View Full Version : ALPINE CDA-9851 REVIEW + IPOD controll unit

03-09-2005, 03:17 AM
Bought today, 280 dollars at best buy, ebay ???? $

Install, the unit is designed nicely and all the cableing is straight forward. Alpine includes on it's wire harness a line for cell phone mute and some pink line which I have never seen before. Their wire harness was semi easy to wire, red, yellow, black, blue with white stripe is remote on, and illum. For amp setup. There are 3 2v outputs, FR, Rear, and SUB. which are all on the left side of the rear, away from the wire harness, the antenna is easy to connect and the AI-Net connector is exactly like the JVC cd changer connector type. This unit is nice because it has a connector for a module which will allow you to turn your existing steering wheel volume controls to control the unit. There is a strange switch on the bottom for an EQ setup which should be left on NORMAL, for normal opertaion, no EQ in setup. If you are going to use a iPod 420 thing this should be on normal or else the volume control in ipod mode will not change the vol.

The bezel didn't fit in my 99 galant so just used bare. The face is very nice, looks professional and surprised my at first on it's design. I have never owned a Alpine product so the controls were very cryptric and the learning curve was quite high as far as how to navigate the menus and set the thing up.

FM - this unit is really nice because it has 3 settings on tuning in FM. Plus it's FM reception thing I think is like 9.3, lower the better and I could tell reception was markedly improved compared to my JVC KD-SH77. Pressing the play/pause button in the upper left corner of the face activates three different fm tuning modes

DX - for tuning in distant and weak signals
LO for local tuning
and manual for step by step incremental tuning

you can hold down some button and it will auto program six cannels dpending on the mode above into the six banks. FM 1 has 6, 2, 6, and AM 6 = 18

My JVC had 3 FM, 1 AM so less on Alpine

The fm recpetion is good and you can even name the stations and in the future scroll the names and select your tunes. THis unit does not have RDS.

CD - cd was straight forward, 5-20k, 102 or maybe 96 db response. 1 bit dac I think

All the sources, have the option of using this "BBE" sound enhancement which I didn't have all that much time to discover. It seems like a glorified loudness button but is nice becuase you don't have to up the gain on the amp to hear more. At 2v my amp was set at near 1/4 gain and at 30/35 max vol it was near 90 db and was loud.

The ringing in my ears started then around 30 and you would not want to ride above that for extended periods. My amp is a kicker 550.3 KX series.

CD and FM and MP3 CD is all this thing does out of the box. Since I have an iPod I didn't review the mp3 cd functions and I don't know if the unit will play AAC encoded music it may just be WMA and MP3. Also the **** format for playing MP3 I assume would be specific to a standar so the deck will actually read the thing.

iPod use. The ICSA-420 or what ever is really really easy to install. It maybe took me 10 min at max. You sick in the AI cable to the headunit upside down style, connect it to a medium sized box and then connect a cable which has an iPod connector on one end and looking like a HDI-30 connector but 1/2 the size. Old apple powerbook users will know what I'm talking about, that connects nicely seating to the box and that's it. MAKE SURE THE SWITCH ON THE BOTTOM OF THE HEAD UNIT IS SET TO NORMAL AND NOT DS/EQ OR WHATVER OR VOL WILL NOT WORK.

So getting used to how to look for music with the rotary encoder and the button interface is frustrating, took me about 1/2 hours to master and is slow. But, it is really cool and works and doesn't bug out and freeze or anything. There are three ways to look for music on your ipod,




Once you are in say Playlist mode you use the rotary encoder to scroll through playlist names. You can hit the encoder and it will start playing song 1 on that pl or hit the "window button" again WITHOUT hitting the enter on the rotary button and that will drill down your search to song level.

This feature works for all search schemes. So say you have 20 beatles albums. You hit window button, and select view by artist, let the system catch up (yes it cathces up) and then rotate the knob to beatles, hit hte window button again, see all the albums, hit the window button again and see songs in album, rotary to that song, rotary enter. You're set. If you want to play your entire library shuffled you are limited to so many number of artists and what not, 512 or something.

Basically the bottom line is this. If you have a giant iPod and a shitload of music the iPod interface will be TOO SLOW to scroll through all your artists and find song x. What they should of done is mapped the 1-6 keys as markers in the alphabet and used those to warp you to certain letters. I have 32 artists in my iPod mini and it's about 1 gig of music. Scrolling this was pretty easy but the system does burp every now and then and the controll over acheiveing an even scroll to the desired target is dependent on the servo in the rotary knob which is sub par in my opinion.

This may be an Alpine thing.

The display on the unit is nice. It's simliar to the CDA-9831 but without Bass Engine Pro, this unit has Bass Engine and you get a really really basic EQ setup, by selecting frequency "emphasis" at really broad eq settings, I think there are 4 for bass and x, may be 5 or so for trebble to setup your eq curve. The eq settings are not for jazz, etc, and are one setup gets you 1 profile for all your music. I've been up for about a day now and am pretty sure this is how the thing works. I could not discover different sound eq settings.

