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Old 04-26-2003, 02:45 AM
anthonyb anthonyb is offline
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Join Date: May 1999
Location: Sacramento, CA
Posts: 1,478
Another vote for the Alpine...

I just went through this whole deal when my Becker died a couple of weeks ago. After spending a week or two agonizing over what head unit to buy, I ended up with an Alpine CDA-7894, which is last year's version of the 9815. Most of the big boxes don't carry them anymore, but Crutchfield still has some for ~$380 and eBay and some online discounters have them for $260-280. I ended up stumbling (pure chance, was killing time with a couple of friends) on a new-in-box unit at a local Circuit City, and jumped at the chance to get one for $300 plus tax.

I've had it installed in the car for almost a week, and while I still need to figure out a couple of wiring issues (see my question about speaker polarity, plus I think the antenna connection is loose), overall I've been pretty happy with the unit. The sound quality (especially CD playback) is fabulous. AM reception is better than the Becker, although I'm not so sure about the FM reception. The mp3 capability is really nice, I may end up dumping plans to get a changer thanks to this.

The 7894 has dual illumination buttons, but after playing around with it for awhile, I don't think this is as big a deal as I first thought. The amber color doesn't quite match the interior lights, it has more red in it, and at night it's BRIGHT. Also, the radio is so far down the console that I hardly even notice what the colors are when I'm driving. I think if I had ended up with a green Alpine (actually, it's more of a blue-green, kind of cool during the day), I would've gotten used to it by the second or third day.

Some other comments:
-There are a LOT of wires that hook onto the back of the unit. Shoving it into the stock location takes some careful routing of everything behind and underneath.
-The mounting sleeve will require some filing at the corners and sides to fit, but after a few minutes of careful work it slides in nicely. Snug, but not too tight, and the vertical clearance is perfect.
-The flip face cleans up the front of the unit nicely, but it's kind of a hassle changing cds. It takes a couple seconds to fold down and eject the disc, and the face halfway gets in the way of my hand when I'm feeding new cds.
-There are some bugs with the mp3 playback, it had problems with skipping on one or two of the folders on my test cd. I haven't had a chance to really try it though, so I don't know if its a problem with the disc media, the files, or the player.
-Even though there's no playback buffer, cd-da shock resistance is rock-solid. I spent some time on a thoroughly trashed road, and it didn't skip once.

Overall, even with the aforementioned issues, I'm pretty satisfied with my purchase. I paid a little bit more than my original budget (actually, twice my original budget, when I count the cost of tools and wiring!), but considering the thing originally retailed for $100 more than I paid, not a bad deal at all.

-anthony


P.S. With the exception of the new single-cd Beckers, there are virtually no aftermarket head units that come close to matching a W124 interior. And those are around $600-700, which was more than I was willing to spend, didn't play mp3's, and would only interface with the equally expensive Becker changers. Pretty much the same analysis applies to the Nakamichi units. Blaupunkt used to make some affordable and appropriately boring head units, but discontinued them a couple of years ago.

Of what's left in the consumer market for black-colored head units, I think Alpine is probably the most conservatively styled brand out there.
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