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#313135 - 21/08/2008 22:36 Another option for iPod compatible head unit
robricc
carpal tunnel

Registered: 30/10/2000
Posts: 4909
Loc: Orange County, NY USA
I can't believe it took so long to make this. The interface could be garbage though. The official website is very slow at the moment.

Link
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-Rob Riccardelli
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#313142 - 22/08/2008 15:11 Re: Another option for iPod compatible head unit [Re: robricc]
canuckInOR
carpal tunnel

Registered: 13/02/2002
Posts: 3119
Loc: Portland, OR
Originally Posted By: robricc
The interface could be garbage though.
Well, given that it can only be as good as what the ipod allows, it's pretty much a guarantee.

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#313144 - 22/08/2008 15:36 Re: Another option for iPod compatible head unit [Re: canuckInOR]
robricc
carpal tunnel

Registered: 30/10/2000
Posts: 4909
Loc: Orange County, NY USA
If it just treats the ipod as a mass storage device, like some of Numark's products, it could be usable. Since the downloadable manual doesn't show any screen shots, this could be telling that they're not proud enough to show off their work.
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#313146 - 22/08/2008 16:30 Re: Another option for iPod compatible head unit [Re: robricc]
Robotic
pooh-bah

Registered: 06/04/2005
Posts: 2026
Loc: Seattle transplant
Did you guys miss this?
Quote:
The OLED menu interface displays all the functions of your iPod, with the rotary knob/joystick acting as the player's scroll-wheel we've all grown to love.
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#315245 - 19/10/2008 01:17 Fusion vs Alpine [Re: robricc]
Taym
pooh-bah

Registered: 18/06/2001
Posts: 2405
Loc: Roma, Italy
Originally Posted By: robricc
I can't believe it took so long to make this.
[...]
Link


First of all, hello everyone. I did miss you all! Not that I've been far, in reality, as I sadly turned myself into a lurker for the last months (years?), but I did miss participating to the best forum on the Internet. Truth is, work has been very crazy, and private life rich of time consuming events.

Anyway, great to be back smile

Incredibly enough, I may be giving up and buying an iPod. In addition to that, I may need a car head unit capable to properly control it.

This is only due to the fact that my office moved right into the city center (the busiest part of it!), which means no parking space at all. So, I am now commuting on my motorbike, and after two months of daily commutes, for how shorter they can be, I desperately need to listen to music again.
Not that i hated it, but I never either particularly liked the iPod, I have to admit, but the accessory range in the market is so much wider than that of any other competitor that I am afraid I have no choice. Since I hate to have to separate mp3 file bases, the iPod will need to become the mp3 player in my car as well.

So, I've been serarching quite a bit in the last month, and the only two interesting single-din head units are:

Alpine iDA-X100
Fusion CA-IP500, discussed in this thread.

I could not find anything similar for any other portable mp3 player (zune, or whatever else), so I guess that if I want something like the two units above I have t stick with the iPod. So my first question is: does anybody know of any other head unit + portable mp3 player that can compete with iPOD + one of the above?

Now, I've downloaded the user manuals of both units, and compared them, and while I better prefer the Fusion idea of plugging the iPod inside the headunit itself, it seems to me that the Alpine is much more feature rich: parametric qeualizer, time delay applicable independently to each single speaker, color display, the IMPRINT feature, etch.

So my second question is: does anybody here used the Alpine? I did read a thread about the Alpine a while back, and comments where positive except for the interface: that I expected as that is a replica of the iPod interface, absolutely limited compared to the Empeg's, but I guess I have to give up to that.
But, How fast is it?

Did anybody try the Fusion? I am guessing not, looking at this thread... But, if any news are there, how did you like it?

Thank you all in advance, as usual. smile

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#315638 - 29/10/2008 02:10 Re: Fusion vs Alpine [Re: Taym]
altman
carpal tunnel

Registered: 19/05/1999
Posts: 3450
Loc: Palo Alto, CA
Never used the Alpine, but I believe it connects via USB (audio and control over USB) hence it should be pretty fast.

