ALPINE X009E-U

9-inch Mul­ti­me­dia head unit

InCar Entertainment  - - CONTENTS -

Big­ger can in­deed be bet­ter! Alpine’s mas­sive 9-inch mul­ti­me­dia head unit com­bines a beau­ti­ful touch screen with the latest in-car tech.

What’s bet­ter than a dou­ble-DIN head unit with a 7-inch screen? Why, one with a 9-inch screen of course! That’s what the Alpine X009E-U head unit de­liv­ers. And with great screen size comes greater power, or at least the abil­ity of the screen to do more than one thing at a time. It is, of course, this big screen that sets the X009E-U apart from so many other head units, but that is by far from the only one of its many fea­tures.

BIG BUT MORE

But let’s start with ba­sics. For sound you get four 50 watt chan­nels of power, plus pre-outs for those four chan­nels and two sub­woofers. The two sub­woofer sig­nals are treated sep­a­rately for things like time align­ment, so they’re not mere du­pli­cates of each other.

For in­puts you get an AM/FM tuner (but no DAB+), USB with sup­port USB mem­ory, of course, and for both tra­di­tional iPods and iOS de­vices (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), a disc spin­ner for both CDs and DVDs, Blue­tooth of course, a com­pos­ite video and stereo au­dio A/V in­put, and a HDMI in­put. There is also a con­nec­tion for a re­vers­ing cam­era.

The unit has built in GPS nav­i­ga­tion, and you get up­dated maps for three years. These are on an SD card which slides into a slot be­hind the dis­play panel. Also be­hind the panel is the CD/DVD slot. Press the eject key on the but­ton panel and a con­trol screen for the panel comes up. This of­fers an on-screen disc eject but­ton and a tilt con­trol. There are five tilt lev­els avail­able so you can op­ti­mise the panel po­si­tion for view­ing or ac­cess. If you choose the disc eject but­ton, the top of the panel slides down as the bot­tom moves out away from the body of the unit. Af­ter a cou­ple of sec­onds – the whole thing is smooth and quiet – the screen is hor­i­zon­tal, so you can eject the SD card or in­sert a disc. If a disc is al­ready in the unit its edge will slide out as well, fa­cil­i­tat­ing re­moval.

Most of the con­trol is done by means of con­text-rel­e­vant but­tons on the touch sen­si­tive screen, of course, but there’s also a panel of ba­sic con­trols with an eject key, phone, mu­sic and nav­i­ga­tion screen se­lec­tion, a mute key, vol­ume up and down and a favourites se­lec­tion. Although this panel is sep­a­rate – it’s con­nected to the main unit by a 900mm ca­ble, so there’s quite a bit of place­ment flex­i­bil­ity – the mark­ings on the keys make it clear that it only goes one way up. The vol­ume keys are to­wards the left side, away from an Aus­tralian driver.

The unit sup­ports Mir­rorLink for con­nect­ing cer­tain apps on a num­ber of mod­ern An­droid phones. The idea is that once con­nected (typ­i­cally by Blue­tooth it seems) these apps run on your phone but are con­trol­lable by an in­ter­face pre­sented on the Alpine’s screen – one that’s op­ti­mised for that func­tion. Sounds use­ful. Un­for­tu­nately as is the way of these things, it all de­pends on the phone you have. Mine does not sup­port it. The Mir­rorLink web site lists a range of com­pat­i­ble mod­els from HTC, Sam­sung, Fu­jitsu and Sony. Noth­ing for LG or the many no-name brands.

SET­TING UP

With the es­sen­tial G-KTX-009-U fit­ting kit (this can’t be skipped be­cause it in­cludes the key

con­trol panel, power loom and some of the other ca­bles) user in­stal­la­tion in some cars is doable. The de­ter­min­ing fac­tor – aside from skill level – is the dash space around the reg­u­lar dou­ble-DIN dash­board slot. The over­sized front sec­tion is up to 28mm deep. It hangs down be­low the bot­tom of the chas­sis by about 65mm with the key panel in­stalled un­der­neath the screen in the in­stal­la­tion frame, and by 35mm with the panel nude.

Like­wise it ex­tends to the left and right side by 18mm nude, 21mm with the frame. For those pre­pared for a pro­fes­sional re­mod­elling of the dash a broader range of ve­hi­cles will be ac­com­mo­dated.

There’s no skimp­ing on the fa­cil­i­ties in this unit for set­ting up the sound. There is an ad­justable cross­over for bass man­age­ment. Sep­a­rate high-pass fil­ters are avail­able for the front and rear speak­ers. A low-pass fil­ter is avail­able for the sub­woofer. Both fre­quency and fil­ter slopes are ad­justable for all three of these, up to 24dB/oc­tave for the slope. Aside from al­low­ing the best match­ing of sub­woofer to speak­ers, this also means the best per­for­mance can be ex­tracted from the unit’s own am­pli­fiers, or from an ex­ter­nal sub­woofer am­pli­fier, since none of them are wast­ing cer­tain fre­quen­cies’ watts on speak­ers un­able to do much with them. The sys­tem also has full time align­ment ad­just­ments so that you can set all the speak­ers (in­clud­ing sep­a­rately for two subs) to de­liver the sound for op­ti­mum per­for­mance at your lis­ten­ing po­si­tion. Three mem­ory pre­sets are avail­able so you can rea­son­ably easily change the set­ting to in­clude a com­pro­mise for oth­ers in the car, and switch back when you’re alone. There’s also a para­met­ric equaliser to tame res­o­nances and help over­come car noise is­sues.

