Friday, July 22, 2011

Alpine CDE-123 Car Receiver Review by Jeff Roy

For review today is the Alpine CDE-123 Receiver. I never cease to be amazed at the improvements in technology. They always add additional features to make our listening experience more enjoyable. I remember when Satellite Radio and iPod connectivity were added. Now the new big feature is Pandora. It's all about allowing consumers to listen to what we want to listen to, whether it be radio, CD, iPod, or now Pandora. Alpine has been an innovator, and continues to bring these features in their products.

20 years ago, my first car stereo receiver was an Alpine tape deck with music search. It was a high quality deck that performed very well. I'm glad to see that things have not changed for Alpine. The Alpine CDE-123 Receiver appears to be a great mainstream level of product with an MSRP of $199.95. I'm glad to see the Pandora feature on a receiver at this price point.

It's features and specs include:

CEA-2006 Power Ratings CEA-2006 Power Rating: 4 I? @14.4 V Ƈ%THD+N, S/N 80 dBA (ref.1 W into 4 I?), 18 W x 4
Max Power Output Ratings Max Power Output: 50W x 4
FM Tuner Tuning Range: 87.7-107.9 MHz
Mono Usable Sensitivity: 9.3 dBf (0.8 I?V/75 ohms)
50dB Quieting Sensitivity: 13.5 dBf (1.3 I?V/75 ohms)
Alternate Channel Selectivity: 80 dB
Signal-to-Noise (S/N) Ratio: 65 dB
Stereo Separation: 35 dB
Capture Ratio: 2.0dB
AM Tuner Tuning Range: 530-1,710 kHz
Usable Sensitivity (IEC Standard): 22.5/27.0 (A?V/dBf)
Disc Player Frequency Response: 5-20,000 Hz (A?1 dB)
Channel Separation (1kHz): 85 dB
Dynamic Range (1kHz): 95 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): 0.008% (at 1 kHz)
DAC Type: 1-Bit DAC
Wow & Flutter (%WRMS): B.M.L.
Oversampling: 8x/352.8 kHz
Audio Signal-to-Noise (S/N): 105 dB
Connection for USB Requirements: 1.1/2.0
Max. Power Consumption: 500 mA
USB Class: Mass Storage
File System: FAT 12/16/32
MP3 Decoding: MPEG-1/2 AUDIO Layer-3
WMA Decoding: Windows Media' Audio
AAC Decoding: AAC-LC format ''m4a'' file
Number of Channels: 2-Channel (Stereo)
Frequency Response: 5-20 kHz A?1 dB (Frequency Response may differ depending on the encoder software/bit rate)
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.008% (at 1 kHz)
Dynamic Range (at 1 kHz): 95 dB
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: 105 dB
Channel Separation: 85 dB (at 1 kHz)
Sound Tuning Subwoofer Level Adjustment: 0 to +15
High Pass Filter: OFF/60/80/120/160Hz (Selectable)
Low Pass Filter: OFF/60/80/120/160Hz (Selectable)
Bass Level Control Range: -7 to +7
Bass Center Frequency: 60/80/100/120Hz (Selectable)
Bass Band Width Adjustment (Q): 4 choices (0.5 =narrow, 2 =wide)
Mid Level Control Range: -7 to +7
Mid Center Frequency: 500/1i??/1.5i??/2.5i??Hz (Selectable)
Mid Band Width Adjustment (Q): 4 choices (0.75 =narrow, 1.5 =wide)
Treble Level Control Range: A?7dB(1Step)
Treble Center Frequency: 7.5/10/12.5/15kHz (Selectable)
Treble Band Width Adjustment (Q): 2 choices (0.75 =narrow, 1.25 =wide)
Equalizer: User/Flat/Pops/Rock/News/Jazz/Elec
Remote Control Remote Control: Remote Control Ready
Dimensions Din Size: 1 Din
Chassis Size (W x H x D) mm: 178 mm x 50 mm x 161 mm
Chassis Size (W x H x D) in: 7'' x 2'' x 6-3/8''
Nose Piece Size (W x H x D) mm: 170 mm x 46 mm x 25 mm
Nose Piece Size (W x H x D) in: 6-3/4'' x 1-13/16'' x 1''
General Power Requirement: 14.4 (11-16) V.DC
Pre Output Voltage (Before Clipping): 4V
Operating Temperature (A?C/ A?F): 60 A?C (140 A?F) to -10 A?C (14 A?F)
Maximum Mounting Angle: 35A? from Horizontal
Weight: 1.6 kg (3 lbs. 8 oz)

