The Pit

Sound Bites (Full Review) | Pioneer AVH-X8850BT & TS-D1730C

BY Joel Tam

It's been about two weeks since we fitted our Estima with a new Pioneer in-car entertainment system and it just keeps getting better.

We recently shared about how excited we were to have the latest Pioneer AVH-X8850BT flagship multimedia AV receiver installed on our Estima. Along with it also came a set of Pioneer's TS-D1730C component speaker package. You can read about that story here.

Well it's been two weeks since the system got installed and we've been enjoying song after song, YouTube video after video on the perfectly matched system. In this article, we aim to highlight some key features that make this setup the perfect entertainment companion for any car.

There are many things about the AVH-X8850BT that will put a smile on your face. But the main function that has made entertainment in the car so much more enjoyable now, is the integration between mobile phone and the in-car entertainment (ICE) system. It has never been this cohesive and easy to use - especially if you're an Apple user.

A simple setup with the AVH-X8850BT is all you need and every time you plug the phone in via a USB cable, the Apple CarPlay feature launches automatically. The interface is both clear and easy to use and if you've been on iTunes, it will immediately call up the last song/playlist you were listening to.

You can of course choose to change the songs on your phone before you set off on your journey, or you can use the 7-inch high touch sensitivity screen to do the selection. Once you're ready to drive, you'll even have the option to go hands-free!

With SIRI, you can also execute voice commands to make calls, use Maps, listen to music and access your phone's messages with just a word. SIRI can even read out and compose messages for you to send out! How cool is that? Over the weekend, we asked SIRI to recommend some eateries in Pasir Panjang while we were on the road. Though the recommendations were not to our taste, there was no denying the convenience and capabilities of this innovative hands-free function. The system also supports Google / Android Auto, but we've not managed to test that out fully.

Okay, so maybe you're not into all these apps and stuff, and perhaps all you need is some wireless integration? Well, the AVH-X8850BT (BT for Bluetooth) has Bluetooth connectivity that senses your phone each time it's within range and automatically plays music from your iTunes when you start up the car. Before Apple CarPlay, this was one function I truly appreciated and enjoyed with all my previous Pioneer systems.

At this point, I'd like to mention that the pairing of the AVH-X8850BT and the 17cm TS-D1730C speakers are a perfect match. The receiver boasts high-end audio components such as DSP and high-tolerance acoustic capacitors, while the speakers now use a newly developed, high-performance Twaron™ Aramid Fiber Cone and Elastic Polymer Surround. The right materials are important for these components because speakers are subject to 'audio abuse' (ever seen how a cone bounces and vibrates under high volume?).

The new Twaron® Aramid Fiber Cone and Elastic Polymer Surround replaces the kevlar material used in previous models. This offers stiffer dampening with quicker response. As a result, the speakers can deliver accurately detailed sound reproduction with a wider frequency range for deep and stronger bass. A pair of tweeters also come with the package, and are developed with ultra-lightweight Soft Dome Diaphragm to produce an 'open and smooth sound quality'. We do find the higher frequencies a little bright, but that is an issue easily solved by tapping on the customization of the AVH-X8850BT custom equalizer settings.

One thing you'll need to put up with though are the cables. As the AVH-X8850BT has various USB (and even a HDMI) ports, you'll need to plan where to have these installed. We had one USB port placed in the glove compartment, while the ones we use regularly were fixed on the right side, near our phone holder.

Aside from Apple CarPlay, you can run other smartphone apps, even browse the web, directly from your car dashboard with Pioneer's proprietary AppRadio Mode. For this, a few steps need to be made on the screen to switch the functions around. But once ready, the system will detect the use of the AV port and launch the apps related to the AppRadio Mode.

Once such app is the commonly used Waze traffic and navigation app that many Singaporeans rely on for 'live' traffic updates. With the maps now projected on the 7-inch screen, you no longer need to depend on your phone's small screen. The voice guidance will also play through the speakers loud and clear. Nice!

Feeling bored while waiting to pick up your spouse/partner/kids? Watch your favourite music YouTube videos via the system's Mirroring capabilities. Simply launch the YouTube app on your mobile phone and click on the fullscreen button to have it displayed on the receiver's screen.

In summary, the latest AVH-X8850BT really delivers a truly unparalleled driving experience. It produces both awesome sound and smart features that the modern user demands. High connectivity is so necessary these days and the Pioneer flagship model scores high in this. The speakers too, proved to be a strong partner in making the pair of Pioneer products a formidable combo. Needless to say, we're going to be enjoying our ICE for many years to come. We can't wait to test it on a long road trip up north soon! Stay tuned.

Pioneer's product lineup is varied and you will do well to visit this link to check out the range of multimedia receivers. For the speaker range, this page will tell you more about what's available out there to suit every budget. For the full offerings in Pioneer's list of products (from home entertainment to awesome clubbing DJ mixers!), visit their homepage here.