18 April 2012
If you’ve ever wanted to bring the excitement and style of a nightclub DJ to your car audio system, Pioneer’s new MIXTRAX™ feature does just that. I recently had the opportunity to try out the new DEH-P8400BH single-DIN head unit that comes with a bunch of cool features like MIXTRAX EZ, Bluetooth, Pandora, App Mode for iPhone and HD Radio with iTunes tagging. The unit is also equipped with a four-channel MOSFET power amplifier, three pairs of pre-outs and a cool dot matrix multi-colour LCD. Don’t worry, all these features and conveniences won’t break the bank because this unit comes fully-equipped and very affordable, with an MSRP of only $190.
CONTROLS & ERGONOMICS
As soon as the unit is unboxed, I notice the controls are designed to be used without the need to look at them. From the rotary volume control to the new twist-lever style track/station control, to the large buttons for source selection and band, the DEH-P8400BH is brilliantly easy to use while driving. The full dot-matrix type display provides a resolution of 192x48 pixels and if you can’t find your favorite color from the 210,000 variations, you just don’t have one.
The Pioneer is equipped with a typical removable faceplate with a CD slot in it. It goes on and off very easily and secures in place without fuss. The multi-color display can put on quite a show when combined with the MIXTRAX EZ function or as in my case, you can simply set it to a color you prefer or match your dash lighting. Even the button colors can be selected independently from the LCD colors.
Audio, display and setup settings are logically-ordered and accessible in typical Pioneer fashion. If you have any experience at all with manipulating a head unit’s controls, you probably won’t even need the manual for this one. A few of the menus are quite a few items deep, so don’t be afraid to keep looking.
I also like the way the subwoofer output has its own independent crossover and level controls, which makes it a simple task to get the sub sound and level just right. The DEH-P8400BH comes with a USB extension cable, Bluetooth mic and a wireless remote control. Sadly, the sample I received did not include a carrying case for the faceplate.
The aforementioned MIXTRAX EZ function is pretty unique. It may not be for everyone, but it will certainly appeal to lots of music lovers and the club-going audience as well. MIXTRAX EZ basically takes the music from an iPhone/iPod or USB/SD device and plays it back with added transitions and effects, creating a non-stop mix of music – a virtual DJ right inside your radio!
MIXTRAX EZ provides three types of DJ-style transitions (Flanger, Echo and Crossfade) and six sound effects (Backspin 1 and 2, Echo, Trans, Roll and Scratch) that are automatically added between songs. In addition, you can set the faceplate to change colors and flash along with the beat of the music for even more club like effects!
If you’re not an iUser, you can still enjoy having your entire music collection with you on a USB thumb drive and still be able to make full use of the MIXTRAX EZ feature. MIXTRAX EZ will not work on radio programming or with music on a CD, obviously. An additional input is provided in the form of an Aux input on the front panel as well.
Even if you don’t want a nightclub inside your ride, you can still enjoy all of the other features the DEH-P8400BH has to offer, including built-in Parrot-powered Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to safely (and legally) make hands-free phone calls, stream audio via A2DP and control things using AVRCP to the receiver.
HD Radio is rapidly gaining popularity across the United States and with an integrated HD Radio tuner, you can take advantage of the excellent fidelity, additional programming and the ability to “tag” songs for downloading on iTunes later. Best of all perhaps is that HD Radio is 100% free, no subscription needed. On the other hand, if you are already a satellite radio subscriber and prefer to skip the commercials, the unit is satellite radio ready for SiriusXM reception via the addition of the optional tuner.
Since its inception, I’ve been a big fan of Pandora® internet radio. I find it a great way to experience new music along with all of my favorites. The DEH-P8400BH is Pandora ready for your internet-connected iPhone, so your favorite internet radio channels can come along with you too.
Another function for the iPhone and iPod Touch is Pioneer’s App Mode, which allows you to listen to and/or view your content (via select compatible apps) directly on the receiver’s display from a connected device.
All these cool features wouldn’t be worth much without a great audio section. The Pioneer has it covered with a high-power, four-channel amp built right in featuring front, rear and subwoofer outputs (rated at four volts of output), built-in equalization, crossovers and other DSP-controlled audio parameters.
Connecting the pre-outs of the unit to my reference amps in my listening room, I’m happy to report the DEH-P8400BH performs admirably. It provides excellent sound quality and boasts a distinct lack of noise. The playback of any media sound great, with a lively response that covers the entire audio bandwidth. Bass sounds full and warm while the top end has great definition and clarity. Frequency response manipulation via the built-in EQ curves (or your own customized levels) works well, as does the built-in high and low pass crossovers. Radio reception is very good and control over my iPod is fast and easy.
PERFORMANCE / BENCH MEASUREMENTS
In typical Pioneer fashion, the DEH-P8400BH exceeds its published specifications for amplifier power. RCA preamp output impedance is nice and low at 68 ohms, and the response of the RCA outputs is perfectly flat when measured using the Aux input. Stereo separation is excellent and the Pioneer HD Radio tuner works exceptionally well on both regular and HD Radio stations.
My gripe is minor and concerns the CD mechanism’s frequency response. Using a CD as the source, I was surprised to see a bit of boost in the response curve of both the lower and upper registers during my testing. I triple checked that the EQ’s were all set flat and the loudness turned off – everything should have been flat, but it wasn’t the case when the CD transport was the source. I wouldn’t be overly concerned though as it still sounds fine when playing a CD. Does anyone even play CDs in their cars anymore?
If you’re looking for a high quality, good sounding head unit with all of today’s modern necessities and conveniences – plus the added benefit of a virtual DJ living inside of it – the Pioneer DEH-P8400BH is worth checking out. It sounds good, is easy to use, and with all the included features, is a relative performance bargain at the $190 price point.