San Diego - Sony will bring control of Pandora's Internet radio app and SiriusXM's universal satellite-radio tuner to a wide range of aftermarket head units in the coming weeks at opening price points lower than competing suppliers' offerings.
Among eight new Sony single-DIN CD receivers, four feature SiriusXM universal-tuner connector at suggested retails of $90, $100, $130 and $150.
Four head units are the company's first to control a Pandora app on a USB-connected iPhone. They include the $130 and $150 head units with universal connector and two head units at $200 and $280 without universal connector.
Among competing suppliers, control of Pandora on a USB-connected iPhone starts at a suggested $150, said Mike Kahn, director of Sony's mobile business unit. Head units with universal connector are available only from Alpine at $199 and, for a CD receiver bundled with universal SiriusXM tuner, $229, excluding a $30 mail-in rebate available through the end of the year from SiriusXM for its $69-suggested universal tuner.
Sony's $280 DSX-S310BTX will be the aftermarket's first head unit to use Bluetooth's AVRC profile to control all functions, excluding custom channel creation, of a Pandora app residing on smartphones other than the iPhone. The app uses technology jointly developed by Pandora and Sony, but the technology will be available to other suppliers to build into their head units.
All of the new head units will be shown publicly for the first time at The Mobile Electronics Retailers Association's (MERA) KnowledgeFest at the end of August, said Kahn. Some ship at the end of August to dealers, and the remainder ship two weeks later. All will be on display in stores by mid September.
At a suggested $90, the CDX-GT360MP will be the aftermarket's least-expensive head unit with universal connector to connect to the universal SiriusXM tuner, Kahn said. The head unit will also be priced lower than satellite-ready head units that require the installation of a translator box and adapter cables designed for specific head-unit brands, he added.
SiriusXM's new $69-suggested universal tuner connects directly to any brand of head unit with a universal connector via a single cable that also delivers power to the tuner. The universal tuner and connector are designed to drive down the cost of buying and installing satellite radio and simplify inventory management.
Satellite-ready heads requiring translator boxes and adapter cables start at about a suggested $120, Kahn said, and the add-ons themselves add another $150, excluding additional installation costs of up to $75.
"I can see [the $90 CDX-GT360MP] being very promotional and bundled with the tuner," Kahn said.
Other features of the CDX-GT360MP include slot-load CD, MP3/WMA-CD playback, and analog aux in to connect MP3 players.
At a suggested $100, the CDX-GT56UI features SiriusXM universal connector and USB control of a connected iPod and iPhone. iPod/iPhone control previously started at $120 in the company's line.
At a suggested $130, the CDX-GT565UP combines universal connector with control of Pandora's app on a USB-connected iPhone. It also adds user-selectable choice of 35,000 faceplate-illumination colors.
At a suggested $150 in the Sony line, the CDX-GT660UP also features universal connector, Pandora control via USB and choice of 35,000 illumination colors, but it adds drop-down front panel concealing a CD slot. The hidden CD slot opens up space on the front panel for a two-line display to simultaneously display artist and track metadata. The head unit also adds SensMe technology, which lets users select songs for playback by any of 16 moods. SensMe works with music on USB drives, MP3 CDs, and all MP3 players but Apple-branded players.
At a suggested $200, the DSX-S210X lacks universal connector but controls Pandora on a USB-connected iPhone, and it adds drop-down front panel concealing a Tune Tray slide-out tray that holds an iPhone, iPod, USB drive, or other USB-connected MP3 player to control and play back stored music.
The DSX-S210X also features four-line OEL-LED display viewable in sunlight. It adds dual USBs and seven-band digital EQ with time alignment. SensMe is also included.
At $280, the DSV-S310BTX is a Tune Tray model that also lacks universal connector but features control of the Pandora app on a USB-connected iPhone and adds Bluetooth AVRCP control of Pandora on Android and BlackBerry smartphones. It doesn't offer Pandora control on a Windows smartphone. Pandora content will stream to the head unit via stereo Bluetooth. It also features four-line display, SensMe, dual USBs, and digital EQ and time alignment.
"We expect to be alone with this feature this year," Kahn said of Pandora control via Bluetooth. At January's International CES, Sony plans a second head unit with Pandora control via Bluetooth as well as more heads compatible with the universal tuner, Kahn said.
Two other head units among the company's eight new SKUs are the $70-suggested CDX-GT260MP single-DIN slot-load CD receiver with MP3-CD playback and analog aux-in. These features were previously available at a suggested $90 in the Sony lineup.
The other head is the $95-suggested CDX-GT40U, which adds USB port to connect and control music selection on a USB drive or non-Apple MP3 player. That feature was previously available at $110.
All heads feature improved DSP to clear up FM multipath and a new IC amplifier chip to reduce distortion and increase signal-to-noise ratio. All also feature RDS-FM tuner. The models with iPod/USB input capture an iPod's digital PCM output.
Sony said it launches some of its car audio aftermarket products in the fall to coincide with automakers' production cycles.