Best Double Din Navigation 2016 – Kenwood DNX893s, Alpine INE-W967HD or Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX?

Best Double Din Navigation 2016

Looking for the Best Double Din Navigation for 2016?

Car Stereo Chick reviews and compares the Kenwood DNX893s, Alpine INE-W967HD and Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX

Double din touch screen navigation stereos are one of the most popular selling products in our showroom. Who wouldn’t want:

  • On board GPS Navigation (that doesn’t use your data)
  • Better sound quality
  • Bluetooth
  • USB input
  • Reverse camera capability?

There are a lot of reasons to upgrade your factory radio to a brand name aftermarket double din navigation, but who really makes the best double din navigation for 2016? Well, as I explain to my customers in my showroom, that answer all really depends on what features are most important to you and how you plan to use your new stereo. Each brand has its own strengths and weaknesses as you will see. Get ready for an in depth review on all the Kenwood DNX893s, Alpine INE-W967HD and Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX!

Attention – Please note this is first draft – revisions and additional details to come shortly. Forgive me for any grammar or spelling errors, I usually proofread and revise my posts 30 times before publishing, but I know a lot of you have been waiting a long time for this.

Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX – I’m popular

Like the Nada Surf song, the AVIC-8200NEX is a bit of a catch and when it comes to the choosing the best double din navigation, it is never last picked. The nice thing about the AVIC-8200NEX is the operating platform has been around for a couple years so it is a proven, reliable system. Alpine and Kenwood on the other hand just unveiled brand new operating systems for their units so I’m sure we will see a quirk or two reveal itself over the next coming months. I find the user interface of the Pioneer one of the easiest ones to use and personally one of the most pleasing to the eye, but hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Best Double Din Navigation 2016 - Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX
Best Double Din Navigation 2016 – Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX features a user friendly and intuitive interface.

From the home screen you have several easy shortcuts to:

  • Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
  • GPS navigation by Here Maps
  • Bluetooth Telephone
  • Your 3 favorite sources
  • What’s currently playing
  • Settings

The theme colors and button colors can all be personalized to match your vehicle interior and preference.  You can make it as colorful or as dull in appearance as you like.

Best Double Din Navigation 2016 - Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX Map
Best Double Din Navigation 2016 – Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX navigation map screen

Pioneer uses Here Maps for their on board GPS navigation system. Compared to Kenwood’s Garmin navigation, you might find the roads to be skinny and the icons rather small. However, you could just as easily say the icons on the Garmin are too large and take up vital real estate on the 7″ screen. I’ve had 97% positive feedback from customers regarding the navigation, however I do have two complaints I think are worth noting.

I had one customer find it maddening during a long trip from Maine to Connecticut that the system would not automatically re-route to the new route he had decided to take. He had taken the trip numerous times and knew of a couple routes/highways he could use. Although he allowed the system to pick the fastest route, he continued on another route that he knew. However, at every exit the Pioneer navigation (Here Maps) wanted him to get off the highway and get back onto the original route that had previously been calculated and selected. FYI, there is a way around this – you can select an alternative route from the navigation screen, but the navigation couldn’t figure it out on its own. I guess we’re so used to Google reading our minds all the time that we find it annoying when our electronics don’t, you know, just KNOW what we’re thinking.

I had another customer tell me how it wanted them to go the wrong way down a one way street and additionally, it also seemed to think she lived on a one way street because it always wanted her to loop around the block to get to her home address (which was not on a one way street).

One thing worth mentioning is the Pioneer features a latest maps guarantee which is a feature of Here Maps. You will notice these units come shipped with 2014 Maps, but it’s pretty easy to download the latest maps.

Overall the Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX is a full featured and well rounded GPS navigation stereo that ticks off a lot of boxes for users. Aside from on board GPS, the AVIC-8200NEX also features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Best Double Din Navigation 2016 - Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX
Best Double Din Navigation 2016 – Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX features a responsive glass capacitive touch screen.

The Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX features a glass capacitive touch screen which is very bright and responsive. I get asked a lot what that means and basically, a glass capacitive touch screen is like the screen on your smart phone. They are brighter, more saturated in color and more responsive than a traditional TFT resistive touch screen (found on the other Pioneer models AVIC-5200NEX, AVIC-6200NEX and AVIC-7200NEX). The Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX also has all the standard audio features for a sweet aftermarket sound system including:

  • Three 4 volt pre-amp outputs
  • 13 band EQ
  • Digital time alignment
Best Double Din Navigation 2016 - Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX features digital time alignment, three 4 volt preouts and 13 band EQ
Best Double Din Navigation 2016 – Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX features digital time alignment, three 4 volt preouts and 13 band EQ

Overall, the Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX packs in most of the features consumers are looking for these days in a nice easy to use product at what I think is a fair price. I would say my customers think so too because they tend to gravitate towards Pioneer over Alpine or Kenwood (after seeing them in our showroom and checking them out in person).

So where is the Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX lacking?