Looking on youtube came up with a couple of videos of it in operation. Doesn't look too shabby, but there's some very annoying slow printing of text when you select a track!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRku-VttOHw

Hugo

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#315649 - 30/10/2008 01:10 Re: Fusion vs Alpine [Re: altman]
Taym
pooh-bah

Registered: 18/06/2001
Posts: 2405
Loc: Roma, Italy
Hugo, thanks for pointing me to those videos.

It is in fact so slow I would have assumed it is like that by design, maybe in the effort to look somewhat fun. I can't imagine it HAS to be so slow if browsing the iPod directories looks instead very fast.

Anyway, after reading the user guide, I found out that in order to have the advanced audio features, the Alpine X100 needs to be coupled with the PXA-H100 sound processor, which means 200 more. Still, that is an optnion Fusion does not seem to have. Audio quality does metter to me, so I am really leaning more towards the Alpine...
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#316089 - 07/11/2008 23:20 Re: Fusion vs Alpine [Re: Taym]
Taym
pooh-bah

Registered: 18/06/2001
Posts: 2405
Loc: Roma, Italy
... Has anybody tested an Alpine iDA-X100 with the Microsoft Zune?
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= Taym =
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#316097 - 08/11/2008 10:31 Re: Fusion vs Alpine [Re: Taym]
Taym
pooh-bah

Registered: 18/06/2001
Posts: 2405
Loc: Roma, Italy
... ok, and again another piece of informaion, if anybody is interested. For some reason, I assumed this iPod controlling head units were simlpy letting the iPod decode the MP3s, get the "line" audio output through the USB connection, and amplify it. Instead, it seems that the Alpine (and, I guess, other recent headunit using the latest iPod USB connetion) actually get the bit stream off the ipod an then use their own decoder.
Did you guys know? And, do you agree/ think it is possible? I was just told by my installer as I could not figure this out from the Apline's user manual.
This is great, i think. Also, it makes sense since the Alpine must anyway decode mp3s when reading them from usb pendrives.

Also, I read on the manual that the Alpine is MTP compatible, which is the reason why I assum it is compatible with Zune as well. Some googling did not give me a definitive answer, but I would assume so. If so, I wonder wether album art is also shown on the display. If so, I am guess this Alpine is no more iPod compatible than it is Zune or any aother MTP portable device.
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#316098 - 08/11/2008 10:39 Re: Fusion vs Alpine [Re: Taym]
mlord
carpal tunnel

Registered: 29/08/2000
Posts: 13494
Loc: Canada
That's how I assumed all of the "iPod integration" head units work -- just treat the iPod as a dumb external USB drive, and play the music themselves.

This way they have full access to the embedded tag info in the digital files, for display purposes, and they can mimic the iPod GUI (or not!) on their own display/controls.

They most likely license the Apple AAC DRM crap, and pay a royalty on the proprietary "docking connector" as well.

That's certainly how RobV's Numark DJ consoles work, and most probably how the Bose iPod "dock" works, and quite likely how the BMW and Alpine car heads do it.

Cheers


Edited by mlord (08/11/2008 10:42)

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#316112 - 08/11/2008 14:11 Re: Fusion vs Alpine [Re: mlord]
Taym
pooh-bah

Registered: 18/06/2001
Posts: 2405
Loc: Roma, Italy
Mark, yes, and now I actually remember talking with you about this when you were here. The reason why I went back thinking that the iPod would do the decoding is that I read some old Alpine specs, and the early units were not decoding the mp3s. And I did not read anything else on this, so that I assumed that's the way it still was.
Instead it seems that one of the major developments of the new USB connection (which is more advanced of the first iPod dedicated interface boxes that Alpine and others used to have) is exactly that it allows full access to the MP3s on the iPod.

Which brings us back to what we were saying few weeks ago: why on earth do Alpine and others stick to replicating visually the iPod interface, then? Or, even better, why don't they add features? I'd love to see improvements in that...

Still, I have to say that current iPod interface is not terrible. I still do wrong things with it, but I am getting used.

