – I couldn’t resist).

Kenwood DDX9902s - Spotify on display at CES 2015
Kenwood DDX9902s – Android Auto voice commands responding at CES 2015

What we don’t know and won’t know until we try it

I have concerns about Samsung devices running Android Auto.  I have seen charging issues with the more popular Samsung devices such as the Galaxy S4, S5, and Note 3 running through a USB to micro while running navigation apps, music apps, making and receiving phone calls and received social media and email alerts.  Usually the charge supplied by standard car stereo USB (like Pioneer, Kenwood or Sony) is usually not enough to keep up with the phone.  Kenwood’s technical rep stated that charging is .5 amp on their USB while their white display board shows 1 amp charging.

Kenwood DDX9902s - Android Auto Phone Menu
Kenwood DDX9902s – Android Auto Phone Menu

Kenwood was running their Android Auto display with a Nexus phone and the stereo alone was maintaining the phone’s battery over the course of CES 2015.  When asked about what we could expect to see with the more popular Samsung devices, their guess was as good as mine.  It hasn’t been tested, so they simply don’t know at this point nor do they have plans to test every Android phone model and relay to consumers the efficiency or lack of efficiency a particular phone has.

Kenwood DDX9902s - Google Maps
Kenwood DDX9902s – Google Maps

It amazes me how car stereo is really moving into sort of a software and hardware industry.  Kenwood has built Android Auto compatibility and hardware into their products and cell phone manufacturers build phones that support Android operating systems.  Cell phone manufacturers still build their own cell phones.  Some cell phones charge more efficiently than others.  The stereo is just a portal at this point so we really don’t know how any one particular phone will respond until we try it.

Other new Kenwood models revealed at CES 2015

Aside from the DDX9902s and DDX9702s, Kenwood revealed an overwhelming amount of new stereo models, many that look a lot like last year’s models with subtle differences.  One model worth mentioning is their new flip out 7″ touch screen model, the KVT-7012BT.  Kenwood had discontinued their flip out style touch screen a couple years ago, but have brought back an option for those limited to a single din stereo opening.

Kenwood KVT-7012BT
Kenwood KVT-7012BT

The new Kenwood flip out DVD features:

  • Three 5 volt preouts
  • Bluetooth for handsfree and audio streaming
  • 5 Band EQ
  • Pandora, iHeart and Aupeo compatibility
  • Waze compatibility – I’ll believe it when I see it.  They did this last year – slapped a label on a product and then legitimized it by saying, well technically using an iPod 30 pin adapter to audio and video into the Kenwood’s A/V in you could mirror Waze on screen.  The only Waze control I saw over at the Kenwood booth was on the JVC side and I wasn’t impressed.  It was very laggy, unresponsive – it just didn’t work well.  I did not see a Kenwood radio with this function set up for demo, but it’s possible I just missed it.

New Navigation Models

The DNX691HD, DNX891HD and DNN991 have been replaced by the DNX692HD, DNX892HD and DNN992.  On first glance, they look a lot like their predecessors.

Kenwood DNX692 CES 2015
Kenwood DNX692 CES 2015

And after browsing through the menus and sources of these new Kenwood models they appeared to be exactly like their predecessors.  Even their responsiveness which was a bit disappointing.  I was hoping Kenwood had improved the processing speed in these models, but it really seemed exactly like last year’s models.  Interestingly, their non navigation models did appear a LOT faster in processing.

Kenwood DDX272 & DDX372BT - CES 2015
Kenwood DDX272 & DDX372BT – CES 2015

I inquired if the Bluetooth handsfree profile had been upgraded over last year’s version as bluetooth handsfree sound quality has always been an issue for my customers on their non navigation and non eXcelon double din touch screen head units.  I was told that it had not been upgraded.  So even though processing has been upgraded and responsiveness has improved, handsfree call quality could still be an issue on Kenwood’s DDX372BT, DDX392, DDX492 and DDX672BH.

New single din Kenwood Excelon models

Kenwood introduced 3 new single din head unit models, the KDC-X399, KDC-X599 and KDC-X799 and they carried over two models from last year (the KDC-X898 and KDC-X998).  The KDC-X399, KDC-X599 and KDC-X799 essentially look the same and have very similar features and a few subtle differences.  Pictured below is the KDC-X599.

Kenwood KDC-X599
Kenwood KDC-X599


  • AM/FM CD Player (open CD slot – no dust cover)
  • Front USB/AUX
  • Three 4 volt preouts
  • 5 band EQ
  • High pass and low pass filter starting at 100 Hz (kind of high I think)
  • Variable color illumination
  • Pandora compatible
  • iHeart Radio compatible


  • Adds dust cover
  • Adds Bluetooth Audio and Handsfree Calling
  • Adds SiriusXM Ready (requires SXV300 tuner)


  • Adds HD Radio

Conclusion CES 2015 at the Kenwood booth

By far the most exciting additions to Kenwood’s line this year will be the DDX9902s and DDX9702s featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.  However, we will have to be patient and wait another 5 months or so until they actually begin to ship. Estimated retail price on these models will be $700.

