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High-end CD players more than $300 are becoming a rarity due to price compression caused by in-dash DVD players.
The $300 mark appears to be the new cut off where most head units shift up to a DVD player and most models below $300 offer CD players or become mechless models. Kenwood's 2008 Excelon line tops at $299 this year compared with $650 last year. Alpine's CD line tops at $249 compared with $450 last year.
In other CD receiver trends, HD Radio has become prevalent in many lines, whereas last year it was often seen on one or two models. From Dual and Alpine is the first HD-Radio iTunes tagging for the car, which lets users tag a song heard on HD Radio for purchase later on through iTunes. Bluetooth has also become a near-standard feature.
This year, suppliers have improved their iPod connections, which remain one of the most in-demand features in autosound. New USB connectors are now offered in most 2008 lines, which allow iPod control and charging using only the cable that ships with the iPod. They also allow USB flash-drive connections and control of some Microsoft based MP3 players.
Dual is adding HD-Radio iTunes tagging to three CD and DVD models including a new top-of-the-line CD receiver, model DIN RBX 8510, at an estimated $199. iTunes tagging was introduced in the home-audio market last year. It lets listeners tag songs heard on a digital station by pressing a button on the radio. The next time they synch their iPod to a PC, the tagged songs will appear on their iTunes menu with an option to purchase (even if the iPod was never connected to the car stereo).
The Dual DIN RBX8510 with iTunes tagging is a single-DIN CD player that has some other unusual features, including an "advanced robotics front panel" that moves from left to right as well as up and down to eject a CD. It also has a setting to scan through only HD-Radio stations. It offers full USB connectivity for a thumb drive and iPod control via USB. It is also Bluetooth A2DP ready with an optional BTM60 adapter. It has a front-panel auxiliary input, three preamp outs and 60x4-watt (maximum) output. It does not include satellite radio. Shipping is expected in the first quarter.
Kenwood's Excelon KDC-X792 CD receiver has a graphic motion sensor that detects G force and displays this in the form of moving graphics on the radio's display. Aimed at the tuner market, it also has a built-in horse power meter and stopwatch. It is HD-Radio ready with a new optional tuner and Bluetooth ready with an optional module developed with Parrot. It also offers USB iPod control and satellite radio capability and will ship in March at a suggested $299.
Clarion is one of the few suppliers in 2008 to offer XM Minituner car radios without the need for an XM Direct2 tuner.
The Minituner ($29.99) is a 9-volt-battery-sized tuner meant to be swapped among multiple XM-ready products to cut consumers' subscription costs. It acts as a mini plug-and-play tuner. It can be stored in the glove compartment along with a dock ($29.99 including antenna). It may be usef with three Clarion products, including the DUZ385SAT CD player at a $199 street price. The DUZ385SAT is designed as a factory-replacement CD player with a factory look. It offers a rear USB connector for iPod control and USB flash drive control from the radio and it is Bluetooth capable (with optional adapter) and Sirius ready.
Alpine's top CD player for 2008 is the CDA-9886. It is HD-Radio, Bluetooth and satellite radio ready with full-speed iPod control with the iPod's USB cable. It can work with the Imprint sound-processing module and has an OLED display at a suggested $249. (See Alpine story for information on iTunes tagging).
JVC expects to offer two new full-featured CD receivers with built-in HD-Radio tuners: The KD-HDR30 will include front-panel aux in, Bluetooth and iPod capability, and will be joined by an Arsenal model KD-AHD39.
Sony is introducing five new CD receivers, including some with improved iPod-search functions. They include a CDX-GT820IP with a jump feature that lets users press a button to jump through sections of his iPod's songs in 10 percent increments. It also has a three-button iPod-control function and is HD-Radio and satellite radio ready at $229.
Other models include the CDX-GT720 with motorized foldout detachable display that is iPod ready, satellite radio ready and HD-Radio ready at $199, and two models with built-in Bluetooth with audio streaming at $169.95 and $329.95. All ship in January and February.
One of Panasonic's new receivers is the CQ-RX400 with a front-panel USB input jack for iPods, flash drives and certain MP3 players. It is Bluetooth, HD-Radio (with adapters) and satellite radio ready at $149.
Blaupunkt's top-of-the-line New Orleans supports USB flash drives and has a built in four-channel amplifier and four-channel preamp-out. Connectivity is provided via rear-channel USB and auxiliary line inputs. The unit is iPod and Bluetooth ready via optional interfaces.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.