Review of Head Unit:
DISCLAIMER...This review will be based towards a new buyer with a snippet on the install. This was my first HU install so I want to give this from that perspective.
Just received my 8400 from Crutchfield yesterday. Got it as an Open Box item and saved myself about 100 bucks even figuring the harness adapter I needed for my 2006 Passat ($130 WTF?...got it for 65 because I ordered the HU). Was pleasantly surprised to find some of the cables in the wiring harness had printed labels on them; took out a lot of guesswork when wiring it to the harness adapter. Big ups to Pioneer for this one considering this was my first install. Current configuration of my Passat is all stock.
Pack-ins are fairly impressive. The box comes with a trim plate, wiring harness, mounting screws, a neoprene case for the faceplate when removed, microphone with sun visor clip, and separate manuals for English, French, and Spanish. If I have one gripe, I would ask the manuals to be larger since we all don't have 20/20 vision.
As far as connections go, the rear plate has 2 USB ports, SWC input, Rear-view camera input, proprietary video-in (used for adding Nav or for use with an iPhone with Advanced App Mode), BT mic input, Sirius module input, dual zone video out, and 3 sets of 4V RCAs. Below are a couple pictures from the unboxing and harness wiring:
Unboxed and still in wrapping
Harness a few wires in
Completed harness including Microbypass (tucked into green wire bundle)
INSTALL (Skip forward if you don't care about install details)
I'll start by saying intallation was fairly straightforward. Everything powered on the first try and with no complications. Make sure you pre-plan and measure fittings to make sure the plug for the call microphone will fit where you intend. Many of the little nooks and crannies I wanted to tuck mine through simply wouldn't fit, so I had to feed it through the steering column. I'm going to be putting it under the arch of my dash but need stronger double-sided tape first. Right now it's just wedged in the steering column and locked in place. iPhone and USB cables are routed to the glove box and from there up the center pillar to a ProFit mount to the right of the HU. I'll upload more pics later, but it's getting dark and all I have is my iPhone camera right now.
First impressions are extremely good with the 8400. Power on time is about as short as it was with the stock HU and controls are simple enough. You can make things simpler by simply using the included remote instead of the touch screen if that is your preference. Menus are easy to navigate and the only lag I noticed was when switching in and out of Advanced App Mode or navigating folders on the iPod. I was pleased with the fact I could search by letter instead of having to endlessly scroll. Album art loaded quickly and was displayed clear enough to be legible. Even flat the SQ was a tremendous leap over stock (I chalk that up to the internal amplifier).
Now here's where things start to get hairy. The Auto EQ is VERY picky of its external environment. If you live on a busy street, good luck getting low end to come through when you run the Auto EQ. This is a setting best run in a quiet parking garage or off the main roads. To access this (in case you're having difficulty), you must hold PWR/SOURCE until the unit displays OFF, then press settings and you'll be able to select the Auto EQ. The manual states a proprietary mic is required to calibrate. I happened to have the exact model from my home amplifier so I didn't need to get another. You place the microphone over the driver's side headrest (where your ears would be), plug it in behind the faceplate (it will slide down automatically when you enable Auto EQ Adjustment) and press START on the screen. Now you conveniently get 10 seconds to GTFO of the car before your car starts blasting pink noise. Please do this. It's not worth premature hearing loss and the pink noise will be loud. 5-10 minutes later, the HU will tell you it's safe to come back inside, unplug the mic, and enjoy your system.
I was pleasantly surprised with the additional improvement in SQ as the sound stage was lifted much closer to ear level. Where I was previously able to hear way too much outside my car, even at moderate volume, I could no longer hear my wife and friend less than three feet away from the car. Across the frequency range I could hear new elements in music, from additional vocals on Knife Party's "Rage Valley" (Rage Valley EP) to punchier drums on QOTSA's "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" (Rated R) to timpani sections in Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite" (courtesy of the McIntosh test disc). This is a step I feel should not be neglected unless you intend to run your EQ off an external EQ or sound processor.
ADVANCED APP MODE
This was the swing vote between my decision of the lower-level Pioneer Double-DINs and the 8400. I heavily use navigation and other mobile-friendly apps while on the road and was very excited to discover these features in a sub-$1K non-nav HU. Here's the catch: if you run this HU as intended by Pioneer, you need to engage, disengage, then re-engage your parking brake before you can make any inputs to a nav app. I was able to circumvent this through the use of a parking brake bypass. I know there's a stigma behind these and they're supposed to be for display/show use, but I see little point in having access to my nav apps but no input while moving. If my passenger needs to input an address, then what? I have to pull over? No thanks. That being said, use of a bypass should NEVER be used as a means to display movies or games while driving.
Rant aside, through the use of a PB bypass and AppRadio Extensions (requires a jailbroken iDevice), I now have freedom of choice when it comes to nav apps *cough*iOS6 Maps*cough*. This would not be a possibility with a HU that came with pre-installed nav.
So far, I have managed to use a couple nav apps, two iDevices, a couple CDs, ran Auto EQ a few times, and played around with switching apps in AAM. I am very impressed with what I've seen so far on this unit and would confidently recommend it to buyers interested in a way to better integrate their iPhone to their driving experience or even those who have no intention of every owning one but are looking at a solid multi-media HU.
I will provide more feedback as I spend more time on the road with my 8400.
P.S. If you are an iPhone 5 owner, STEER CLEAR. I have not personally tested this, but from what I've heard the Lightning port for the new iPhones does not support any video out which means Advanced App Mode is useless. If you have more insight to this, please place it in this thread.