Now, I am really curious to find our if the Alpine is just as good with a Zune.
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#316123 - 08/11/2008 20:13 Re: Fusion vs Alpine [Re: Taym]
drakino
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/06/1999
Posts: 7849
Loc: Seattle, WA
There are a few ways to do iPod stuff, and there are tradeoffs to some of the methods. Finding out what method a stereo, or in car solution uses is sometimes very difficult.

Method 1 is like Mark describes, where in the head unit simply knows how to read the raw music files off the mass storage presented iPod. Some go to the extra effort of decoding the iPod database. This solution is not Apple approved, and is not a licensed method either. This is because it is not guaranteed to work. If the user has a Mac formatted iPod, this method fails, as it assumes the drive is FAT32 and not HFS+. It will also fail with the iPod Touch and iPhone, as they do not present storage over USB. If the head unit/stereo is also reading the database directly, there is no gaurentee Apple won't change the format and break things. This has happened in the past when they added some checksums and other sanity checks to the growing database, causing a community uproar that they were trying to shut out competition. Lastly, it doesn't decode the protected AAC files from iTunes.

Method 2 is the supported way by Apple, and this is the solution they license out. The head unit will talk to the iPod in a way that puts the iPod into a remote control state. The head unit can query what songs are available, categories, and so on. It can provide a raw bitstream, or a line out audio feed, and also supports playing back DRM files, as the iPod takes care of the DRM protections. This method works with any iPod with a dock, and doesn't break if the iPod is a Mac formatted unit or an iPhone. It also provides a benefit in that play counts are updated, positions are saved in podcasts, and generally things work just like they do if using the device directly. This then allows for smart playlists and syncing to work better on smaller units, as you can cycle music off the device as it is listened to, and add new stuff in.

Centrafuse in my car uses method 1, and it's frustrating because I can't just plug my iPhone in and listen to podcasts that sync to it. Instead, I have to hook the phone in via normal audio line in, and I can't control it via the screen on the in dash PC.
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#316142 - 09/11/2008 08:10 Re: Fusion vs Alpine [Re: drakino]
Taym
pooh-bah

Registered: 18/06/2001
Posts: 2405
Loc: Roma, Italy
Quote:
It can provide a raw bitstream, or a line out audio feed, and also supports playing back


Drakino, I am confused here. Raw bitstream implies that the decoding job is done by the car head unit (Alpine or whatever). Which would be a higher-end solution in terms of audio quality. While line out audio feed implies that the decoding job was done by the ipod, which outputs a simple analog signal. I doubt it can be the case with devices like the Alpine, as the connection to the iPod is merely USB (and so digital, I assume)? Am i right or am I missing something?
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MK2a #040103216 * 100Gb *All/Colors* Radio * 3.0a11 * Hijack = taympeg

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#316149 - 09/11/2008 08:59 Re: Fusion vs Alpine [Re: Taym]
tfabris
carpal tunnel

Registered: 20/12/1999
Posts: 30560
Loc: Seattle, WA
I personally don't know how it works, but Raw Bitstream does not necessarily imply the head unit is doing the decoding. It could mean an already-decoded bitstream (ie the uncompressed wave audio data).
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#316151 - 09/11/2008 09:28 Re: Fusion vs Alpine [Re: tfabris]
Taym
pooh-bah

Registered: 18/06/2001
Posts: 2405
Loc: Roma, Italy
Tony, right, that make sense and it is possible, as far as I can tell. But I think it is unlikely that that is the case, since if I let external units to poke into the iPod digital data, why not have them just read the mp3 bitstream directly. But it is possible.
However, I am guessing that would still be good, in terms of audio quality, as the uncompressed data strema would still be then processed by the headunit, and it would be the headunit to generate the analog audio signal.

I am really concerned that it is NOT the ipod to generate the analog signal. It would make the quality of the headunit so irrelevant, and that would be a pity!


