If you’ve ever done a track day, you know it can be a fun experience. To add to that fun the addition of a GPS data recorder can add to the enjoyability and perhaps even help you improve your driving. This is where devices such as AiM Sports Solo come in. They can record your lap times, show g-forces, predicted lap times and splits.
This unit can predict your estimated lap time or the difference between your current and best lap time. The large display gives easy to read information so that you can monitor without having to concentrate to much on the screen and distract you from your driving.
The review mode, for after the drive, shows both lap times and minimum and maximum speeds. It doesn’t show split times but can be connected to a computer for later analysis. The battery only lasts for around four to six hours depending on whther you use the backlight or not but does come with a power cord so battery life isn’t that crucial.
The Solo may be a bit complex for casual users, but the detailed information is quite a nice feature and well worth the complexity involved in using it.
Okay, so here we are with another review of a JVC double din car stereo. This time we’ll be looking at the JVC KW-R500 Double Din Receiver. So what does it have going for it? And maybe what’s not so hot?
The cd player is mp3/wma compatible and can use id3 tag/wma tag, so if you have some of your music in mp3 or wma format you can stick it straight on a cd-r/rw disc and away you go. Oh and if you’re not sure what those tag thing are, they contain info about the song playing and can include things such as title, artist, album, and other info, assuming it was put in there before you put it on the cd.
The cd player also has the random/repeat play we all love, or just ignore.
Bluetooth control is one of those things that people either love or hate to use, depending on how well it manages to work with your device. This unit is only bluetooth ready requires the extra purchase of JVC’s KS-BTA100, which is fine if you don’t want to use bluetooth (and save on the extra feature?) or if you don”t mind spending a bit more to get the bluetooth functionality.
Once you have the adaptor though, you can make hands free calls, audio stream and control your smartphone, and use voice recognition dialing.
If you don’t get the bluetooth adaptor and want to control your iphone or ipod, you also have the option of using a usb connection. This gives you control of your iphone/ipod and allows for random/repeat play, 2 way control, pandora connectivity, and will charge your idevice at the same time.
If you happen to have an ipad, the functionality seems to work the same, but the charge doesn’t appear to be enough to charge it, which is something you need to remember when listening to music from the ipad on a long journey.
Apps that work with your car stereo can pretty cool. One of the most sort after at this time is Pandora, and this stereo does in fact work with it.
Connectivity is becoming more important and with the numerous ways to connect usb is probably the simplest way to physically connect a device to a car entertainment system. This unit allows connecting via usb to the front of the unit (which is preferable to the rear when you want to remove the connection on a regular basis). This allows mp3/wma playback, random/repeat play, iphone/ipod playback, and pandora control (as mentioned above).
The tuner provides pretty much standard settings and allows for up to 18 fm station presets and 6 am. There is also a radio timer and backup memory in case of power disconnection.
The amplifier is one of the most important parts of the system. If it’s quality is lacking or isn’t powerful enough, it just won’t supply the listening enjoyment we demand of our car audio systems.
With that in mind, how does this system stack up?
It’s maximum power output is 50W X 4 and the continuous output is 20W RMS X 4, which doesn’t sound like much (no pun intended), but it’s enough for most people’s listening requirements. Unless you want to explode someone’s eye anyway.
The frequency response is 40 – 20,000 Hz, with a load impedance of 4 ohms, and a line output of less than 600 ohms. So what does that mean? Well, it should give you a reasonable listening experience for what ever your tastes desire.
The display offers seperated variable color, auto dimmer and brightness control. Nothing really out of the ordinary, but the quality is there and gives a good screen quality.
This unit comes with an oval shaped remote, which I would probably lose if I didn’t bolt it done, but does work properly (as long as I can find it anyway). It’s steering wheel remote control ready to, although I personally don’t like these, but for those of you who do this is good news. It also offers power-off mode eject which is handy.
This is a nice unit with all the functionality that most people would require, and anyone should be happy to have this unit in their cars.
With a new year comes new product announcements, and the first that I’ve received is from JVC announcing their new App Link Mode. This is an update of its previous Advanced External mode. Not only is the App Link mode a nicer sounding name, it also appears to offer more and creates better conncetivity to give improved performance.So far, this new mode is being included in four newly announced models including the $429.95 (RRP so expect to be able to find for cheaper soon) JVC KW-AV60.