Tuner Memory Presets: Memory Preset Stations (FM:12 / AM:6)
Memory: Memory Auto Memory
Bluetooth A Built-In or Ready: Parrot Bluetooth Ready
Connection: Alpine KCE-400BT/-250BT Required. Features may differ between phone model and service providers.
Hands Free: Hands Free Calling
Phone Book: Phone Book transfer
Phone Book Search: Alphabet Skip
Streaming Music: Streaming Music Playback (use with KCE-400BT)
Streaming Music Control: Streaming Music Control (use with KCE-400BT)
Steering Wheel Remote Control Ready: Call starts and Call finishes (Adapter Required)
Redial Function:
Call History (Dialed, Received, Missed):
Voice Dial Operation:
Connection for iPod A Made for iPod/iPhone: Made for iPod/iPhone
Connection Type: USB Connection
Connection for USB: Front and Rear
Connection: USB Connection Cable for iPod (KCE-442i Required)
Compatibility for iPod A: Made for iPod touch 4G/3G/2G/1G. iPod classic, iPod with Video, iPod nano 6G/5G/4G/3G/2G/1G, iPhone4, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G and iPhone
M.I.X. (Shuffle) Capability: Song, Albums, All
Music Control: Song Up / Down, Fast Forward/Backward, Repeat
Available Selections: Playlist, Artist, Album, Song, Podcast, Genre, Composer, Audiobook
Percentage Search: Percentage Search Function
Alphabet Search: Alphabet Skip Function
Information Display: Artist name, Song name, Album name
Direct iPod/iPhone Contorol: Direct iPod/iPhone Contorol Function
Connection for USB Connection: USB Connection Cable Included
Music Playback: MP3/AAC/WMA Playback
USB Class: Mass Storage, MTP
Banking: MAX 20 Bank(20,000 songs)
Works With Nokia:
MTP Ready: Search music by Album, Artist, Song, Playlist, Genre, Composer, Folder, File
Disc Player Disc Type: CD Player
Disc Playback Type: CD/CD-R/CD-RW
Compressed Media Playback: Music Playback MP3/AAC/WMA Playback
Zero data Mute: Zero data Mute
Digital Servo: Digital Servo
Music Sensor: Music Sensor Scan, Repeat
Playback Control: Play, Pause, Fast Forward, Backward
M.I.X. Mode: One (Folder)/All (Random Play)/Random (CD Only)
Sound Tuning Subwoofer Level: Subwoofer Level adjustment
Subwoofer Phase Select: Subwoofer Phase Select
Subwoofer System Select (Stereo Mono): Subwoofer System Select
High Pass Filter: High Pass Filter adjustment
Low Pass Filter: Low Pass Filter adjustment
Bass Level: Bass Level Adjustment
Bass Center Frequency: Bass Center Frequency Adjustment
Bass Bandwidth Adjustment: Bass Bandwidth Adjustment
Mid Level: Mid Level Adjustment
Mid Center Frequency: Mid Center Frequency Adjustment
Mid Bandwidth Adjustment: Mid Bandwidth Adjustment
Treble Level: Treble Level Adjustment
Treble Center Frequency: Treble Center Frequency Adjustment
Treble Bandwidth Adjustment: Treble Bandwidth Adjustment
Loudness: Loudness Feature
Equalizer: Equalizer Feature
Source Tone Memory: Source Tone Memory
General Power Output: 50 W x 4 High Power Amplifier
Display: White LCD Display
Control Type: Rotary Encoder Knob
Face Color: Black
Illumination Buttons: Blue Illuminated Buttons
Playback: MP3/WMA/AAC
PreOut: 3 PreOuts (4V, Front/Rear/Subwoofer)
Auxiliary Input: Front AUX Input (3.5mm mini jack) /Full Speed AUX + (Required KCE-237B)
Steering Wheel Control: Steering Wheel Control Ready
Bass & Treble: Bass & Treble Controls
Fader & Balance: Fader & Balance Controls
Clock: Clock Built-In Clock
DIN Trim Plate: DIN Trim Plate Detachable Trim Plate
Detachable Face Plate: Detachable Face Plate
Dimmer: Dimmer Input
Power Antenna Lead: Power Antenna Lead Output
Remote Turn-On: Remote Turn-On Output
Audio Interrupt: Audio Interrupt Input
Remote Control: Remote Control Ready