There are only a few things that annoy me about this model. When it comes to Bluetooth, you cannot have more than one device connected at a time. You can have multiple devices paired, but only one connected at a time. Not ideal if you have a work phone and personal phone, but I would say this probably only effects a small percentage of people.

The only other drawback is sound quality. When it comes to building a high fidelity car audio system, for the true audiophile, the sound quality could be better.  It’s by no means, bad, but where Pioneer lacks, Kenwood prevails.

Kenwood DNX893s – The overachiever

Traditionally, Kenwood’s Excelon series head units have always been known for their superior sound quality and thankfully the DNX893s remains true to the Kenwood Excelon sound quality legacy.

Best Double Din Navigation 2016 - Kenwood DNX893s features superior sound quality and sound control
Best Double Din Navigation 2016 – Kenwood DNX893s features superior sound quality and sound control

Featuring a 5 volt pre-amp output, the Kenwood DNX893s sounds smoother, more detailed and slightly more natural in tone when compared to Pioneer and Alpine (with everything set flat). Certain tones and frequencies are simply less harsh and more pleasing to the ears. I also have to give some serious bonus points to Kenwood for this additional feature:

Best Double Din Navigation 2016 - Kenwood DNX893s settings memory recall!
Best Double Din Navigation 2016 – Kenwood DNX893s settings memory recall!

Memory Recall – I LOVE this feature of the Kenwood DNX893s

This might seem like such a minor detail, but it can save you time, hassle and a headache. Imagine spending an hour sitting in your car and setting the equalizer for each individual audio source, painstakingly taking the time to measure and set the time correction settings only to find all your hard work has been lost after bringing your car in for routine mechanical service.

If the battery is disconnected, even for a short period of time, both Alpine and Pioneer will lose all audio settings. Kenwood has always had this recall feature for as long as I can remember. You can memorize all your hard work and save it and if you ever need to recall it, you simply hit the recall button. I absolutely LOVE this feature. If you go with Alpine or Pioneer, do yourself a favor and take a couple pictures of your audio settings so you can redo them if you ever lose them. Or just buy the Kenwood DNX893s and hit the recall button.

Bigger Must be Better

The user interface of Kenwood is all about big icons. I think the engineers at Kenwood got tired of hearing me and other dealers complain about the small icons, small clock and difficult user interface. They decided to shut us all up with huge icons, huge text and an intuitive user interface. Cool.

Best Double Din Navigation 2016 - Kenwood DNX893s home screen features big easy to see icons and text
Best Double Din Navigation 2016 – Kenwood DNX893s home screen features big easy to see icons and text

As you can see from the home screen on the Kenwood you have easy shortcuts to:

  • Navigation
  • What’s now playing
  • Two favorite sources (easily selectable)
  • Telephone
  • Settings (quick tap of the menu button brings up settings)

The icon on the top right is selectable as well – you could either display GPS directional info, bouncy EQ or the clock.

What’s not cool about this screen? Well, if you don’t have anything playing with album art information, the top left icon will show a silly blue splash screen and I don’t think there’s a way to change it. Not that I’ve figured out anyways.

Garmin GPS Navigation – I think it’s better than Here Maps

Best Double Din Navigation 2016 - Kenwood DNX893S Garmin Navigation
Best Double Din Navigation 2016 – Kenwood DNX893S features Garmin GPS Navigation

Everyone has heard of Garmin. They debuted their first automotive GPS system, the Street Pilot, back in 1998 and they have become a household name in the years since. Some find the map layout to be a bit cartoonish, but for those of us that are past that age of, let’s call it having youthful eyesight, the larger icons are well received.

Remember the client I mentioned with the Pioneer navigation that was telling her to loop around her block every time she wanted to go home? I eventually installed this unit instead and she has told the me the GPS has worked flawlessly for her. She found the maps a lot easier to see (she has a Jeep Wrangler by the way, so a convertible) and she found the actual navigation was more accurate. I will mention the unit comes shipped with 2015 maps and I did check to see if there was a free map update, but there isn’t.

Speaking of convertibles and glare – have you ever heard of reverse tilt?

Best Double Din Navigation 2016 - Reverse Tilt Kenwood DNX893s
Best Double Din Navigation 2016 – Reverse Tilt Kenwood DNX893s

Most 7″ touch screen navigation stereos have a motorized face that will allow you to tilt or angle the screen back. Kenwood is the only one I am aware of that offers reverse tilt. This is such an awesome feature. So many vehicle dashes these days have an angle to them that really places the vehicle stereo screen in just the worst angle for sun glare. The reverse tilt feature really helps to cut down on that tremendously. I think because of that feature alone, this would be the navigation radio I would encourage all my Jeep Wrangler customers to purchase.

DNX893s – Bonus Features and Pet Peeves

There are a few other really stand out features of this unit worth mentioning. All of these units are iDatalink Maestro compatible, however the DNX893s features some advanced integration such as the soon to be released K40 radar detector integration on screen.