So far there are several apps that will work with the App Link mode, and I’m hoping they will be adding more in the future. Here’s a look at some of the apps currently supported:
This nifty app turns your iphone into, wait for it…a GPS. Well what did you expect? A coffee machine? Okay, so most of us have either used or at least seen a GPS in action, but what does this app actually offer? First up is live traffic maps which will help to avoid gridlocks caused by road construction, traffic accidents, events and concerts, and provide details of those traffic obstructions. Next up is the turn-by-turn voice guidance we’re all familiar with, but they also cache results to improve performance and you can program multiple stops on the route.
You have HD synthesized and natural voice options, facebook places and wikipedia integration.
MOG is a music streaming app that boasts over 14 million songs streaming at 320 kbps, and boasts 100% artist only stations and the ability to create your own playlists that can be shared with other MOG users. You can also use other peoples playlists and even playlists created by the artists themselves.
There is also the ability to download an unlimted number of songs to your iPhone, iPod or Android device so you can listen to your favorite music without having to be connected all the time.
This is an interesting little app that will convert text to speech in either a male or female voice. As the title implies, it can read web pages to you. It also has the ability to read google reader rss feeds, pdf files, text, RTF and Microsoft Word documents. It can be controlled by bluetooth devices and now has native support from JVC’s app link mode. I doubt this will replace audio books, but it has me curious enough that I’m going to try this out.
This is another GPS app that provides real time info on traffic, giving information on incidents (such as accidents, police and construction), traffic forecasting (giving you the optimal time to leave considering the predicted road conditions) and comparative traffic (comparing normal and current traffic conditions).
Simply put, Cobra iRadar provides us with information on radar, laser and camera locations. One downside of this is that it relies on user input to tell you where these things are, so if you’re the first to come across one, you won’t know until you hit it. Just remember to put the information into iRadar after the cops have given you the ticket ;-P.
Tune In Radio
Tune in radio is a great little app that lets you listen to radio stations from anywhere in the world, or at least the ones they stream. I use this to listen to the radio station from my home town so I can (sort of) keep up to date with what’s going on there. It also helps that they play better music than what they play here.
This app reportedly improves the sound quality of music from your idevice. I haven’t used it, so can’t say whether it works, or how well it works, but assuming it does exactly as it says it would certainly be good thing for all of us that value good music. It would be interesting to see how it effects the music streamed to a car radio too.
This is the sort of app that I’ve been interested in for a while, if only for the coolness factor. It records video while you drive, which I guess could come in handy in cases of accidents to prove it was the bonehead who caused the accident and not your own driving skills. This app also tracks the route taken and can be combined with DriveMate SafetyCam (not included with app) to monitor other vehicles (you know, like cars, trucks, bikes etc.) in front of you to determine if there are any hazards, and in a brilliant move (sarcasm 101) will alert you of them.
Pandora Internet Radio
If you haven’t heard of this app you’ve probably been living in a cave and don’t have a car, so why are you here? Okay, so the two of you out there who haven’t heard of Pandora, it lets you listen to “stations” of similar music. To do this you’d say search for an artist you like, and then the app will play music from them and other artists that play the same kind of music. It works really well and I’ve only had a couple of times when the music that plays brings on a WTH moment and if you haven’t got it yet you really should. It works with all kinds of music too, not just popular music, my 3 year old even has his own wiggles station.
This nifty little app gives you a remote control for compatible JVC receivers. It displays such things as the source information of the head unit and gives you control using gestures, meaning you don’t need to even look at the screen. It allows you to control things such as source, EQ, track up and down, and shows info such as song data and source disply on the screen.
Well that’s what’s being planned by JVC for their new stereos for this year (2012), it will be interesting to see how this works out and how useful all these apps will be in the real world.
Recently I’ve received a few emails asking what the best double din car stereo is. Without any further information, the best response to this is “What are your requirements?”. For every person looking for a new car stereo, the best head unit for them is one that fits their wants and needs.
The place that I usually start with in deciding what to buy, whether it’s a car stereo or any other item I’m looking at, is price. What is my budget for this? How much am I willing and able to spend on it to get what I want. This step can, literally, cut down the prospective buys from thousands to hundreds or even tens of options. Which makes the act of comparison that much easier. And besides why would I want to compare stereos that I couldn’t afford anyway?
Once I have a price range in mind, it’s time to focus on the features. The best way I’ve found to do this, is to put them in three categories. The first is the “must haves” that I really need (or want if the desire is enough). The second is the “maybes” that I would like but aren’t as important and I could live without if required. The third is the “don’t wants” which are made up of the features that I have no use for and don’t foresee needing at any time in the future.
