The Monterrey MP35 has a glossy black-and-silver-trimmed flip-down detachable faceplate that is easily removed and comes with a hard-plastic carry case. The unit's display measures 3.43 by 0.68 inches and features Blaupunkt's Variocolour illumination, which lets you customize the screen's backlighting by choosing one of 4,096 hues from the RGB color scale to match or complement your vehicle's dashboard lighting.
Bright red LEDs illuminate each function button except for the rotary volume knob, which is blue. While colorful, the control panel can be somewhat overwhelming in low-light conditions. Thankfully, the display can be dimmed to a comfortable level. The buttons and the tuning controls are evenly spaced and easy to identify, and they require a hard click to engage, thereby preventing accidental changes. The faceplate must be flipped down to insert and remove CD media, however.
Along the top of the panel are a button that opens the faceplate for CD insertion and removal; a button that selects the AM or FM radio band and stores the six strongest available radio stations; and an audio-adjustment button. To the left of the display is a rotary volume knob with an on/off/mute button. The knob raises and lowers volume levels in steps from 0 to 66 and has eight raised notches around its perimeter for easy fingertip control. Four large arrow buttons to the right of the display are used to scroll through MP3 directories and menu selections, to select tracks and menu options, and to manually tune in radio stations. Along the bottom of the display are three wide multifunction buttons for selecting preset radio stations and controlling CD playback, including pausing and repeating tracks and playing them in random order. Other controls include an X-Bass button for choosing one of three preset bass levels; a Menu button for entering the basic settings screen; a Dis button for displaying the time and changing the display properties; and a Src button for toggling between input sources.
MP3 but no WMA
The Monterrey MP35 will play standard audio CDs and CD-R/RW discs containing MP3 and CD audio files but not WMA, ATRAC, or OGG audio files. The unit has fast-forward and backward-search capabilities and will briefly play each scanned track for a predetermined period of time to help you locate and select your favorite tunes. You can opt to have CD text, such as song titles and artist names, displayed at the beginning of each track, and MP3 ID3-tag information is presented as scrolling text. The unit lacks a customizable equalizer but gives you a choice of three preset effects, including Rock, Pop, and Classic. You can adjust bass and treble settings separately for each source (radio, CD player, auxiliary input), but balance and fader settings remain the same regardless of the source. The unit will store up to 18 FM radio stations and 6 AM stations.
The included credit card-size remote lets you adjust and mute the volume, scroll though tracks, and scan radio stations, but you need to use the function buttons to power up the unit and perform all other adjustments.
In addition to four main speaker channels, the Monterrey MP35 includes jacks for four preamplified speakers and a subwoofer. The rear of the unit has an auxiliary input and connector blocks for integration with a CD changer, a satellite tuner, and a wired remote--all optional equipment. You can also purchase a cable to connect your phone to the system. With the cable connected, when you pick up a call, the MP35 mutes the currently selected audio source and plays the caller's voice through the car's speakers. We were disappointed by the lack of a front-accessible input for connecting an MP3 player or an iPod docking accessory.
While we were generally pleased with the sound quality of the Monterrey MP35, hard-core music aficionados may want to augment its 40-watts-per-channel output with additional amplification. The unit's three preset equalizer settings are adequate, but we would have liked the option to fine-tune the frequency ranges for a more balanced sound. FM radio reception was strong throughout the New York metro area. In fact, we were able to briefly lock in to a Connecticut station that is usually out of range.