Kenwood DDX9902s - Android Auto
Kenwood DDX9902s – Android Auto




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.

JL Audio CES 2015

JL Audio CES 2015

JL Audio reveals several new model amplifiers, powered subwoofers and hints at new processor at CES 2015

While attending CES 2015 I paid a visit to JL Audio over at the Palms Casino Resort and Hotel.  I have to thank JL Audio for staying out of the crowded and noisy convention center and allowing their dealers a much more intimate setting to display and explain new and developing products.  JL Audio knows it’s all about quality, not quantity.  This is at their core in everything they do.  You can see that reflected in their product, their marketing approach and even in how they show their dealers their new products.

JL Audio CES 2015
JL Audio CES 2015

Check out the view from the 32nd floor suite.  What’s that in the middle of the pool, you ask?  What you see pictured in the center are the two new amplifiers I mentioned in a previous post.  The HX280/4 and HX300/1 – 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.  Having heard and seen these amplifiers in person, I can tell you they absolutely pass the water proof test.

JL Audio CES 2015 new amplifiers HX 300/4 and HX 280/4
JL Audio CES 2015 – New amplifiers HX 300/4 and HX 280/4 still going strong after playing under running water for 4 days.

Here is a close up view.  By the time I saw and heard these amplifiers, water had been pouring over them for days and they continued to play without issue.  What you can’t see or hear is that these amps were actually wired up and playing in this condition.  Off to the right and left of the pool were a couple JL Audio Marine speakers and subwoofers which were playing loud and clear.  These new JL Audio amplifiers revealed at CES 2015 are a no brainer for Marine applications as well as Motorcycles, Power Sports, Jeep Wranglers and other ATV style vehicles – even a golf cart.  Technically they’re not waterproof, they’re water resistant.  But I’d say they’re pretty freaking resistant.

JL Audio reveals several new Amplified Microsub models and new Marine speakers and subwoofers during CES 2015

Aside from some really cool new amplifiers, JL Audio also announced several new amplified Microsub enclosures.  I am so excited to see these new amplified subwoofer options from JL Audio.  They’ve taken their existing successful Mircosub design and have imbedded a powerful, efficient amplifier to drive these enclosures.  In order to increase efficiency, they have dropped the impedance on these subs to something like .6 ohms.  The amplifier is designed specifically to work with this very low impedance, much like a Bose amplifier and speaker combo works.  JL Audio claims these new amplifiers have an efficiency close to 96% which is pretty rare in car audio and quite impressive.

JL Audio Amplified Microsub
JL Audio Amplified Microsub

Here is a side view of one of these new amplified Mircosub enclosures.  You can see there is a high level input or RCA and remote bass knob is optional. They will be offered in 8″, 10″ and 12″ style enclosures.  I believe there will also be a dual 8″ option as well.

JL Audio Amplified Microsub Enclosures
JL Audio Amplified Microsub Enclosures

These new JL Audio amplifiers are rated at an impressive 400 watts RMS.  The enclosures will be offered in both sealed and ported varieties.  Additional upgrades to the JL Audio line include a new 12″ Marine subwoofer and cosmetic upgrades to their existing Marine speaker line.

JL Audio 12" Marine Subwoofer
JL Audio 12″ Marine Subwoofer

The new line of JL Audio Marine speakers will be offered with cool blue LED lighting.  JL Audio currently offers their Marine products in several grill styles in either Classic White or Titanium Gray.  This year they will also be offering their speakers in a Chrome finish.  At the moment Blue will be the only color choice for accent lighting.

New JL Audio Marine Speakers with LED Lighting
New JL Audio Marine Speakers with LED Lighting

JL Audio has also partnered up with Kody over at VooDoo Bikeworks from Phoenix, Arizona who is fabricating enclosures for various motorcycle applications specifically designed to house JL Audio Marine speakers.  Kody had a bike on display which was not only visually impressive, but audibly impressive.  Kody even designs and sells Fairings designed to house 8.8″ speakers and a double din head unit.  The best part about his designs are that they maintain existing storage space.

JL Audio Marine Speakers installed on Bike
JL Audio Marine Speakers installed on Bike

JL Audio hints at a new processor in the works – no photos allowed

I’m not sure how much JL Audio wants me to say on this subject as they quickly stopped me from taking photos of some interesting prototypes they were demonstrating, but I have to mention it.  The JL Audio Cleansweep has been a reliable and successful processor for OEM integration for more than a decade.  However, there is no denying that OEM audio systems have become much more complex and sometimes require summing signals from more than 3 audio signals and additional manipulation and equalization.  These are things you just can’t do with the Cleansweep.