Okay, so what are some of the features that should be put in these categories? Well, let’s start with one of the most common these days, iPhone/iPod/iPad connectivity. This is something that could be in the must haves, but if you don’t have one of these devices, it should go into one of the other categories. Will you get one in the future or are you sure you’ll never get one, at least for the lifetime of the new stereo (also brings up the question of how long you intend to keep this stereo/car). Along with this goes bluetooth connectivity which can be used for other phones.
Another thning that a lot of people are now looking at is remote controls. Is it something I’d like or is it more of a gimmick? Would I even use it if I had it, or would it be just as easy doing everything on the main unit?
Some other things that are relatively common these days, but need to be prioritised are dual zone operation, navigation systems (do you have another GPS that you can use and save money in not having it in the head unit?), real-time traffic via XM Satellite Radio, usb ports and rear view safety camera.
There’s probably more things that will come to mind later, but for now the above details should be able to put you on the right track in getting the best double din car stereo for you.
This is a nice affordable Boss car stereo that provides DVD entertainment to those on a budget. The system allows playback of various disc media including DVDs, CDs, SVCDs and VCDs. There are also a usb port and SD/MMC card slots for extra ways of accessing your digital multimedia like mp3, wma and mp4 files. There is of course the standard am/fm radio with 30 presets.
The in built bluetooth works well and plays music directly from your iphone without having to worry about wires. You can also make hands free calls through the bluetooth interface. The sound is clear and sounds good.
The 7 inch screen has a 1440×324 resolution giving a nice clear picture.
The auxiliary inputs allow for the connection of ipods or other mp3 players, and there is a rear A/V input for video components such as game systems.
There is also the capability of adding a rear view camera that is simple to install and set up.
Control can be done on the unit itself or via the included remote.
For the price, this is a great unit and will satisfy the majority of users. Check it out here.
New for its 2011 model lineup from Pioneer is the AVH-P4300DVD. This unit provides a great entertainment system for your listening and driving pleasure. It’s got a great setup of improved and advance features. With a weight of 6.2 pounds and measuring 9.9 x 11 x 6.7 inches giving it a nice level of durability and reliability.
This unit is simple to install and makes its operation accessible to any user, no matter what your level of experience may be. The interface itself is large and easy to use, and looks good to boot. Swipe, tap or drag to access controls and settings. Navigation is well laid out and simple to use. For more control, you can also select Full Operation mode, but most people will only need the Simple mode fro most operations.
The customisability on this is an interesting feature. It gives you a nice digital frame function which allows for the choice from 5 available colors for the display. It has a dual decode feature which gives the ability to display photos in jpg format whilst not interfering with music playback. You can even select a favorite photo as the wallpaper for the unit. There is also the chance to create short cuts to frequently used controls to make the interface even simpler.
If you’ve ever used Pandora on one of your devices (or even through your web browser) you’ll be excited to know that this unit is Pandora ready. Simply connect your iPhone and you can stream your favorite station directly from Pandora.
Connections include usb and SD card, which allow you to play music directly from your device of choice.
Overall this is a great choice for in-car entertainment and is sure to please.
I don’t know that I’d call the Kenwood Excelom DNX9960 the best double din head unit but it is certainly right up there. Of course with a price of over $1,000 you are paying for the quality, but in some circumstances paying that extra is well worth it for the quality you’re getting. This unit for example has provides an excellent navigation system and has great sound quality, a combinatiojn that is quite often lacking in other systems, particularly lower priced items.
The Garmin navigation that comes with this system is awesome and lives up to Garmins reputation for high quality navigation systems. The backgrounds for the startup and playback screens are customizable an add a level of customizability that makes the unit just a little more interesting than the plain backgrounds used by a lot of manufacturers.
It also supports two usb ports and recognizes usb drives, thus allowing playback of music, movies and even pictures from an external drive. iPhones/iPods can be connected via usb or bluetooth and allows for control via the phone/ipod or screen with both connection methods. Bluetooth hands-free calling is clear for both parties and showed no interference.
The monitor is extremely crisp and warrants no complaints (at least on my part). There are also fron and rear camera inputs which a lot of people will find handy. The sound engine, calibration and equilizer are all high quality and perfrom well. You can also adjust illumination to suit your vehicle and taste.
