The Clarion DFZ675MC is one of the few double-DIN-size car stereos we've seen that doesn't feature any video capabilities. Though you can't watch movies on it, you can listen to an impressive range of audio formats, including AM/FM and satellite radio; CDs; MP3 and WMA discs; SD card audio files; iPods (with the required add-on interface); and generic MP3 players via the auxiliary input jack. As well as playing music, the DFZ675MC can also record tracks from regular CDs via its Music Catcher II function. The DFZ675MC features some advanced audio tweaking features, including a Listening Position Optimizer, Digital Z-Enhancer (DZE) sound tone effects for different types of in-car speaker arrangement, and adjustment options for equalizer settings.
The Clarion DFZ675MC has a cluttered front panel design, with buttons of all sizes scattered across the faceplate. Colored backlit buttons--for disc eject, folder selection, and other system controls--run down each side of the unit, interspersed with dummy buttons. This arrangement may make for a nice, symmetrical visual appearance, but it will likely prove confusing to drivers who want to make selections on the fly.
The center of the unit is dominated by an accessible twist knob that functions primarily as a volume control, but it can be used to set the level of other audio functions in the relevant modes. Above the volume knob, a prominent slot for an SD card lets you know that this is a car stereo of the digital age. Circular push buttons for everything from the On/Off switch to the skip-track function are spread around either side of the main dial and, in the absence of clear labeling to differentiate them from one another, are apt to take some getting used to.
For a nice cosmetic touch, the backlighting for the side buttons can be customized with a press of the Color button on the top left of the unit, which gives users a choice between 12 preset colors (including Surf Blue, Leaf Green, and Passion Red); color scan mode, which cycles through the preset colors; and three programmable settings using different inputs of red, green, and blue. The DFZ675MC's monochrome white-on-black central display is clear and bright, although like the faceplate, it's a little too busy for our liking. When playing audio tracks, the two rows of lights down each side of the display flash on and off, distracting the eye from the relevant text information in the center of the screen.
The DFZ675MC supports a range of disc-based media including CDs and MP3 and WMA discs, although the stereo will not play discs in DVD-Audio format. When playing homemade digital audio discs (MP3s and WMAs), the monochrome display can be configured to show current folder, although track, artist, and album information is not displayed. This limitation is problematic for drivers who want a degree of control over their digital audio libraries. Skipping through tracks on a disc using the dedicated circular hard buttons is straightforward, although browsing through folders requires using the illuminated side buttons, which is less intuitive.
As we recently found in our review of the 2007 Audi A3, SD cards can be a useful way of transporting a large digital music library around. With an SD card inserted into the dedicated slot, the DFZ675MC commences playing any music files on the card immediately. As with MP3 and WMA discs, users can skip through tracks using the skip buttons on the faceplate, while folders have to be selected using the Up/Down colored buttons on the right-hand side.