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Car CE Gets More Navigation, Connections

Car audio suppliers at International CES are ushering in 2007 with car stereo lines that offer more navigation and more connectivity to portables.

For some, the stodgy CD receiver has been pushed down below the $200 price marker, while at the high end, in-dash navigation now crowns more 2007 lines, as brands such as Dual and JVC offer in-dash navigation for the first time.

Navigation also gets sexier this year with advanced “docking” models from Eclipse and Alpine (see p. 154).

Traditional head units continue to become “expansion modules” designed to interface with as many types of portable A/V devices as possible. For the first time this year, car stereo head units work with any Sirius portable receiver, such as the Stiletto, as offered by Alpine.

New here are also the first head units to dock with XM’s new Mini-Tuner, the postage-stamp-sized “portable XM subscription” that can be inserted into various home and portable products. Eight car stereo brands are expected to announce Mini-Tuner support, including Panasonic, Sony, Alpine, Eclipse, Jensen, JVC, Kenwood and Clarion.

Features such as Bluetooth, iPod and satellite radio capability that were found in step-up products in the past are now close to the starting point of 2007 lineups.

Here are the high-tech highlights of the 2007 car stereo lines:

In addition to its “iPod head unit” (see story below) and navigation products (see p. 154), Alpine will offer the first head units to connect to Sirius portable and plug-and-play tuners such as the Sportster and Stiletto without an FM modulator. All Ai-Net head units will be both Sirius plug-and-play ready and XM ready through the XM Mini-Tuner.

Alpine radios will require a $50 converter to work with Sirius portables and will display all the Sirius info on their screens and control the devices as well as support Sirius song and game alert features. All Ai-Net head units also now work, with a Terk dongle adapter, for XM Mini-Tuner capability.

Alpine has also converted all Ai-Net head units to HD Radio 2 compatibility so they display HD Radio multicast stations when used with Alpine’s HD Radio adapter, at a lower price this month, to $199, down from a suggested $299.

Audiovox is demonstrating that not only head units but overhead monitors are becoming “expansion modules” for the car. Its new 12.1-inch drop-down monitor, the VOD128, has USB and SD slots and iPod connectivity plus iPod video capability and FM modulator. It is expected to ship in April at a suggested $1,099.

Also new are custom headrests with built-in large 9.2-inch screens. Sold in pairs, one in each pair has an integrated DVD.

Clarion is adding a new “slide track” feature to its line and offering Bluetooth for the first time. The slide track touch screen lets the menus on the car radio’s LCD screen shift left and right as your slide your finger over them for a simpler interface.

The company is also showing two new adapters for Bluetooth audio streaming/hands-free calling and iPod connectivity. The Bluetooth adapter ships in February at $199 and a new EA1276B advanced iPod adapter has a suggested price of $200. To complete the package, if you own an iPod and want to wirelessly connect it to a head unit, Clarion will ship a Bluetooth adapter that clips to the bottom of an iPod.

In its CD line, three new units have USB connectivity and control plus slide track. The models start at a target suggested $200 for the DXZ575USB and are capped with the DXZ775USB single-DIN with 6-volt output, XM and Sirius capability, stereo Bluetooth and iPod control (with optional adapter) at a target $399.

In addition to the new Max675VD/Nax970HD navigation A/V system announced in November, the company is also adding two A/V head units. One is a the VRX375USB single-DIN DVD receiver with a built-in 3.5-inch TFT monitor with rear USB terminal and iPod capability. It is expected to ship in April. A sister product has a 7-inch flip-out screen.

Directed‘s new DP102S high-end car video system is 10.2-inch widescreen overhead console with a dock for an iPod and an optional hard drive. It also has a built-in DVD slot so users can watch a DVD and hit a button to record it to the hard drive so they don’t have to carry around and scratch their DVD movies. Users can also stream audio and video to the unit through their iPod. The optional hard drive doubles as a 40GB portable media player and DVR. Shipping is expected in March at $799 suggested retail price for the overhead and $349 for the optional hard drive.

Dual is entering in-dash navigation with a double-DIN navigation/DVD video model called the XDVDN8290. It has an SD card slot, 2 million points of interest, preloaded U.S. maps on an SD card, iPod control, XM and integrated Bluetooth. It also has a 6.5-inch touch screen and is expected to ship in the first quarter at a suggested retail of $1,119. A sister product without navigation, called the XDVD8285, ships in January at $799.

In traditional CD receivers, Dual is adding mono Bluetooth this year for the first time with a $49 module. CD receivers starting at $120 are compatible with the module and also offer iPod capability.

Harman Kardon‘s Drive + Play 2 is an upgraded Drive + Play iPod adapter that now becomes a full-car expansion device. The unit adds the ability to interface with the Microsoft Zune and other MP3 players and to provide Sirius capability and Bluetooth hands-free calling. The unit has a 3.5-inch display that mounts on the dashboard to show artist and song information. It is expected to ship in late February at a suggested retail price of $399.