The screen is adjustable to give the perfect viewing angle. Voice control works well and should even appeal to people who haven’t used it before. It’s simple to switch back and forth between navigation and other sources via one button switching. Best of all, the unit looks great.
Overall I think this is a great unit and one that should be on any music lovers short list. Check out the Kenwood Excelon DNX9960 here.
More and more people are owning iPads and one of the things they want to do with their new toys is to connect it to their car stereo systems. This isn’t as hard as many people believe and can even be made into a permanent fixture in your car with the right equipment and a little fabrication, and you can have a set-up like some of the new cars coming on the market with iPads pre-installed.
First thing you need to decide is if you want to go for the cheaper analog method or spend a little more on going digital. The digital will give a better sound and is just as easy to set up as the analog, the only real difference being in the cost of the parts.
Let’s start with the analog method. First you will need a pocket dock which will give you ports for both an audio out and a mini usb port for charging. To provide the power, all you need is an iPad car charger, just make sure it is made for an iPad and not just an iPod as you will find it won’t supply the required power to charge your iPad. I know that’s just common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people misread the labels on these products and end up with a charger that won’t (charge that is). The last item is a remote level controller that can be mounted to your dash to allow control of the volume of the iPad.
Hooking these parts up should be fairly easy, plug the charger into the cigarette lighter, run a usb cable form it to the pocket dock connector (I assume you know where to plug that into your iPad), and connect the controller from the iPad to your car stereo. That last part may be a little fiddly depending on your system so don’t be afraid to ask a professional for help if you need it. Also hiding the cables can be either easy or difficult depending on your car, and having a housing for the iPad can certainly come in handy for not only hiding the cables, but also providing a place for it to sit whil in use.
The next method is the digital method, and the only difference from the analog method is that instead of using the pocket dock, you need to use a HRT iStreamer Outboard DAC for iDevices (pictured above) Other than that the setup should be the same for both methods. As I said earlier the difference is in the cost and the current difference between these 2 products is $170 when bought from Amazon, so it really is an important decision as to whether you really need the improved sound that will come from the digital connection.
If you want to have a nice clean install I would recommend getting a custom dash made for your vehicle. Of course you could always make it yourself if you have the skills but for many of us doing something like this is beyond our capabilities, especially if we want a professional looking finish. I have also seen 90 degree connectors around that will go between the iPad and the pocket dock/iStreamer but am not sure where they can be purchased. If you have access to them they amy help in keeping the cables tidy by turing the connection to the iPad 90 degrees so that the pocket dock/istreamer plugs in to the port facing the bak rather than from the bottom.
Going along with my previous articles about improving sound and using amplifiers, I thought I’d take a look at this 5 channel class-D amplifier. This is a nice cool (as in temperature) running amp in a very compact chassis considering its power range.
In general class D isn’t known to perform well in relation to sound quality or for highs in particular, but it seems these new amps from Kenwood’s Excelon range perform quite well, regardless of the topology of the power supply. This appears true at least for modest systems, while higher end systems will still require a better class of amp.
When coupled with the aforementioned modest system, this unit provides minimal distortion at listening levels (ie. not competition, blow our eyeballs out levels) without causing excessive clipping or overheating.
If you went and did a full on test it might show that it’s not as good as a traditional class A/B amp, but in real it is difficult to hear the difference. And considering the price (and savings) of this unit and the size and power you get from it, it’s awesome value.
Something to keep in mind is that others have found that if the source has weak outputs then the signal to noise ratio will suffer and is only partially solved by increasing the input sensitivity on the amp.
Overall this amp is a great way to improve the sound quality of a system without having to go all the way to a class A/B amp (with the associated higher costs). At the time of writing Amazon have this amp for $200 off retail price, check it out here.
Back in October last year I talked about improving sound quality by using sound deadening materials like those provided by Dynamat. Well, I’ve just come across a video on youtube that shows how to install dynamat in your car doors. It’s a pretty decent video and shows how to install the material in your door panels.
As you can see in the above it’s not that difficult to do yourself. In fact I would say the hardest part is removing the door panel and replacing it.
As always, If you’re unsure you can always have a professional install it, but if you’re willing to try (even if it is your first time) then it’s well worth the effort and sense of satisfaction you get when you’ve completed the job. It also feels great when people notice the difference and you can tell them you did it yourself.
So what are you waiting for, grab the dynamat and get installing, you won’t regret it.