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Clarion CZ302 Head Unit

If you are an iPod/iPhone user in the market for a single DIN headunit that is fully compatible with your device and loaded with great features like Pandora, Bluetooth, and iTunes tagging, the $199.99 Clarion CZ302 might be for you.

Features

The Clarion CZ302 is designed for drivers who need to make hands free phone calls and music access on their iPod or iPhone. The unit features Bluetooth and a built in microphone in the faceplate, and has connectivity for vehicles that require an optional external microphone. The CZ302 can stream music wirelessly via Bluetooth and pair up to three devices at a time.

With the Pandora app on your iPhone or iTouch device, you also have the ability to bring your Pandora stations with you, and also supports iTunes tagging from the optional Sirius/XM tuner.

Other features include front and rear/sub RCA outputs, front mounted USB port for Apple devices or a standard USB thumbdrive, a separate 3.5 mm Auxiliary input, a built in four channel amplifier rated at 19 watts, and a high mass aluminum heatsink on the back of the chassis.

On the control side of things, the Clarion CZ302 comes with a three band parametric EQ with three different filter Q settings. There are high and low pass crossovers as well, and the rear RCA outputs can be set to provide dedicated subwoofer output signal, with independently adjustable output level and phase control. Another DSP powered function called Magna Bass EX automatically boosts low frequencies to compensate for road noise.

Controls and Functions

The CZ302 is very easy to use which speaks to the intuitive design of the controls and functions. The two line, nine character, negative image (white on black background) LCD is easy to read, and the rotary volume knob and large buttons make the controls easy to use even while wearing gloves. The front faceplate is removable for added security. If you have steering wheel mounted controls, the CZ302 has a connection for the optional interface module that allows you to retain them.

At this price point, I expected to have an RDS enabled tuner, but that is one feature that the Clarion lacks. However, it does come with a nicely made infra-red remote control. A feature called simple control allows you to use the iPod’s controls instead of the CZ302’s if that’s what you prefer. I found this to be a handy feature for passengers who want to play DJ on the drive.

Clarion CZ302 Head Unit

Listening

From a sonic perspective, there was very little to complain about with the CZ302. The internal amplifier sounds very good, and the RCA outputs provided a reasonably flat frequency response and adequate drive for my power amps. The system sounds open and natural from the CD source, and my iPod and USB sources also sounded very good. Clarion has long been known for building a good tuner, and I had no complaints with the reception or sound of this one. The iPod interface is fast and easy to use, and the display lets you know what track you’re listening to, but doesn’t provide as much information as I would have liked. I found the parametric EQ to be much more useful than your typical Bass/Treble controls, but the three preselected EQ curves to be less pleasing - I much preferred to do the tuning myself.

On the Bench

Moving from the listening room into the electronics lab, the Clarion unit was put through its paces and provided predictably good results. Frequency response, stereo separation, and signal to noise all measured quite well, and the output impedance was also better than I’ve seen from Clarion in a while, at 155 ohms.

4 Ohm PWR Max Flat Amp Max Flat RCA Xover

Measured Specifications

Amplifier

CEA-2006A Power per channel (all channels driven, @ 4 ohms)……     18.2W        

A Wtd S/N Ratio (ref to 2V/1W @ 4 ohms) output …………………………      -80.9dBA

THD+N @ 2V/1W @ 4 ohms 1kHz …………………………………………………..      0.1%

Frequency Response (-3.0dB) ………………………………………………… better than 20 - 20kHz

Preamp Section

Max Usable Output Voltage ……………………………………………………………..      2.3Vrms

A Wtd S/N Ratio ref to full output voltage……………………………………….       -85.7dBA

Output Impedance ……………………………………………………………………………       155 ohms

Frequency Response (-3.0dB) ……………………………………………… better than 20 - 20kHz

Conclusion

The Clarion CZ302 sounds very good, and brings the convenience and safety of Bluetooth functionality to your system. And if you’re an iPhone/iPod user, you’ll appreciate the ability of having your entire music collection at your fingertips. And for the times you just want to listen to music without having to do the selecting, the Pandora compatibility lets the music flow while you focus on the driving. I really like the CZ302, although a couple of times I did find myself wishing for a bit more info on the display. On the upside, what is there is easy to read and the unit is very pleasant to use. You can’t really ask for much more than that, especially at under 200 bucks. To check out the CZ302 and all the Clarion gear for yourself, visit www.clarion.com.

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