Edited by taym (09/11/2008 09:29)
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= Taym =
MK2a #040103216 * 100Gb *All/Colors* Radio * 3.0a11 * Hijack = taympeg

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#316192 - 10/11/2008 12:20 Re: Fusion vs Alpine [Re: Taym]
drakino
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/06/1999
Posts: 7849
Loc: Seattle, WA
Nevermind, it looks like the dock connector only provides normal line out audio. I had heard of a SP/DIF dock a while back and had assumed it was a normal option. Seems the company instead uses a special dock, and modifies an iPod to work with it.
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#316193 - 10/11/2008 12:28 Re: Fusion vs Alpine [Re: drakino]
Taym
pooh-bah

Registered: 18/06/2001
Posts: 2405
Loc: Roma, Italy
ok, so this means the Apple dock still relies on the iPod to decode and convert to analog signal.

On the other hand, the USB used by the Alpine and others must be different. I don't think you can send analog signal over USB, so this is consistent which what I am reading around: Alpine gets the bitstream out of the iPod and then converts it to analog signal. Do you think this makes sense? Back to what Tony was saying, I assume Alpine also decodes the signal, just because it would make more sense / be easier to do in my opinion...
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= Taym =
MK2a #040103216 * 100Gb *All/Colors* Radio * 3.0a11 * Hijack = taympeg

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#316421 - 16/11/2008 00:02 Re: Fusion vs Alpine [Re: Taym]
Taym
pooh-bah

Registered: 18/06/2001
Posts: 2405
Loc: Roma, Italy
So, I purchased an Alpine iDA-X100 + H100 Audio Processor. And, today I had it installed.

My first comments, after three hours drive and some playing in my garage:

1. It sounds SUPERB. I am impressed.

2. The iPod integrates very very nicely. The interface is very similar to the one of the ipod itself, and it is as quick as the ipod itself. I confirm the slow text printing on the display that Hugo pointed out actually seems done on purpose, for some aestetics intent.

3. My installer and I had a lot of fun using the Alpine imprint software and hardware. Not that there's much to do, but it was fun to see it run and produce the needed "filter" for my car interior, at the end. Even though this first imprint session was not very accurate (we still had some stuff on seats and on the floor, which could have altered its audio characteristics, and, I am thinking I should've been inside to replicate exactly the typical listening condition), and still the sound is wonderful.

4. The build quality of the head unit is just among the best I've ever personally touched. Buttons and knobs are solid, response is accurate, and I found them very readable. The display is bright, readable under direct sun, and just beautiful. While I do like the large knob in the middle of the head unit, I wish Alpine had opted for a larger display.

5. For Audi owners: the red button illumination, the red display, and the white Alpine logo and display font match so well the white/red instrumentation color that I am thinking that was done by Alpine on purpose, as it really looks perfect. I really got lucky on that.

So, while I am still exploring the various options, I am already very happy with this install. This compensates all disappointment with my new iPod (which is, by the way, sounding really really GREAT when connected to the Alpine).
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= Taym =
MK2a #040103216 * 100Gb *All/Colors* Radio * 3.0a11 * Hijack = taympeg

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#316423 - 16/11/2008 02:20 Re: Fusion vs Alpine [Re: Taym]
mlord
carpal tunnel

Registered: 29/08/2000
Posts: 13494
Loc: Canada
Now you just need a similar interface for the bike!


Attachments
bike.jpg

Description: The "bike"



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#316443 - 16/11/2008 17:35 Re: Fusion vs Alpine [Re: mlord]
Taym
pooh-bah

Registered: 18/06/2001
Posts: 2405
Loc: Roma, Italy
Hey, that looks familiar. Mine is in color, though! wink
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= Taym =
MK2a #040103216 * 100Gb *All/Colors* Radio * 3.0a11 * Hijack = taympeg

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#317040 - 07/12/2008 04:19 Re: Fusion vs Alpine [Re: mlord]
altman
carpal tunnel

Registered: 19/05/1999
Posts: 3450
Loc: Palo Alto, CA
Nope, that's not how the USB connected head units work; if you stick a USB bus analyzer on there you will see the decoded audio as an isoc USB pipe. The DRM stuff all stays within the iPod, as does the database etc.

Rob's stuff mounted the iPod as a drive then indexed and played the files just as it would from (eg) a thumb drive.

Things like the Bose iPod dock just talk serial to the iPod and use the line outs - no need for them to be talking USB as they don't need to provide music navigation, display album art, etc.

Hugo

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