Quality was very good. The Alpine CDE-123 was well packaged. It's accessories included the head unit, power cable, USB cable, iPod cable, user manual, faceplate case, mounting screws, mounting sleeve, and bracket key. Construction and fit and finish was on par for a car receiver. Cables were also well labled as is standard on car receivers. The faceplate comes off easy enough with a push of a button. And putting it back on with a snap in place has a secure feel. The display was also easy to read. Navigation through the settings was also similarly easy.

Running through he menus were simple and easy to understand. And I was impressed with the level of control you have over your sound at this price point. You had your typical adjustments for treble, bass, and subwoofer, but you also had midrange as well. Also included were the typical balance, fader, and loudness, but you also got defeat. Defeat will adjust the sound adjustments back to factory default.

I was again surprised at the level of customization of the sound. You basically have a 3 band parametric EQ. Your bands are treble, midrange and bass. With each of these bands you can choose the center frequency, the level of curve, and the amount of the boost. There were also II DSP presets, such as rock and jazz, for example. For subwoofers you have control of the crossover frequency, level of boost and phasing.

Other features are fairly typical with Radio, CD, iPod and XMSirius control (with optional tuner), front and rear auxiliary inputs, as well as front USB input. I also can't forget Bluetooth and Pandora Radio. For and MSRP of $199.95, that's quite a mouthful.

The radio features were as I would expect. There were 12 FM presets as well as 6 AM presets. Tuning was done either seek of manual. CD transport functionality provided play, mix, repeat, and search. And it could also handle MP3/WMA/AAC formats. And of course iPod control is complete, which is almost a necessity these days.

From looking at the deck, it was also obvious that Alpine took a lot of thought into making Pandora Radio listening user friendly, such as New Station, Bookmarks, and of course the big buttons with the backlit thumbs up and thumbs down.

And all of this engineering came together really well when actually using the receiver. The display was bright and easy to read, even in daylight. All of the buttons were responsive. The CD mechanism worked well, with loading and ejecting CD's. Radio sensitivity and sound quality was not the greatest, but sufficient. Going into the menu's and custom tailoring the sound to my liking was pleasantly simple. Playing and switching to different tracks was also done without any problems.
Hooking up and controlling my iPod was also very easy, and my music came out loud and clear. It was nice to see the necessary cable for the iPod was also included.
Pandora Radio was also a joy to use. I was able to hear songs I like come there, which I gave the appropriate thumbs up as well as the occassional thumbs down, to help Pandora better figure out what my taste in music was. And being able to bookmark a song I really like was a bonus! For those of you who already use Pandora...well, you already know. For those of you who don't know, jump on board! It's really cool!! I was surprised that after several songs, and skipping ahead a few commercials. Although I am not sure that is an Alpine feature, I enjoyed it! I kept skipping tracks until I could not skip anymore, trying to get a commercial to come on, and then changed channels. Still no commercials. And I liked the mix feature that mixed up songs from all my stations. Pandora Radio worked very well on the deck! But just so you know, it is designed on the CDE-123 for the iPhone and iPod. Pandora listening through my wife's android phone did not work. It requires the iPhone or iPod Touch for Pandora Radio.

This again was one of those pleasantly unsurprised product reviews. After all, it is an Alpine. And it performed like one. And for what you get under the hood, so to say, it is a fair price to pay. Based on it's quality, features, and performance, the Alpine CDE-123 has earned our Highly Recommended award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at Reference gear used included Vibe Audio Space 6 3D components, Alpine Type-X SPX-13PRO component speakers, dual Diamond Audio D6 12" subwoofers, Vibe Audio LiteBox Stereo 4 and Vibe Audio BlackDeath Bass 1 amplifiers, AudioControl DQXS Six Channel Electronic Equalizer/Crossover.