Kenwood DNX893S K40 Radar Integration
Kenwood DNX893S K40 Radar Integration – Feature coming soon from K40 and iDatalink

Additionally, I was blown away by how good the FM/AM reception is on this head unit. When installing it on my sound board I noticed a ferrite bead on the antenna connection cable. I don’t know if they did anything other than that to improve it, but seriously, I have been blown away by the stations this thing pulls in in cars that don’t usually have great reception to begin with (Jeep Wrangler for one and Mercury Mountaineer for another example).

Okay, now for the surprising and the irritating – no remote control included. Oh and no paper owner’s manual. I was pretty shocked, I really thought the units I got shipped were missing parts. I mean for a $1300 stereo, you would think it would include a remote control or at least a paper manual.

And as for the dual USB inputs, I think the second one is kind of worthless.

Best Double Din Navigation 2016 - Kenwood DNX893S Dual USB inputs
Best Double Din Navigation 2016 – Kenwood DNX893S Dual USB inputs

Notice one is labeled iPod/iPhone? That’s your main USB input. Aside from an iPod or iPhone, you would also connect Android Auto to that USB port. So what can you do with USB 2? Well, you can’t connect an iPod to it, that’s for sure. You’ll get an error on the screen. When I think back on the Kenwood training, I’m pretty sure they said that second USB input would be for like a memory stick with music on it. So that’s kind of annoying if you’re the kind of person that likes to be able to use their cell phone (either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto) and also have an iPod connected to a secondary USB as a back up music source. My husband John and I do this in our Jeep because we often go into areas of Connecticut without cell service on our Sunday drives and it’s just nice to be able to switch your source on the stereo rather than having to try and disconnect your phone while you’re driving and connect your iPod instead. Just sayin, they could have made it play an iPod.

 Alpine INE-W967HD – The underperformer

Best Double DIn Navigation 2016 - Alpine INE-W967HD
Best Double DIn Navigation 2016 – Alpine INE-W967HD featuring Here Maps

Oh, Alpine – why do we have such a love hate relationship? I love Alpine’s ease of use and their sleek OEM appearance. I love that you can eliminate redundant or unused sources from your source screen. Sometimes all you want to see is all that is available!

Best Double Din Navigation 2016 - Alpine INE-W967HD
Best Double Din Navigation 2016 – Alpine INE-W967HD customized uncluttered source screen

I even love the easy to use swiping menus which you can view in this quick video I made for a customer of an X109-WRA in a Jeep Wrangler.

Alpine, where’s the value?

I hate that it feels like you’re really not getting a lot for your money. For a $1500 navigation Bluetooth radio, you would think it would at least come with a CD/DVD player or maybe Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (no, it doesn’t). But wait, there’s more.

Check out this craziness – I sold and installed one of these in a 2008 Porsche Boxster and it looked beautiful. And I meant to take pictures on the install, but after seeing this model came equipped with 2014 maps, I did what I always do for my customers I started to work on downloading the latest maps – thanks to the Here Maps latest maps guarantee. However, 3 hours later, after 3 different attempts, using 3 different computers and 3 different USB drives, I started to lose it. Half way through each attempted download I kept getting the error “There is not enough memory on your device”. I thought maybe that was not enough memory on my computer or not enough memory on my USB drive. Finally I called Alpine tech support to see what was up (yeah, I’m stubborn, I prefer to try and figure things out on my own before calling someone for help). So get this – it wasn’t me or my computer or my USB drives – Alpine didn’t put enough memory in the stereo! Alpine’s solution? Uncheck the update box for Canada. Really, who goes there anyways? Just joking Canada 🙂

If you can get past the high price, the lack of Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, CD/DVD Player and updated Canadian Maps you might really enjoy some of the cooler aspects of the Alpine INE-W967HD.

One thing I found pretty neat is the built in microphone for the Bluetooth. It actually works quite well and that’s one less thing you have to worry about wiring and mounting. Another feature, pointed out to me by one of my well informed customers (Thanks Ryan!), is the parametric EQ. While Kenwood and Pioneer feature a graphic equalizer, Alpine has a parametric EQ which allows you to adjust the center point of the frequency you’re adjusting and the width of the frequency (also known as Q factor).

Best Double Din Navigation 2016 - Alpine INE-W967HD Parametric EQ
Best Double Din Navigation 2016 – Alpine INE-W967HD Parametric EQ

Additionally, you still have basic audio adjustments like bass and treble under Tone Adjustment which is accessible with a quick swipe down on the top of the screen.

Best Double Din Navigation 2016 - Alpine INE-W967HD easy bass and treble adjustment.
Best Double Din Navigation 2016 – Alpine INE-W967HD easy bass and treble adjustment.

The screen itself is very responsive and intuitive. Kudos to Alpine on that. They call it a capacitive touch screen, but it does not have a glass finish like Pioneer or Kenwood does. In fact, that may be better in high glare situations. I haven’t installed enough to really see the difference in bright sunlight, but I imagine there would be less reflection.

