"It's more functional than the Editors' review indicates"3.5 starson by GalvanicCorrosion
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.