I remember the good olden days when people used to think whether or whether not to install a car audio system in their cars.

I never had that doubt and I remember before buying the car, I have spent…err! invested a lot of time going from shop to shop trying to find out which sound system I should opt for.Before I dive into this, please note that this review is of the RECEIVER (i.e.) the main unit in which you play the CDs or any other source (example – radio, ipod etc.), and not the speakers.

The sacrosanct points

1. I had to find a car stereo within my budget of 15,000 (including speakers).
2. I was clear that the system should be a USB and an iPod ready unit
3. I am not in a business of selling paan and cigarettes so the output shouldn’t blow my car’s top away.
I was looking for quality and depth not just shrill notes of Ghungroo and loud thuds of Dhols
4. Since we live in the age of ’download what you love’ the system must play mp3 and windows media files
5. I am not entirely sold on the idea of playing DVDs while driving, hence the system shouldn’t necessarily play DVDs6. Its been long since I have buried my cassette collection and given the state of Indian roads, if one plays an audio cassette of jagjit singh, he ends up sounding like altaf raja which isn’t good. So no cassette option was required

Researched following models/brands

1. Sony xpload – Quite ironically, was priced competitively but the sound quality was average at best. The clarity was missing and my khurapati brain played around with all the equalizers but to no avail. The sony salesman was hell bent on selling me a big subwoofer along with Sony Xplod to make the ’impactful sound’ (a term used by him). I went to other sony showrooms and within my budget, I came disappointed.

2. Pioneer – Quite frankly, I was never a fan or pioneer or delphi systems for the simple fact that one cannot distinguish between a fake and an original one. The sound of pioneer I must admit was far better than a sony xplod and wasn’t coming at a high price. The USB connectivity wasn’t available in this hence I gave it a miss

3. Alpine – I don’t blame the car audio. It was just a very bad dealership which was having exclusive rights to sell alpine car audios in Hyderabad (august 2007) and I remember coming out of that showroom in 15 minutes flat….The guy was more interested in talking to his salman khan look-alike friend than selling! This system did not have a WMA decoder or a USB connectivity either!

4. LG/Samsung – Have not heard much about them in car-stereo space hence conveniently gave them a miss.

5. Kenwood – Given the fact that Kenwood was never actually in car stereo systems and it was using a convenient contract manufacturing route to sell their products, I was sure that I will get nothing more than a 2 in 1 tape recorder sound and I was right! Surprisingly, this receiver did not play WMA files and there wasn’t any option to add USB drive!

6. Blaupunkt – They not only had a good range but also had some AMAZING features which took my breath (and money!) away. Picture this – A sound system where you can PAIR your mobile phone with it and the moment a call comes, the song stops and the telephone rings gently via speakers! If you want to receive the phone, just press the green button on the stereo and talk!! The incoming voice will come from the speakers and your voice will reach the caller without you holding a phone in your hand!! After your call ends, the song will slowly fade back from the place it stopped!!This feature was amazing as even if one is driving and has to talk urgently, he can and no one (bribe hungry police man included) can make out that you are talking on phone!!.

The other features of this model are :

1. It plays Mp3 and Wma Cds

2. It has a USB and iPod ready console

3. It can play up to 1500 files in a folder of USB!

4. It is absolutely easy to navigate thru the folders in USB

5. You can store up to 5 phone numbers in the stereo…after that just press the digit and the Call button and the call is connected…no need to keep the phone and search!!

6. You can store up 20 FM stations and 20 AM and other bands (never explored!) in the radio

7. The USB attachment is conveniently put inside the glove box thereby keeping the pen drive hidden and not visibly stuck in the audio system like other sub-standard audio systems…

8. The sound clarity and depth will blow you away – I remember playing a Sufi kalam of abida parveen in low level only to hear everything with crystal clarity!

9. The X-Bass feature converts your car into a private discotheque! (although this depends on the number of speakers and the kind of speakers you install in the car)

10. The display is white and the buttons are red which makes it easy to navigate in the night while driving

11. The cute little remote control supplied with the system covers all the features (including the USB/CD folder navigation), thereby giving full control to the passengers in the car – ONLY IF YOU WANT TO🙂

12. You can get a small attachment (by paying extra) which you can add in your steering to have controls on your steering – a bakwaas option if you ask me, for who is so lazy and who is in a hurry to change the songs/volume that he needs a boxy attachment on the steering wheel when the controls are well within his reach!!

Edited on 26.11.2008 at 15.43 to add a valid point i missed to mention- The sterero panel can be detached and put in a nice box provided by Blaupunkt!———–Now for the revelation – It cost me 16,990!!

Yes I know it crossed my budget by a loooong shot but….I have recovered my money in a week’s time – thanks to amazing functionality and the sound quality! I bought this in August 2007 and till date a lot of people are pleasantly surprised when they come across this piece of art….I have installed 4 Blaupunkt speakers 2 in front doors and 2 in the tray in the boot…and they are very good as well!I hate mentioning stuff like this but I have got to thank my wife who was quick enough to spot the child-like enthusiasm in me when I saw this receiver and gifted it to me!So play on…drive on…ROCK ON!