Best Double Din Navigation 2016 - Alpine INE-W967HD preset EQ options
Best Double Din Navigation 2016 – Alpine INE-W967HD preset EQ options

I find the overall appearance and graphics to be less flashy than Pioneer and Kenwood and more OEM which really makes it look like it belongs in a vehicle, rather than appearing like an aftermarket product.

Alpine INE-W967HD Sound Quality

When it comes to sound quality, we have found that the built in Alpine amplifiers tend to sound bright and harsh when compared to Pioneer or Kenwood. However, when using an external amplifier, most of that tininess and harshness disappears. Interestingly enough, Alpine also happens to make what we think are some of the best sounding amps out there – their PDX series is our favorite. Yet even with an external amp, it is worth noting the Kenwood DNX893s has a more natural, smoother tone to it.

So who wins Best Double Din Navigation 2016?

I would have to declare Kenwood’s DNX893s the winner based on sound quality, GPS performance and bonus features like reverse tilt, memory recall and improved FM/AM reception. It’s a great balance of features at what I think is a fair price. However, determining which navigation system is right for you depends on what features are most important to you and what kind of user interface is most attractive to you. For a minimalistic, OEM appearance, you may have to cough up a few bucks and give up a few features and go with the Alpine INE-W967HD. If you prefer a less cartoonish navigation than Garmin, but you still want Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, then you should consider the Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX. They all have their pros and cons and I hope this in depth review has helped you select the right one for your particular tastes and needs. Thanks for reading!

Porsche Cayenne Navigation Upgrade – Double Din Pioneer AVIC-8100NEX Navigation Installed

Porsche Cayenne Navigation Upgrade - Apple CarPlay

This week in the shop – 2005 Porsche Cayenne, Pioneer AVIC-8100NEX and Murphy’s Law.

Well, it was more like 2 weeks ago in the shop I had the pleasure of doing an installation for a reader who graciously made the 2 1/2 hour trek from Boston to our shop in Brookfield, CT.  Raj has experience in the tech and infotainment industry and he was just as excited about seeing Android Auto in action as I was.

Porsche Cayenne Navigation Upgrade - Android Auto
Porsche Cayenne Navigation Upgrade – Android Auto

He was seeking an upgrade for his 2005 Porsche Cayenne navigation radio and was leaning towards the Pioneer AVIC-8100NEX.  This model appealed to him because of its Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Additionally, it features on board navigation and a capacitive touch screen, much like the capacitive touch screen used on many smartphones.

Porsche Cayenne Navigation Upgrade - Apple CarPlay
Porsche Cayenne Navigation Upgrade – Apple CarPlay

I had some reservations about doing an install for a client driving all the way down from Boston. Only a few weeks prior, we had another customer down from the Boston area with a BMW E46 and we ran into some minor issues that were made much more difficult due to the logistics involved. It was late Friday afternoon. The vehicle was in the garage and the installation was in progress when we realized the dash kit company shipped us a 5 series double din kit in a 3 series E46 double din package.  Hello Murphy! We were left with few options and very little time to remedy the situation. So, my husband John did what he could – pulled an all nighter and fabricated his own kit.

So, needless to say, I was a little hesitant about another Boston client coming down on a Friday for an installation. I thought to myself, “What could go wrong this time that would be difficult to remedy based on the customer’s place of residency?” John reassured me it was a lot more straightforward than the 3 series and there was a lot less that could go wrong. It was essentially a head unit install with some cables routed to the center console. Plus, he reminded me we would be using tried and tested Nav TV parts. I convinced myself everything would be fine with this Porsche Cayenne navigation upgrade, but in the back of my mind I was still paranoid about what could go wrong when a client travels such a long distance for the purchase and installation of car electronics.

I’ve been alive long enough to know that Murphy is always lurking around, but let’s forget my paranoia for a moment. The Pioneer AVIC-8100NEX really was the perfect solution for bringing this 10 year old vehicle’s navigation system up to date. The goal was to replace the old outdated Porsche navigation radio with a capacitive touch screen navigation radio that supported both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Even though the Porsche Cayenne was equipped with the fiber optic MOST Bose audio system, with the right parts, it was going to be a relatively straight forward job.  Nav TV makes a pretty cool interface that allows you to retain the stock fiber optic Bose amp called the MOST HUR-955.

Porsche Cayenne Navigation Upgrade - MOST HUR 955
Porsche Cayenne Navigation Upgrade – MOST HUR 955 – And, yes, that’s my red swingline stapler in the background.

Having sold and installed several of these kits before, I wasn’t too worried about that part of the install. Besides the interface, there are several different dash kits available for this vehicle. Metra makes one and so does Nav TV. We used Metra’s ASWC-1 steering wheel control interface and Nav TV dash kit.  Although the Nav TV Porsche dash kit is more expensive than the Metra version, it is made in Germany and has the same exact appearance, quality, texture and finish as the factory radio.