Thankfully, JL Audio is working on two new products that will solve this problem: the Fix and the Twk (pronounced Tweak).  The Fix will address an issue that all other processors on the market do not seem to address.  It will account for and correct factory time correction before auto equalization which will allow for an even cleaner signal than ever before.  Additionally, it will have 4 channel summing built in.  For additional equalization control, the Twk can be added.  The Twk adds 8 analog inputs and 2 optical inputs, 10 band equalization adjustable separately for left and right channels.  It will have multiple EQ preset options for various driver preferences and driving scenarios.  You know what it’s really going to do?  It will give Audison’s Bit One and Alpine’s PXA-H800 Processor a run for their money.  JL Audio is still in the process of developing the product and software at this point.  JL Audio probably has at least another 9 months to a year in development.  Details on pricing have not been released yet, but I’ve been told by we will all be pleasantly surprised.

Shout out to my lovely assistants

Attending CES and writing about it is quite a bit of work and usually requires a team effort.  Traditionally, my lovely assistant at CES is always my hubby John.  This year however, hubby had to stay back home in Connecticut and keep the shop open (and care for our cats) while I attended the show.  I am grateful to John for his sacrifice because I know running the shop and caring for the cats is a LOT of work for one person.  His willingness to do so afforded me the wonderful opportunity to take my Dad along instead.  My Dad had never been to Las Vegas before and he’ll be turning 69 January 12th.  I don’t get to spend a lot of time with my Dad, especially just the two of us.  What better birthday present is there?

Car Stereo Chick with her Dad
Car Stereo Chick with her Creative Assistant, aka Dad

This CES was incredibly special to me and I am so thankful for the opportunity.  The last time I spent this kind of time with my Dad was when I was a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 years old when he was called in to work on Saturdays and I tagged along.  This time around I got to bring him to work and it was an absolute blast.  So thank you John for supporting me back home while I was away on this trip.  And thank you Dad for being my lovely assistant – I hope you had the best birthday ever.

Pioneer Android Auto models revealed at CES 2015 – Video, Pictures and Details

Pioneer Android Auto CES 2015

Pioneer Android Auto models revealed at CES 2015 – AVIC-8100NEX, AVIC-7100NEX and AVIC-4100NEX

Android Auto was definitely the most exciting new feature I saw at CES 2015.  Pioneer was definitely pushing their Android compatibility at their booth and I had to wait in line to see the demo (they had one demo vehicle, Kenwood was the same way, Parrot had multiple demo models).  With a quick glance at these new Pioneer Android Auto compatible radios at CES 2015 I could tell they’re pretty much the same thing as the previous NEX versions we saw last year, the AVIC-8000NEX, AVIX-7000NEX and AVIC-4000NEX.  The only additional feature I could find is the ability to use Android Auto.

Pioneer Android Auto CES 2015
Pioneer Android Auto CES 2015

Like last year’s versions, they’re all 7″ touch screen and only the AVIC-8100NEX has the high gloss capacitive tough screen.  The AVIC-8100NEX and AVIC-7100NEX both have built in navigation.  I think this is a great option for the people who want to use Android Auto, but are concerned about getting lost in dead zones.  For those who want to strictly use either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, consider the AVIC-4100NEX.  By the way – these models will do either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto – not at the same time, but it’s easy enough to switch Smart Phone settings in the menu and you can have both phones connected at the same time.  Android still connects to USB 2 and Apple connects to USB 1.

Pioneer Android Auto AVIC-8100NEX CES 2015
Pioneer Android Auto AVIC-8100NEX CES 2015

I do have concerns about charging.  I found it *interesting* that both Kenwood and Pioneer were using Nexus phones rather than the largely popular Samsung variety.  I can’t say the last time I had a customer come into my shop with a Nexus phone.  My Android customers are S4, S5 and Galaxy Note users.  The connection for Android Auto is USB to micro USB.  I believe many Samsung users will still require the special tip adapter to make it work, but that’s not verified at the moment.

Pioneer Android Auto AVIC-4100NEX CES 2015
Pioneer Android Auto AVIC-4100NEX CES 2015

Below is a video demonstration in the Pioneer demo car at CES 2015 so you can see how Android Auto works in the new Pioneer models.  The model shown in this car is the AVIC-8100NEX and it is connected to a Nexus phone operating Lollipop 5 (required for Android Auto).

Keep in mind while viewing the video this is a PROTOTYPE.  Models shown at CES are no where close to being finalized products, their will be glitches that need to be worked out and I’m sure they will be addressed before the finalized products go into production and begin shipping.  I mention this because I notice (and I’m sure you’ll notice) the volume gets tweaked every time he uses Google Voice.  I’m sure this is something that will be worked out before the product goes into production and begins to start shipping.

Will there be an update to add Android Auto to existing models?

Unfortunately, no.  There will be no software update available to add this new feature to existing NEX models or the App Radio 4.  The hardware simply was not built into those models so it cannot be added.  Existing Pioneer customers will have to upgrade to a new model to add the new feature.  Pioneer says we can expect their new Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible radios to begin shipping in March 2015.

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