I was considering the Panasonic CQ-C8401U or 7401U instead of this alpine but the draw of the interface (which is intuitive after use) and the ipod thing is what sold me, actually the 2v preouts are sometimes better than the 5 v which the panasonic has. I also considered the RFX-8420 with 8v preouts but the unit's outdated with no sat radio support.

I beleive that if you would like to operate the CDA-9851 with ipod and sat radio concurrently there are not enough AI ports on the unit itself and I don't know if the terk setup (not available for this unit yet) has a pass through like the sirius JVC J-Net pass through. Alpine makes a unit called the KCA-410C which would be necessary I believe to use this with the ipod and the same time. Ipod and Sat on 1 deck. Actually I just read on crutchfield that the KCA_410C is not compat with sat radio so I don't konw how you would use both on 1 systme. The terk web site does not list the new models as compatible with their TERK system (XM), that being the 9851, 53, and 55

The sirius SIR-ALP1 has a pass throught but it is not compait with ipod per the manual. I don't know on exp since I haven't gotten sat on the thing yet.

The iPod interface also has quick search so say you are in a pl or album you hold down qd for 2 seconds and it allows you to view the songs and scrool to one, hit enter and then play, instead of stepping through each track like a CD player

So is there anything intagebly special about this unit? Well, I think there is an inherent knowledge and wisdom it seems to the design of the menu, layout of buttons, and remote. Remote works well, comes with batteries and fits good in hand. The vol max at 35 will be interesting to fine tung. A setback is the eq customizability for different music types. A star is the ipod thing. We will have to wait for Terk and Sirius to catch up on their tuners I belive for these new units. The 9855 isn't even avail yet I beleive.

So, 280 clams, 200 on ebay just checked. I would recommend the unit. Another nice feature is bass 2, which adjusts the bass so when your vol is low, say at 3/35 or 4/35 it still hits like it's loud. Odd to discribe but my jvc cut out the bass/sub when vol was low so this is a big plus for me if i'm ever on the phone or what not, you still have perfect bass response. The BBE thing may be superior and will have to play with more . The adjustability of the sub is nice 1-15 units of variability and maybee even - but I had it at 10/15 and bass boost on amp at 1/2. The unit does not have a built in crossovver for your cutoff betwee sub and satellites so hope your amp has one.

Once the gain settings I nailed and the amp specs after some playing the unit sounded like nothing I had heard before. Great job apline with ipod interface and sound quality. LIke a cd, not a 24-bit burr brown but nice with BBe, a different and welcome sound.


03-09-2005, 03:34 AM
I need to add, the title button switched the view in Ipod mode between artist name, album title, and song name. I was not able to figure out how to get the unit to scroll through all three and then stop on the song name so if you are in shuffle and it's not a familiar song you would get, artist, album, song in that order at beg. of song. The thing just scrolls and scrolls and scrolls the same thing (text) over and over which is no prob. There is a scrool option 2 of them in setup and will have to play with because the MANUAL IS VAGUE as well as the setup menu. ANOTHER ODD THING. LIKE MANUAL WAS WRITTEN IN OTHER LANGUAGE AND THEN TRANSLATED AND "TELEPHONED" (WORDS LEFT OUT) to the english manual. That's why the learning curve was high for me to operate the unit because the instructions were like, ok, what???


03-09-2005, 01:37 PM
Thanks for the review. About the ipod interface, I brought this up in Ipodlounge.com, here's my old post:

Ok, more bad news... I sent Alpine an email regarding the 2005 head units and the 255/512 limitation. Here's what I got:

The 2005 decks will display the same limitations. The limitation is in the Ai-Net bus network so there are no available software upgrades to remedy the limitation.

:( If you wish to express your concern for an update to the Ai-Net network use this email:

[email protected]


Would it kill them to update their bus network to be more bandwidth friendly? Pioneer, Clarion, and even Kenwood are coming out with their own adapters. It would be sad to see that Alpine has the worst interface.

03-09-2005, 01:52 PM
thats the longest post ive ever seen. u didnt have to regurgitate half the facts on alpine's website ;) throw this in the review section too. thanx for the review.

03-09-2005, 02:13 PM
if i stay with my alpine what is this ipod limitation???

03-10-2005, 03:22 AM
It only sees a fraction of your songs. 255 artists and 512 songs max IIRC. Plus it is slow scrolling through the menus.

What I want to do is simply press random and get a truly random playlist of ALL my songs on my ipod. All preliminary information coming from Pioneer and Clarion says 100% compatiblity with the iPod. Clarion touts its setup is the best but Pioneer's search menu will be identical to the ipod's, which is handy.

06-22-2005, 05:01 PM
no built in crossover!? man. that pisses me off.

(yes old dead thread brought back on a negative thought)