Shortly after Raj first inquired about the 2005 Porsche Cayenne navigation upgrade, we touched base on the phone to go over details. I quickly typed up an estimate that he agreed to. With an install date set, I started ordering in parts.

This is when Murphy made his first appearance in our 2005 Porsche Cayenne navigation upgrade.  After taking a deposit and ordering up parts I realized I made a pretty big mistake.  Although I told him about the Nav TV MOST HUR-955 – I explained to him what it was and how it worked – I umm, sort of somehow forgot to put it on the estimate and subsequent invoice. Yikes! Talk about an expensive error. Unable to absorb that additional cost, I made the phone call to explain the error I made in my estimate.

I didn’t know what to expect. I would be pretty peeved if someone sprung an additional $600 part onto my estimate, but Raj was quite understanding and still wanted to move forward with the job. Sweet! I was excited. This was going to be our first install with a customer who actually had a compatible Android Auto device, the Google Nexus 6.

The Pioneer AVIC-8100NEX comes with two USB ports.  USB 1 for Apple CarPlay and USB 2 for Android Auto.  Additional inputs include HDMI and AUX.  We planned to route all 4 into the center console for the 2005 Porsche Cayenne.

Porsche Cayenne Navigation Upgrade - USB's Center Console
Porsche Cayenne Navigation Upgrade – USB’s Center Console

Everything with the installation was going as planned until about 4:00 in the afternoon, right about when John would have been wrapping things up.  Uh-oh – here comes Murphy again! With the radio powered up and the interface wired in we had no audio. John removed the Nav TV interface and tried to do a software update. It was not recognized by our computer.

John spent over an hour testing and checking while on the phone with Nav TV tech support. Meanwhile, I had a major meltdown realizing we had been shipped a bum part. After explaining the situation to Nav TV (“You know, the customer is not from our area and can’t just pop back in Monday after you ship us a new part”) they managed to ship a replacement part out next day Saturday delivery which I’m sure cost them a pretty penny. We explained the situation to Raj and I drove him over to Enterprise to pick up a rental so he could drive home while we waited for the replacement part to arrive.

Raj was extremely understanding about the situation and he attributed this to being in the tech industry and having been in similar situations. On the way over to Enterprise he asked me, “So what was the part that was defective?”  I responded, “It was that $650 part that I forgot to put on your receipt.” He burst out laughing. I’m glad he thought it was funny, he handled the news much better than I had.

The next day UPS arrived at 9 AM with the replacement interface and it worked like a charm. I have had such a low defective rate with this manufacturer that I was really surprised to have a defective part. Nav TV makes nearly all of their parts right here in the USA and quality control tests each and every one before shipping. Thankfully they stand by their product and they were quick to make it right.

Porsche Cayenne Navigation Upgrade - Google Play Music
Porsche Cayenne Navigation Upgrade – Google Play Music

At the end of the (next) day we had a very happy customer with a pretty sweet 2005 Porsche Cayenne navigation upgrade.  Raj, I hope you’re enjoying it!

New York Auto Show 2012

2012 Lexus GS 350
2012 Lexus GS 350
The all new 2012 Lexus GS 350 features a large, vibrant navigation screen.

This year I attempted to make it to the New York auto show with press passes.  I actually managed to acquire the press passes, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it down during press days.  I did however, get a chance to go today and roam among the public at the Jacob Javits Center.  Looking at all the new cars from Ford, Dodge, Jeep, BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Toyota, Lexus, Honda and more, I quickly realized something.  Almost nothing was new!  At least to me.

As a mobile electronics specialist operating a retail store in Fairfield County, Connecticut, our shop sees a wide variety of clients and many of them are driving brand new cars.  Sometimes we’re the first stop after driving off the lot.  We also happen to do a lot of wholesale work for local car dealerships, often working on a brand new car before it is delivered to the customer.  After seeing so many cars today, that I’ve already seen and know well, I realized I take for granted the kind of exposure I get to new cars working in this industry.

Having said that, I still walked away from the show with valuable insight on the convenient technologies that OEM manufacturers are now offering to consumers.  The majority of these car manufacturers are creating better and better touch screen control centers with advanced navigation, app integration, multiple camera systems for driver safety and they’re offering all of that on much larger, brighter, and vibrant touch screens than ever before.  Even Mercedes has been upgraded their dinky command control screen to an acceptable 7″ screen (it’s still not touch screen though).  The OEM offerings are definitely going to give the aftermarket industry a run for its money.  I attribute the OEM competitive edge to the car manufacturer’s seemingly bottomless research and development pockets, something the aftermarket manufacturers  just don’t have.

2012 Dodge Ram Navigation Control Screen
The 2012 Dodge Ram has an oversized navigation touch screen.  Shown on display at the New York Auto Show 2012

I was disappointed that most of the vehicles on display did not have accessory or battery power on, or the option to turn it on for demonstration purposes.  As a result, I was unable to actually see or use most of the features that I wanted to see.  It wasn’t a total waste of time however, I did get some pretty nice pictures of some pretty cool cars and I enjoyed a slice with hubby at John’s Pizza on West 44th.  Enjoy.

