In the Aug./Sept. '13 issue we walked you through the installation of Pioneer Electronics' new AVIC-X950BH AppRadio and D-series speakers. We also raved about the performance of the system—and we are here to tell you again that our truck's in-dash AV navigation systems performance is nothing short of spectacular. It has been installed in the truck for a couple of months, so we've had plenty of time to work our way through its features.
The AppRadio is a smoking deal at about $1,000 less than a factory Mopar audio navigation system, especially since the AVIC-X950BH has more advanced features and apps, which are more than enough to keep the biggest techie busy and smiling. Our Ram truck is not a hardcore off-road machine like some; it is used for light towing, mild off-roading, some mud, mostly haulin' parts, and date night. The AppRadio is rugged enough, and we haven't had any problems with it. We have found that it's great for the daily driver/weekend 4x4s and tow rigs. However, we definitely wouldn't install the AppRadio in a 4x4 or buggy that is going to see extreme off-road terrain like rockcrawling, water, mudding, or racing.
To get us where we want to go, the AVIC-X950BH uses a very detailed GPS guidance and a mapping database, and it has been very accurate. Topping the techy feature list is the unit's WVGA touchscreen display, which makes using the Pandora Internet Radio, HD Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, App Radio, Bluetooth, and Aha web connectivity easy. Plug in an iPod or iPhone and the screen shows the album, songs, and artists. It works with the iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 and also allows the viewing of phonebook contacts. iPhone 5 requires an optional interface cable and firmware update. Let's not forget the navigation system's Total Traffic real-time traffic updates, 12 million points of interest, and 2D and 3D mapping.
We know that everyone doesn't use an iPhone, so Pioneer recently released D-AH200C Android Connection Kit (sold separately) that will allow the AppRadio to work with 16 different Android phones and 40 models. The smart phones include models from Samsung, HTC, Motorola, and Sony. The original Samsung connector is required for the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Galaxy S3, and Galaxy S4 in addition to the Android Connection Kit.
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Each screen on the AppRadio is easy to negotiate by touch. After spending a bit of time on the radio we were quickly able to find and set up channels and the satellite radio, and fine-tune the sound.
We forgot to order the RCA cables and speaker wire when we ordered the major installation components from Crutchfield. We went to the local electronics store and found a good deal on speaker box cover material, but the wire prices were a high per-foot price. We hit the local Wal-Mart and found these installation kits. The 1,200-watt amp kit was $29, and the add-on amp kit was $24. We think these two wiring kits are a great deal..
The mapping over the last couple months has been accurate and easy to use. We're working our way through the apps and having fun enjoying a great system. We don't have to tell you that Pandora has become a big deal when it comes to music, this system makes the app an even better form of entertainment.
The GM-D8601 four-channel and GM-D8604 class D mono amp are designed for installation in tight spaces. This means they are perfect for the location under the back seat of our Ram, or out of the way on any other vehicle. They send clean powerful sound to the D-series speakers, which we love! Good-quality amplifiers will clean up and filter sound, performing much better than the low-cost amps found at the super centers.
We’re big fans of satellite radio. We like the idea that we can listen to one channel from coast to coast, and we don’t mind paying the $14 monthly service fee. The upside of SiriusXM is that there is a great variety of music and entertainment to listen to. The downside is that some of the channels carry commercials, and some of the hosts talk way too much. Some chatter between almost every song, and they also like stepping on the musical intros to great songs.
Crossovers are extremely important when separating the highs, mids, and lows. If the low and mid tones are reaching the tweeters, they will pop and crackle and eventually be destroyed. The crossover will filter out the lows and mids and only deliver the highs to the tweeters.
Speaker enclosures will cost anywhere from $50 to $180. We tried to keep ours on the cheap. We bought a 2x4-foot sheet of particle board from Lowes for $7, cover material for $7, and had some Dynamat lying around the shop. So for about an hour of time and $20 we have a custom subwoofer speaker enclosure.
Three factors will make a great sound system sound great or bad: price, components, and installation. Cheap connector wires such as speaker wire, RCA cables, and power wire might save you money, but make these high-end components sound bad. The low-cost stuff will get you low-cost sound! However, you can buy installation parts and components that will greatly enhance sound quality and not break the bank. Crutchfield is a great source for everything one needs to install a stereo properly, including good information.