Pros The CDE-102 is inexpensive and it supports a supplemented audio system, just fine. It get's pretty loud.
Cons The control knob does not allow the user to scroll through MP3 directories/files. You use a button, instead.
Summary I'm going to respond to Editors' review comments, first.
Editor: "As a single-DIN car stereo receiver, the Alpine CDE-102 doesn't have very much faceplate real estate to work with and, as a result, its interface emphasizes efficiency over aesthetics. "
Me: I agree with this comment. As far as aesthetics go, I don't like this unit much, at all. I purchased it because of the brand and it was an insanely cheap way to upgrade my factory head unit.
Editor: "We ran into issues getting the unit to read from our 8GB USB drive, but our smaller drives were recognized without issue. Browsing through files and folders happens quickly whether we used the USB port or MP3 CDs."
Me: I used a PNY 8GB micro SD card in a SanDisk microdrive. I had success, immediately. I do acknowledge that many electronic devices are touchy with USB memory, however.
Editor: "Pressing and holding the volume knob for 2 seconds toggles the Loudness mode, which boosts the audio output of smaller OEM speakers. With only a two-band EQ (bass and treble), you have surprisingly little control over the sound quality."
Me. I was a bit disappointed with the lack of EQ frequencies. The unit is pretty good about balancing the sound, so if you are the type who dislikes tweaking EQs, this is it. There's a little more to the unit than the two-band EQ. I'll write that in my comment, below.
Editor: "By not giving the CDE-102 a dedicated subwoofer output, you lose in-dash fader control if you choose to use a subwoofer"
Me: Here's where I suspect that the Editor may not have actually seen the CDE-102. The CDE-102 does, in fact, have a dedicated subwoofer output. If you look at the photo, which illustrates the rear of the unit, you will see two sets of RCA jacks. The bottom pair is the sub out.
You get a chance to tailor the sound better than a 2-band EQ, but in an indirect way. Yes, you have bass and treble control, but you also get subwoofer level (0-15) and high-pass filter control (off, 60Hz, 80Hz, 100Hz). Additionally, you get a sound setup feature, which lets you tweak 10KHz and bass frequencies, as well. It's not a substitute for 10 bands of equalization, but, it sound pretty nice.
Installation of the head unit is the same as any other basic head unit. If you have done one, you can do this one, too. Even if you haven't installed one, it's pretty easy. This unit is pretty cool about short circuits, giving you a DC ERROR message, rather than letting you fry the unit.
The MP3 component is OK. I think I have a bit to learn. It has a tendency to play my directories out of order. That's not ok when using an 8GB card. I like the front access USB port. I use a microdrive, so the risk of smacking the card out is reduced. I highly discourage using large USB drives or hybrid USB drive/player. The weight of a large device, coupled with road bumps, will assure early failure of the USB port. Spend the 20 bucks and go micro.
I installed this as the keystone for an all Alpine upgrade. The rest of the system is S-type component door speaker, S-type 2-way rear deck, MRP-M500 amp, and one R-type 12" sub.
Let me make this clear. It's insanely loud. It's concert loud if you are using CDs or high bitrate MP3s. The volume control goes from 0-35. On setting 22, you will not be having a conversation with occupants of your vehicle. You will not hear emergency vehicles. You will not be using your mirrors. You will not hear or feel your mobile phone ring. You will hear and feel your ears ring.
So, be safe and listen responsibly.
Pros This unit has front USB and 1/8 in aux. ins right on the front of the unit for easy access. Has Ipod connection in rear. Great price for alpine quality plus Ipod connectivity and CD player.
Cons All alpine models only work with a few Ipod models. I thought the 09' model would be compatible with my 08' Ipod, but i was wrong. How can the most sought after company in mobile audio not have any Ipod solutions compatible with the new Ipod classic?
Summary This unit is great. i was so excited to get this many features for only 145 bucks. i went home spent the afternoon installing the unit only to turn on my car plug in my 120 gb. Ipod (he only reason i got a new head) and found it didn't work. This cant be solved by buying a different unit from alpine. On monday i'm going to call Alpine and hope they offer an update or something cause this unit is great except for the fact it doesn't work with my Ipod! Otherwise its going back to the store and i'm coming home with a new Pioneer that does work with my Ipod.It works!!!! I spoke to soon about alpine and the 120gb ipods. I originaly tried using the front USB port and standard Ipod cable which does not work. then i did more reasearch hoping to make my Ipod work with the head unit. In the small text of the user manual in the provided cd-rom (not in the prited user manual in the box nor in its list of supported ipods) i found something listing the actual compatability with the head unit which includes and latter models. Therfor i called cruthfield about the full speed ipod cable, that plugs in the back of the unit, and asked if it was compatible. Crutchfield tests every product for compatability themselves!! Turns out it is. They dont cary the head unit yet, but they have the ipod cable (who woulda thought). Also it was the weekend and Alpines tech suport was closed and the reatiler i got it from had no suggestions. So i wrongly spoke to early and the only problem is that the front USB device can only have 100 folders each with 100 files.
Updated on Feb 26, 2009
Pros MP3 playback, USB/Aux In on face of unit, decent power, compatible with KTP445 Alpine power pack.
Cons To me, nothing really. To others they may want bluetooth built in but that is available in another Alpine model
Summary I wanted to replace my Alpine CDM7874 as that does not play MP3's. I finally went with this as I wanted a bit more power but didn't want a major amp install. This unit and upwards on the Alpine line are compatible with their plug and play 45 watt power pack (KTP445). My 7874 has 2 more RMS (20) than this but wasn't able to use the power pack. It has simple bass/treble controls and with the power pack pushes decent loudness and clarity even with the low level aftermarket Bazooka rear speakers but those are getting replaced soon so this unit should sound very nice in my Mustang when done. I can see that if you were really into car stereo you would probably not go with this but for ease of simplicity, it's a great unit. I have a Pioneer in my truck but even though that sounds great the controls are just very involved. As they say, KISS. I'm sure you'll enjoy this if looking for a decent mid priced model.
Pros this is dummyproof. i like it so much I'm going to buy another one tomorrow for my truck.
Cons nothing i can think of, i like it so far
Summary i would recommned it.