BMW i8 Concept Car
The BMW i8 Concept Car at New York Auto Show 2012.  This car is bad ass.

This thing is just so cool looking.  Maybe Alpine is on to something with those Blue lights.

BMW 640i Frozen Paint Option Shown at New York Auto Show 2012
BMW 640i Frozen Paint Option Shown at New York Auto Show 2012

This interesting new paint concept for BMW first debuted in select 2011 M3’s.  Their Frozen series paint options were prevalent at the show……even at the Mercedes and Audi booth.

Mercedes CLS with Matte Paint at the New York Auto Show 2012
Mercedes CLS with Matte Paint at the New York Auto Show 2012

Mercedes was actually the first manufacturer to offer such a paint finish.  Introduced by Mercedes in 2010, they call it MAGNO Matte.

2012 Spyker C8 at the New York Auto Show 2012
Spyker C8 at the New York Auto Show 2012.

This vehicle caught my eye.  This is the first time I ever saw or heard of a Spyker C8. Looks pretty cool. Also looks really expensive.

Alpine reveals new head units, amps, speakers, backup cameras and more in their 2012 lineup of car audio

During CES 2012, the Car Stereo Chick had a chance to visit the Alpine booth.  Amazingly, Alpine has redesigned and revamped almost everything they offer in car audio.  Check out the new Alpine products arriving in 2012.

New Alpine head units to be released in 2012

Typically, most brands will redesign and reveal a new line of head units each year and showcase the new models at CES.  Often times the changes are minor over last years model.  Sometimes they only upgrade or change a few models in their line up.  Every 3 years or so, you usually see a speaker and amp redesign.  This year, Alpine has made aggressive changes across the board in their car audio products.  After a few years of dismal head unit offerings, including quirky and disappointing navigation systems, it’s good to see Alpine has taken this year as an opportunity to grow and excel.  Remember the ever annoying adapter upon adapters that were necessary for adding basic features that other manufacturer offered built in?  Thankfully, that is now a thing of the past.  The only add on I found this year for Alpine head units was for adding SiriusXM.  No longer is it necessary to add on a separate Bluetooth module or HD module, just pick the head unit with the features you want built in.

Alpine’s new CDE-134HD includes builtin HD Radio

Take a look at all the choices we have here for single din Alpine head units in 2012.  Starting with the CDE-133BT at $159.95, you will get features like built in bluetooth handsfree and audio streaming along with being steering wheel remote ready.  Next up would be the CDE-135BT at $189.95.  The CDE-135BT will add additional features like Pandora control with iPhone, Blackberry and Android using their Bluetooth Plus technology.  Bluetooth Plus eliminates the need for entering a pass code upon pairing.  It also allows for control over Pandora when paired with devices like Android and Blackberry. For $10 more, the CDE-136BT will give you a little more flexibility with expansion as it includes 3 pre-outs.  Both units have a front USB/Aux with an optional USB mass storage mode.

What about HD radio you ask?  The CDE-HD137BT adds HD radio to the list of features for only $219.95.  If you’re looking for a no frills HD radio, the CDE-134HD for only $179.95 will get the job done.  For those that want all the features in a single din option, you’ll want to check out the CDE-HD138BT.  The CDE-HD138BT includes Bluetooth Plus with Pandora control on iPhone, Android or Blackberry, built in HD Radio, three 4 volt preouts, and it’s SiriusXM ready.

Other offerings in the line up this year include a nice, easy to use, basic, double din head unit.  The CDE-W235BT features large easy to use controls, front USB/Aux and built in bluetooth for only $199.95.

Speaking of double din, Alpine is proud to offer 4 different double din AV units in 2012 starting with the IVE-W530 at $449.95.  The IVE-W530 has a 6.1″ touch screen, 3 band EQ, 3 preouts, rear USB port, built in Bluetooth, along with being steering wheel remote ready and including an optional app mode for iPhone.

Step it up to the IVE-W535 for $699.95 and you’ll add a 4 volt pre-amp section, HD Radio, Bluetooth Plus and you’ll have the option to add SiriusXM.  With the app mode, you’ll have the option of accessing the navigation app from your iPhone.  It’s unclear to me whether or not you’ll have control over the navigation from the screen using the app mode.  The app mode cable feature will not be available until August 2012, even though the compatible double din A/V units are expected the ship in April or May 2012.

The technology to be able to control your phone from your screen is called Mirror Link.  Currently, there aren’t even any phones on the market capable of Mirror Link.  Alpine is testing prototype phones and Sony had their own prototype head unit on display with a prototype Mirror Link cell phone.  When Mirror Link does make it to the market, it will completely change (once again) the way aftermarket car audio manufacturer’s design their head units.  The only downside to this technology is you are still relying on your data plan, which may not be unlimited and you are still relying on your cell service.  Drive through a dead zone and you’ll lose your navigation signal.  For those looking for a more reliable navigation option, Alpine is offering the INE-S920HD.