The unit works with Alpine’s TuneIt app – both for iOS and An­droid. With iOS you need your de­vice’s USB ca­ble plugged into the unit. For An­droid it works with a Blue­tooth con­nec­tion. This app can de­liver pre­set pa­ram­e­ters to the unit for a range of loud­speaker sizes, plus a se­lec­tion of spe­cific Alpine mod­els. It can set EQ modes, and al­low you to ad­just the afore­men­tioned time align­ment, crossovers and para­met­ric EQ by drag­ging things around on the screen.

The ca­ble looms pro­vided sup­port con­nec­tions for steer­ing wheel con­trols and re­vers­ing cam­era. Do make sure you con­nect the ap­pro­pri­ate ca­ble for the hand­brake oth­er­wise the DVD player will not pro­duce an im­age on the screen (this safety fea­ture en­sures it works only when the hand­brake is ap­plied, un­less you cheat on the con­nec­tion).

PER­FOR­MANCE

The Alpine X009E-U was a plea­sure to use. The key pad con­trols were well cho­sen, nicely wide and easy to se­lect by touch with just a lit­tle prac­tice. They’re gen­tly back­lit too, so easy to see in the dark. The touch screen was first class when it came to op­er­a­tion. I guess nine inches doesn’t sound like a lot more than seven, but in prac­tice the larger but­ton sizes were eas­ier to hit with re­li­a­bil­ity, and the touch screen was just about as re­spon­sive as an iPad or good An­droid tablet.

The unit was rea­son­ably speedy in recog­nis­ing discs (although it was a touch fussy, re­ject­ing one of my stan­dard slightly scuffed ones that works in ev­ery other de­vice I’ve tried). On switch-on it took about 12 sec­onds to re­sume de­liv­er­ing mu­sic, both from CD and from an at­tached iPod Nano, and about a fur­ther seven sec­onds for the GUI to come up on the screen.

The nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem was clear and easy enough to use. The GPS an­tenna is on about three me­tres of ca­ble so a good mount­ing lo­ca­tion should be easily within reach.

I set the unit up with front and rear stereo speak­ers and a sub­woofer, and the au­dio re­sults were ex­tremely pleas­ing. It de­liv­ered high vol­ume lev­els cleanly and with good bal­ance. Things were a bit more stressed in the ab­sence of a sub­woofer, es­pe­cially when I had the bass up a bit, but that was at ex­tremely high lev­els.

Some movies might seem a touch light-on sound-wise. The unit ef­fec­tively mixes five chan­nel sound down to stereo, so you won’t miss any­thing hap­pen­ing in the main mix. But it seems to ig­nore the LFE track en­tirely, so any­thing in there (di­nosaur foot­steps, bass com­po­nents of ex­plo­sions, and some­times some of the bass from mu­sic con­certs) will be miss­ing.

Play­ing mu­sic from iPods/iPhones was prob­a­bly the nicest over­all ex­pe­ri­ence thanks to the dis­play of cover art. Blue­tooth con­nec­tions didn’t de­liver this, but did pro­vide the usual track, al­bum and artist in­for­ma­tion. And it sounded ex­cel­lent as well. You can set the au­dio and hands-free de­vices sep­a­rately, so you can use an iPod Nano for mu­sic while leav­ing your iPhone or An­droid phone free for calls.

The hands-free Blue­tooth phone op­er­a­tion was ef­fec­tive. With one in­com­ing call I’d mis­placed the mi­cro­phone, yet was still able to con­duct a con­ver­sa­tion. Although, to be fair, the caller was re­lieved when I found the mi­cro­phone on the floor amid a pile of ca­bles and put it in a po­si­tion in which it could re­al­is­ti­cally cap­ture my voice.

The HDMI in­put was an odd beast. For some rea­son it would only work the supplied HDMI ca­ble, not my own per­fectly good ones. Its main pur­pose is for dis­play­ing video on suit­ably equipped phones, specif­i­cally iPhones with HDMI adap­tors for their light­en­ing ports. I don’t have one of those so I used my trusty Blu-ray player. This only worked at more or less stan­dard def­i­ni­tion (both in­ter­laced and pro­gres­sive). Even then the unit protested, flash­ing up a ‘HDMI Com­mu­ni­ca­tion’ er­ror mes­sage briefly be­fore set­tling down and play­ing the video.

While talk­ing video, let me note that whether by HDMI or us­ing DVDs in the built-in disc spin­ner, the LCD screen pro­duced a re­mark­ably good pic­ture. I could be picky – oh, why not, I might as well be – and note that with in­ter­laced in­put it doesn’t ap­ply a film mode, and it seems to use a 60Hz screen driver so that pans on 50Hz DVDs (ie. most Aus­tralian ones) can be a lit­tle jerky. But the con­trast range was strong, the colours clean and nat­u­ral, and (ex­cept when con­fused by the dein­ter­lac­ing) the fine de­tail of the pic­ture was sta­ble and clean. The abil­ity to tilt the screen can help get a good an­gle on the pic­ture for the best look.

CON­CLU­SION

The Alpine X009E-U head unit is not for ev­ery­one – in­deed, for ev­ery ve­hi­cle. It is not in­ex­pen­sive, and a pro­fes­sional in­stal­la­tion will in most cases be called for. But if you and your car can stretch to that, you both will be very well re­warded.

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