Jensen claims it will offer one of the most extensive lines in in-dash video this year with nine units. It leads with a model at one of the lowest price points, a $499 suggested retail, or an expected street price of $399. The single-DIN VM 9312 is an all-in-one unit with no separate black box. The AM/FM DVD with 7-inch flip-out screen is iPod and satellite ready. It also offers RDS and MP3 capability and ships in February.

In CD receivers, the company’s most featured model is the MP6612i. It works with an under-the-dash adapter to provide USB and full-speed iPod connectivity (with $20 cable). The unit has built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling and is satellite ready. It also has an SD card slot, MP3/WMA and motorized detachable faceplate. It ships March 15 at a suggested $199.

Also new is a suggested $129 MP6312i that is satellite and iPod ready with ($20 cable) MP3/WMA and RDS. All of the company’s radios ship with a media cable that has an auxiliary input.

JVC this year is offering its first in-dash navigation solution, the KD-NX5000. It is a single-DIN DVD receiver with a built-in 3.5-inch monitor and a 40GB hard drive. The drive is partitioned for 15GB of map navigation and 25GB for music. On the navigation side it has built-in real-time traffic with a traffic button on the remote control for updates. It comes with preloaded maps of North America and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as 13 million points of interest. Users can navigate and play music at the same time. The unit can play back DVD or DiVX movies and JPEG photos or MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video files. It can also rip CDs at high speed, and has Bluetooth and iPod capability with optional adapters. Shipping is expected in March at $1,199.95 suggested retail price. The unit is joined by several new A/V and CD receivers including the KD-BT1 CD receiver with USB and Bluetooth for audio streaming and hands-free calling, iPod capability (with adapter) and satellite radio capability. Shipping is expected in March at $429.

Kenwood is focusing on OEM integration, adding two new models under a new Car Portal line. Kenwood’s products are source expanders that can connect many devices to a factory system. New this year is the KOS-V500 source expander that essentially uses the radio as an additional source and allows other audio and video devices to connect to it. It also has an optional 7-inch touch-panel screen to be used as a controller. The KOS-V500 also has multiple preamp outputs for adding subwoofers and speakers at a suggested retail price of $500. The touch-screen option will be available at $400. A top-of-the-line model KOS-V1000, at a suggested $700, adds additional inputs and pulsed outputs for interfacing with garage door openers, lighting or a trunk release. Shipping is planned for March.

The company is adding USB capability for the first time this year to its head unit and has dropped Bluetooth capability (for hands-free calling only) down to $119 in its CD receiver line, compared with $199 last year. All CD changer controller models offer full speed iPod compatibility, satellite radio, HD Radio and Bluetooth when used with adapters.

Kenwood’s A/V line now has seven models and it starts at $799, compared with $999 last year. The series caps with Kenwood’s first in-dash navigation/DVD/monitor all-in-one model, called the DNX1700, at a suggested $1,600. It requires no black box and has a 6.9-inch screen and ships in April.

Panasonic is supporting XM’s new Mini-Tuner in its new Strada in-dash navigation unit and throughout its 2007 head unit lineup. The units will require an adapter for the tuner which will be available this spring.

The double-DIN Strada CN-NVD905U navigation unit, announced at the SEMA show in November, has a 30GB hard drive and DVD playback, Sirius traffic, Bluetooth and iPod capability and will ship this spring at a price to be announced.

Panasonic is also showing an upgraded iPod interface on its new head units, which includes a volume-control knob that controls iPod functions. When users push on the knob, it becomes a scroll wheel. The feature is available on all radios from $139 up.

Panasonic’s 2007 line starts at $99.95 for a CQ-C1305U with front panel aux in, MP3/WMA and two-band equalizer.

Pioneer is showing a new entry-level AVH-P4900DVD that sets a new suggested retail for Pioneer’s AVH line at $800. Shipping in March, the single-DIN DVD/monitor has MP3/WMA and 6.5-inch motorized touch-screen monitor, iPod connectivity (with iPod adapter) and satellite radio capability.

Pioneer is showing 10 CD receivers in January under the Pioneer and Premier lines. At the entry level is the DEH-1900MP with front panel aux-in jack at a suggested retail of $100

Roadmaster is shipping two VR3 Bluetooth hands-free car kits. The basic model has a suggested price of $49 and the step-up model adds an LCD screen for viewing caller ID and other functions at $69.

Sony is adding four new head units to the several aggressively priced GT CD receivers announced at SEMA. The new units include the CDX-GT410U, which ships in January at $149 suggested retail. The slot load CD receiver has front-panel USB and aux in, satellite radio capability, MP3/WMA/ATRAC3plus/AAC Playback, iPod control with an adapter and remote.

XM will ship in April a new XM Commander called the CommanderMT that works with the new XM Mini-Tuner. The CommanderMT is a display/controller for XM that has a Mini-Tuner adapter, which can connect to most car radios via a direct connection or FM modulator. It is expected to carry a suggested retail of $169 and will ship in the spring.