The INE-S920HD will feature the same 6.1″ touch screen offered in their IVE-W530 and IVE-W535, but it includes an on board navigation system.  Unlike Alpine’s previous navigation systems, the navigation screen on the INE-S920HD has a nice high resolution picture with recognizable graphics and large, easy to use icons.  A clear favorite buttons allows users to customize their home screen with 8 different selections.  Program your favorite source, favorite channel, favorite contacts, favorite addresses and easily access them with the touch of a button.  A nice large volume knob adds to the ease of use on this Alpine navigation system.

As well as being SiriusXM ready, the INE-S920HD also includes HD Radio built in.  For those looking for better control over their audio system, the INE-S920HD features a 9 band parametric EQ along with easy to program digital time alignment.  Access the audio menu and simply select your cabin style, the number of speakers in your cabin, speaker size, speaker location and listener position.  The Alpine double din navigation system will automatically customize, adjust and implement individual speaker delays to create a balanced and centered sound stage.  With an expected release date of March 2012 and a sale price of only $999.95, I expect this to be one of Alpine’s best selling navigation systems of all times.  I know that sounds drastic, but they really haven’t had a competitively priced, full featured, quality navigation system in well over 6 years.

Alpine’s INE-Z928HD features an over sized 8″ touch screen for $1499.95

Even more innovative than the INE-S920HD is the over sized 8″ navigation system, the INE-Z928HD.  The INE-Z928HD does something that Kenwood and Pioneer haven’t even thought of.  It provides a larger than double din, OEM style screen for the newer vehicles on the market that can accommodate larger than double din navigation systems.

Working with Scosche Industries, Alpine will be releasing specialized dash kits just for these over sized 8″ navigation systems along with true plug and play wiring harnesses that will make installation a breeze.  For example, let’s say you have a new Chevy Tahoe, equipped with Onstar and steering controls, and you want to install the INE-Z928HD.  Alpine will not only be offering the dash kit you need, they will also be offering an all inclusive wiring harness.  This true plug and play wire harness will be pre-wired and will include a preprogrammed steering wheel control module as well as your Onstar retention module.

Prototype Double Din Dash made by Alpine and Scosche Industries for the INE-Z928HD on display at CES 2012.

Now that you’ve picked out the right AVN unit for your vehicle, which back up camera would you like to select?  There have been many recent advancements in OEM back up cameras and it looks like Alpine has taken notice.  This year they are offering a competitive aftermarket back up camera with moving object sensing technology.  Take a peak at the HCE-C305R.  With a 180 degree viewing angle, park assist lines, moving object detection and four optional view modes, this back up camera has the most features out of all the back up cameras Alpine has ever offered.  With a retail price of $499.95, this back up camera is expected to ship in May 2012.

The HCE-C305R back up camera from Alpine detects and highlights moving objects on screen.

Moving right along, next up in the Alpine CES booth was the amplifier section.  Last year Alpine came out with the new X power series amps which were a welcome addition to the limited choices of V Power or PDX series amplifiers.  Boasting similar sound quality and the same Class D technology that is used in the PDX series, the X Power series amps provide consumers a more cost effective alternative to the PDX series without the fancy cosmetics.  This years X Power amps have been given a power boost.  Introducing the all new line of X Power amps from Alpine:

The MRX-V70 is the new X power 5 channel amp from Alpine featuring 60 watts x 4 at 4 ohms and 350 x 1 at 2 ohms.  Retail price $399.95

Alpine is including a redesigned 5 channel amp within their X Power amplifier line up.  The MRX-V70 will put out 60 watts RMS x 4 at 4 ohms and 350 watts RMS x 1 at 2 ohms for only $399.95.  Not shown are the new 4 channels including the new MRX-F35 rated at 55 watts x 4 RMS at 4ohms for $299.95 and the more powerful MRX-F65 rated at 110 watts x 4 RMS at 4 ohms for $399.95.


The all new MRX-M55 puts out 550 watts RMS at 2 ohms. What if you need more power than that? Like enough power for the all new Alpine Type R subwoofer? Take a look at the MRX-M110 boasting 1100 watts RMS for only $399.95.

The new Alpine MRX-M110 will put out 1100 watts RMS at 2 ohms.

Maybe you need enough power for two of the new Alpine Type R subs.  Like 2400 watts RMS.

Alpine’s monsterous new Class D X power amp featuring 2400 watts RMS for $699.95

Alpine has quite a few space saving solutions in their amp line up.  One of my favorites is the KTP-445 which is an inline amp, specific to Alpine head units, which provide 45 watts X 4 RMS and is small enough to hide behind a dash,all for $129.95.  Alpine has improved upon this model by offering a universal power pack with RCA connections and more tuning adjustments for only $150.

Alpine’s new KTP-445U is an efficient, space saving, 4 channel amp for only $149.95..

