More Mechless Heads Debut

By Amy Gilroy On Jan 7 2008 - 8:00am

CD players may one day go the way of the tape deck as new "mechless" head units (without a CD mechanism) begin to sweep through supplier lines.

Whereas only two brands, Alpine and Clarion, showed mechless models at International CES last year, this year Valor, Jensen, Blaupunkt and Parrot are also showing models, and Alpine is converting almost half its audio lineup to mechless models. Alpine said its original mechless iDA-X001 ($399) became the best seller in the $300-plus category according to data from The NPD Group.

"It's clear that the new car audio consumer is less interested in conventional mechanism head units, therefore we are aggressively expanding the lineup," said marketing VP Steve Witt.

Three new Alpine mechless models for 2008 replace the original X001, including the iDA-X100, iDA-X200 and iDA-X300. They all connect to satellite radio tuners, a Bluetooth module and an HD-Radio module. The two top-end models offer iPod USB connectivity so they work with the cable that ships with the iPod and with flash drives. Both also have an improved, larger central knob that offers one-touch scrolling. They ship in the first quarter at suggested prices from $129 to $299. A marine version of the iDA-X100 will also be available.

Valor is offering one of the least-expensive mechless models. The NOMECH-1 is an AM/FM single-DIN unit with a front-panel aux-in and an extra audio input, and 35-watt by 4 power at a street price of $59.

Jensen is showing a new mechless HD5000 head unit with built-in HD Radio, Bluetooth, front-panel SD card and USB slots plus satellite radio capability at a suggested $149.

Blaupunkt is unveiling the Brisbane SD48 with a front-panel SD card slot in lieu of a CD mechanism. It also has a rear-panel USB connection at a price to be announced.

From Parrot is a mechless unit with advanced Bluetooth capability, first shown at the Specialty Electronics Market Association (SEMA show. The RK8200 is an AM/FM receiver with built-in memory to hold up to 300 MP3 files. Its front panel flips up for iPod control, SD card slot, USB port and an auxiliary input. For built-in Bluetooth stereo and hands-free calling it has dual microphones with advanced noise reduction, and a phone book feature that "reads" back phonebook listings to the driver.

Dual said it is working on a mechless model, which may be offered initially for the marine market.

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