The Pit

Pioneer Leads The Car Audio Game With Unparalleled Connectivity

BY Joel Tam

It's been about 2 weeks since I've had the Pioneer AVH-X8550BT multimedia receiver in my car, and all I can say is that it's a pretty amazing piece of kit.

Music plays a large part of my life. Simply put, I can't live without it. Whether I'm cleaning up the house, working on my photos, or driving in my car, I need music. So when the head unit on my Skoda Octavia Combi started to act up, I was immediately on the lookout for a replacement.

Not new to Pioneer car audio products (my STI had one), I started researching on their latest offerings. The AVH-X8550BT multimedia receiver came up, and I was in talks with the good folks at Pioneer to have one installed in my ride.

I had been putting up with a mediocre single-DIN unit from another brand for the past 4 years, the sound quality my old unit produce was rather poor, but I never saw the need to change it. Unbeknownst to me, I was living in 'the land of poor sound' all these time. More on that later. First up, let me tell you about a few goodies this sweet system has.


The AVH-X8550BT is Pioneer's top-of-the-line system. It's a double DIN multimedia receiver that has a full touch screen 7-inch panel. It features a VGA display with LED backlighting for a sharp and bright playback. Like most modern systems, it plays a wide range of media formats and more! The list includes DVD, DVD-R/RW, CD-R/RW, MP3, WMA, AAC (iTunes®), DivX® and Dolby® Digital Decoder.

But the real clincher for this unit is its connectivity. It offers full capabilities for hooking up with your iPhone (even the latest iPhone5 which I'm using), and up to 40 Android smartphones from major brands like HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung and Sony Ericsson. With my iPhone, I'm able to connect directly via a HDMI cable and run apps developed by Pioneer directly on the head unit! These include music, media and navigation apps - which I will elaborate on in my next review article.

For now, I am enjoying the new found power that the AVH-X8550BT is producing. With no change to my speakers at all, the MOSFET 50W x 4 channel built-in amp is improving the sound quality by leaps and bounds. Music never sounded so good in this car before! Coupled with a cool Auto EQ feature, I can tune the sound to my preferred taste just by tapping on the screen, or simply pressing it in a wave motion from one end to another of the frequency range - so cool!

I still need to shop for my lightning connector cable before I can start playing around with the iPhone connectivity features (at the time of this article's release, I'm happy to announce that I've got it in my glove compartment!), so in the meantime, I'm using the bluetooth function to playback music in my iPhone. The connection is seamless and music playback quality is crystal clear with no distortion whatsoever. Well, except for one instance when I ran another playlist, there were some pauses after every few seconds during the song, but a quick reconnection established the seamless playback once again. The only other hiccup occurs when both me and my wife's phones have our bluetooth running, the system can't seem to decide which to play. Perhaps a function that will 'pop up' a menu for the driver to decide which phone to connect with might be useful.

Other than that, I'm honestly loving the new unit. I'm even enjoying the clarity that the handsfree phone function provides. You can access your contacts, call list and call history on your phone via the screen. Incoming calls automatically mute the music volume and you can engage in your conversation with ease. More updates in two weeks time when I test the connectivity function as well as MIXTRAX - Pioneer's proprietary in-car DJ music mixing feature that promises to be a hoot! Stay tuned (pun intended)!