If you need a powerful 5 channel amp, but don’t want to sacrifice sound quality or space, Alpine’s all new PDX-V9 may be the right amp for you.  The PDX-V9 will give you 100 watts x 4 RMS for your interior speakers and 500 watts RMS x 1 for your sub channel.  An incredibly compact, clean sounding and efficient option for only $699.95.  Compared to JL Audio’s HD 900/5 for $1199.95, the PDX-V9 is far easier on the wallet.  Not only that, I personally believe the PDX line of amps from Alpine have superior sound quality over JL Audio’s HD series amplifiers.

Alpine’s new 5 channel PDX-V9 features 100 watts x 4 plus 500 watts x 1 RMS

One of the more drastic changes in the Alpine line up for 2012 is within their revamped subwoofer line up.  For starters, the all new Type E, Type S and Type R were all designed to perform optimally in the same exact enclosure specifications.  So whether you buy a Type E 12″, Type S 12″ or Type R 12″, they will all require the same enclosure size.  Both the Type S and the Type R subs have almost doubled in power handling.  The all new Type S is now rated at 500 watts RMS and the all new Type R is rated at an impressive 1000 watts RMS.

The all new Alpine Type R released in 2012 handles an impressive 1000 watts RMS.

Still relatively new in the line up is the flat Type R Alpine SWR-T12. The flat Type R subs are one of the best sounding flat line subs I have heard.

The one area of Alpine’s lineup that has not changed this year is their interior speaker line up.  Aside from the price of the raw material neodymium skyrocketing and bringing the price of the Type X components up to $1000, there have not been any changes in their already recently redesigned interior speaker line up.

Overall, I was very impressed with the improvements and changes they’ve made with their 2012 line up.  The one question I had for Alpine, and I couldn’t really get a straight answer on this, is why blue?  I wish they would provide consumers a little more flexibility by providing a multicolor illumination feature like so many other manufacturer’s offer.

I hope you enjoyed this review on the hot new products Alpine will be releasing in 2012.  What product do you see yourself purchasing this year from Alpine?  What features would you like to see that were not included in Alpine’s 2012 line up?  I’d love to get your feedback. If you enjoyed this article, please share it! Tweet it, like it, stumble it, whatever as long as you’re spreading the love. Thanks for reading.

Car Stereo Chick gets you a sneak peak at new Alpine products at CES 2012

Alpine’s new oversized double din navigation system

Alpine has unveiled a fantastic new line of head units at CES 2012. Probably the most eye catching and unique of these new products would be the INE-Z928HD. With an oversized 8″ touch screen, this Alpine navigation system is unlike any other aftermarket double din navigation systems. Alpine is supporting this new model by producing and distributing a line of installation kits that will accommodate this head unit in larger stereo dash openings. The image shown here is from a Chevy Tahoe utilizing one of Alpine’s new installation kits.

The other groundbreaking feature, which I did not see from Kenwood or Pioneer is not only does this baby interface with iPhone and Android for Pandora control, but also Blackberry. Users will be able to plug in their smart phone and access their channels on Pandora radio on screen as well as utilize the thumbs up/thumbs down feature and skip tracks. Alpine was the 1st company I’m aware of to interface with Pandora and it seems they have a little bit of an edge on other manufacturers by also offering this great feature for the Blackberry.


New Alpine INE-Z928HD on display at CES 2012

Alpine will also be offering a standard sized double din navigation system with the same technology. Other great features these new double din navigation systems will include are a 9 band EQ, 4 volt preout section and built in HD radio. I’m also happy to report that the quality of their navigation screen has vastly improved with more detail and clarity than was seen with the INA-W910BT. Expected release date on the INE-Z928HD will be May 2012 with an estimated retail price of $1499 and for your standard double din, the INE-Z920HD, expect to see those shipping in March 2012 with an estimated retail price of $999.

Besides innovative navigation systems, Alpine will be offering two other double din head units with app features in the $600 range and a full line of single din head units with some great features. I was pleased to see Alpine is finally offering a single din head unit that includes technology that most consumers want, without having to add additional modules. One to look out for will be the CDE-HD138BT.

New full featured Alpine single Din head unit unveiled at CES 2012
New full featured Alpine single Din head unit unveiled at CES 2012

The CDE-HD138BT will feature Pandora control for iPhone, Android and Blackberry and will come with 3 4 volt preouts, built in crossovers, a USB mass storage mode for external hard drives, built in HD radio (yay no add ons), built in Bluetooth (one less component to install!) and has a steering wheel remote connection.

One thing I haven’t seen yet is multicolor illumination. Does Alpine think that everyone has blue interior dash lights? I guess we can’t always have it all.  I’ll be visiting Alpine’s booth today to interview a product specialist, maybe I can gain some insight to their illumination color choice.  Regardless of color, the 2012 line up from Alpine appears to be a vast improvement over their 2011 offerings. Check back soon for more details.