Excellent audio quality. Great BlueTooth phone call sound quality. Easy to use and simple control layout. Parametric EQ.
Occasional "ERROR-03" message. Can't seem to disconnect phone calls from the head unit. No remote.
I usually replace the factory stereo in my vehicles, and when I finally got an iPod (latest generation, 106GB model), I knew I wanted a head unit with iPod control. I also have a BlackBerry Storm, which has BlueTooth, so I began looking at head units with both iPod control ... Read full review
I usually replace the factory stereo in my vehicles, and when I finally got an iPod (latest generation, 106GB model), I knew I wanted a head unit with iPod control. I also have a BlackBerry Storm, which has BlueTooth, so I began looking at head units with both iPod control and built-in Blue-Tooth. I am on a budget, so I considered the Pioneer DEH-P6100bt and the Alpine CDE-103bt. I had read that the controls on the Pioneer were difficult to use, and the audio specifications for the Alpine were a bit better, so I went with the Alpine.
It's a great-looking unit with switchable illumination, so it matches the interior lighting of my Ford Explorer. The control layout is simple and intuitive, and it was easy to pair my BlackBerry Storm with the stereo. I am using the high-speed iPod cable, so I just leave the iPod in the glove box and control it through the head unit, which is quite convenient. The Alpine has a quick search function that utilizes the radio preset buttons to divide your music library into 6 sections, making it a bit easier to find artists, albums or songs. It's fairly easy to search through the iPod while driving, but if the road is bumpy, it's sometimes easy to spin the selector knob too far accidentally.
I am using aftermarket Kenwood speakers in the front and Pioneers in the rear. The sound quality of the CDE-103bt is excellent. I used the aftermarket speakers with the factory stereo, and the Alpine blows the factory stereo away. I can hear musical details with the Alpine that just didn't exist with the factory stereo. The EQ is parametric (you can select the frequencies boosted or cut), and each function gets its own EQ settings. For example, you can set the Bass on 4 and the Treble on 5 when using the tuner, then have the Bass on 3 and the Treble on 4 when using the CD player, etc. It has plenty of power to play loud and remain clean-sounding. It has preamp outputs, but the only thing I may add later would be a sub. I am quite happy with the way it sounds currently.
The phone call quality using BlueTooth is great. I can hear callers quite clearly, and they can hear me clearly as well. The microphone is mounted to my A-Pillar. You can also assign the call audio to go to the speaker(s) of your choice. You can place calls through the head unit either by scrolling through your phone book, recently dialed numbers, missed calls, etc. Strangely enough, though, I can't seem to end a call through the head unit. I can press and hold the button for 2 seconds, but the call won't hang-up. If I am talking to someone and they hang up, it will disconnect, but if I am leaving a voicemail, it's not letting me disconnect through the head unit. I have to press "end" on my BlackBerry. However, I will say that my BlackBerry was doing some odd things lately, and I just had it switched out for a new one, so perhaps this function will work now.
The other odd thing with using the BlueTooth on this unit is if you receive or place a call while listening to the iPod. Every now and again, once the call is disconnected and it should switch back to the iPod, I get a "ERROR-03" message. This means that the iPod isn't being recognized by the head unit. So, you have to unplug the iPod, either reset it or turn it off then on again, then reconnect the iPod. Not so easy to do while driving. I researched this issue online and also called Alpine about it. Alpine says it's an issue with the iPod firmware. I asked how this could be when this stereo is supposedly "Made For iPod". Their response sort of made sense. There are various iPod models out there (iPod Classics and iPods of various generations, the iPhone, the Nano, etc.) with different firmwares, and making an interface that operates flawlessly with ALL of them is difficult. I have to say that I would have to agree with that statement. It's annoying when it happens, but it doesn't happen all the time, so it's something I can live with.
Also, just the other day, I was skipping tracks on an album on the iPod, and when it got to the track I wanted, instead of playing it, it skipped to the next track, then the next track, finally stopping a couple of tracks after the one I wanted to hear. I have no idea what's going on there, but I did reset my iPod today, so I will see if that does any good.
It would be nice if it included a remote, but apparently, none of the Alpine remotes control the iPod search functions, so that's not a deal-breaker.
All in all, I can definitely recommend the Alpine CDE-103bt if you want iPod control and built-in BlueTooth capability.