Multimedia head unit
Mechless it may be but it possesses a whole stream of features and functionality while offering the wonders of DAB+.
The newest incarnation of the oldest mass communication technology is presently firmly lodged in a chicken and egg conundrum. Radio is ready to move from an analogue pathway to a digital carriage. The technology is here. The standards have been set. But it will be difficult for broadcasters to justify the equipment expense until there’s a critical mass of DAB+ receivers.
But there’ll be a limited demand for DAB+ receivers until broadcast coverage is wider.
Meanwhile, the whole thing has been caught in a bureaucratic morass for years. DAB+ operates in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, and nowhere else officially. Tough luck Tassie! Travelling sales people, truckies and holiday makers from those capitals, if they have a DAB+ head unit in their vehicles, will have to switch over to FM or AM soon after embarking on their journeys. And will lose any of the many Digital-only channels that they may prefer.
At the moment the only ‘regional’ areas with any coverage are Canberra and Darwin, which have been permitted DAB+ trials, renewed for several years, with relatively low power transmitters in just one location for each, and limited to one VHF (formerly analogue TV) channel instead of the two used in the official capitals. So, in a sense, DAB+ is still pretty much a thing of the future for many, although with definite benefits right now for (non-Hobart) capital city residents.
And likewise, in a sense, the Alpine INE-W997D head unit is also a nod towards the future.
RIDE THE WAVES
All this stuff about DAB+ is, of course, a prelude to the fact that the Alpine INE-W997D head unit incorporates a DAB+ tuner, in addition to AM, FM and, indeed, Long Wave (153 to 281kHz). This last could be useful ... if you’re in Europe, North Africa or Mongolia.
The unit will also play the contents of your phone (via Bluetooth), or your iOS device via USB or Bluetooth, or your non-iOS iPod via USB, or music stored on USB memory, or music and video fed via HDMI from your phone or from a DVD player, or music and video fed via the analogue auxiliary input. What it won’t do is play CDs, lacking a transport. For that you will need to add the DVE-5300 CD/DVD player ($599) which plugs in via HDMI and is controllable by the head unit.
The face of the unit is Double-DIN height, although the body of the unit is only single DIN sized. It’s the 7-inch (178mm) 800 by 480 pixel colour touch screen that required the extra height. A row of button controls runs across the bottom.
The screen is also reversing camera compatible, and the unit works with steering wheel remote connections. And of course the unit has full navigation capabilities with a great long list of functions, including seven alternative route recommendations, advanced destination searches, a 3D mode with building display for cities, tunnel mode and maps for off-roaders. It comes with quarterly updates for three years.
The 4-channel amplifier offers the usual 50 watts per channel. There are also 4.2 channel preamplifier outputs so you can bump up levels with external amps and subwoofers if