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Hello AudiogoNers,

I know this isn't a topic often addressed here, but I would like some recommendations about a head unit for my car. Shopping at the usual suspects I find that not one of them talks about the sound quality of their gear but rather whether there's an I-Pod jack and if it's Bluetooth compatible. I've had a Nakamichi for a couple of years, but the transport is getting weak and I'm looking to replace it. Are there any choices besides Nakamichi and McIntosh for those who want good sound in their cars?
If you find anything as good as the Nakamichi, let me know.

I had a Nakamichi for a few years and it was heads and tails above anything else I have owned or heard for cars, at least when it worked. :-)

I replaced it with a newer MOTR Alpine. Nothing special, but gets the job done.

With car stereos though, I will say that more watts within any particular line is almost always better as long as the speakers are able to handle it.
I have been out of car audio for a while now, but Eclipse by Fujitsu Ten makes some excellent head units (at least they used to). Their top line units ere line level only and were built specifically with sound quality in mind. The last one I had was the 8051 model. They are not cheap, but the sound quality is excellent. That model also had an external parametric unit that was designed to be used with it.
Mapman, I have an outboard power amp, so I don't care about the wattage of the head unit. Eclipse used to make source/ preamp only head units that sounded good, but they've since quit making consumer audio gear. Sigh. I owned two. The first outlasted the car. The second's transport got dodgy after a couple of years.
This takes me back to my CD35z. I agree Eclipse was the only unit as good. I don't think McIntosh makes car audio equipment anymore, and I doubt the sound quality of any brands has improved since I was last looking years ago. Even then there were only a few head units with a good tonal balance. Unless you can audition them and see how bad or good the various brands are currently, I would just buy a new CD400.

Eclipse doesn't make consumer audio anymore. That's how I ended up finding the Nakamichi I'm using now. Looks like I'll have to go with a new Nakamichi CD400. Even Nakamichi is downgrading, they used to market a CD500 with a bit of DSP, but that doesn't seem to be available anymore.


As you know, auditioning head units is hit-of-miss at best since they are in a sound board with unknown amps and speakers. I'd have to purchase a couple, install one, listen then repeat. Ugly, ugly.
As a generalization, from my experience, I do not agree that auditioning gear on those boards is futile. Unlike home audio, car audio head unit differences are not really that sophisticated. They are largely a function of tonal balance. I think you are saving yourself some wasted effort, though, just buying a Nak. Hope it all goes smoothy.
I'd rather hear the sound of my Porsche
Check out the Pioneer DEH-80PRS head unit. It is designed for the audiophile with outstanding SQ. Pioneer makes another model that builds on this design, but I forget the model. So I would recommend either of those.
Who really cares???
Ebm....I suppose that snide remark was tossed in my direction, so I will comment. My response WAS off handed, but in truth, you can not get audiophile sound from a moving car. Engine noises, wind, suspension, and side seating all ruins anything close to good sound. I have an upgraded Bose system in my car and that is good enough. When I want to get closer to music I fire up my home system. In order to overcome the noise in a moving car you have to play it too loud and eq it too much for anything serious. I've heard too many "high end" car system that are just boom and sizzle. Not for me thanks
Stringreen it was not meant for you!!
Gordon Holt said it right 30 years ago, "Quality audio in a car is like Arpege in a glue factory."
I have an eclipse head unit and would sell it if anyone is interested.

I pulled the trigger and the Pioneer DEH 80PRS was delivered and may get installed this weekend. I'll post some impressions here when the install is finished.

Ohlala, I thought about just buying another Nakamichi, but they don't offer the model CD500 anymore (on-board DSP), and I'm a bit frustrated with the lack of durability of the CD400 I have, so I decided to try a different route.

Stringreen & Jperry, While I agree that I won't get audiophile sound in my car, I've heard awful sound in most cars and I don't want that, either. Hence the search for good mobile audio.
Macdonj, I'm using the DEH 80PRS now. I had the DEX-P9, and DEQ-P9 before that. Unfortunately the 80PRS is not nearly as good as the old P9's. I was tempted to buy the new TOTL Pioneer but did not want to spend that much on car audio this time. Really miss the P9 though.

Thanks for the information. The DEX-P9 is available, but way outside my budget. I'm hopeful the DEH 80PRS will be good enough.
I was able to install the Pioneer DEH 80PRS this weekend, but haven't been able to dial in the sound yet (time alignment and EQ adjustments). My kids think it looks cool, so that's something. Even without dialing it in, the sound is pretty good, though. I have hope...
I used a Radio Shack SPL meter and Stereophile test disc to manually set the internal equalizer and have been tweaking for a week or so. The sound is pretty good. The combination of DEH-80PRS, JL Audio 6" drivers and my car don't produce the utmost in bass articulation as evidenced by the loss of detail in "It's For You" from Pat Metheny Group's "As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls". The highs have sparkle and shimmer, so cymbals sound good. Of course all kinds of low level detail is lost to road and wind noise, so I won't comment on that.

I like the various DSP modes that create different soundstages. I find "Front" to be the least fatiguing. I tried "Front Left" but it made me feel like most of the sound was hitting my right ear and fatigued me quickly. The listening controls are simple: one button cycles through the available sources sequentially, volume is controlled by a rotary knob, and a "lever" cycles through CD tracks or radio presets sequentially. I haven't tried bluetooth yet, but will. I also haven't connected a phone or I-Pod yet, but my kids will.

I don't like the display. The track information is too small for me to read, so it's useless.