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Old 02-06-2017   #1
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Arrow The High-End Head Unit Shootout

Some members expressed some interest in following along and reading the information and findings as we run through the high-end head unit shootout so I have started a thread here for it.

A little background...

I wanted to check out some of the highly regarded head units to see how they stack up against each other, and in an effort to select the one that I like the best for my personal vehicle. This is a difficult process though if you don't have the necessary units to compare side by side, so myself and a couple of friends have pooled together and we are going to each bring some of the high end units to the table and do a day of comparisons, listening and measuring of the source units.

Thus far, we have the following on the list:

Pioneer P99RS
Pioneer DEX-P9
McIntosh MX5000
Panasonic CQ-TX5500 Bottlehead
Denon DCT-1
Sony CDX-C90
Clarion DRZ-9255
Sony RSX-GS9

These are widely considered some of the very top car audio source units ever created. Yes, there are a couple that aren't on the list (Alpine 7909, F1 Status come to mind) but these are the ones we have been able to procure. Testing probably won't happen for a couple weeks but we're getting closer.

My intent is to do the following:

-Listening tests
-Measuring of output response for comparison
-Pictures


There are many of us on this site who enjoy reading subjective reviews for the fun and entertainment value as well as to hopefully give some things to think about. There are also plenty of us on the site who want to see objective data and don't give much weight to the subjective content. I'm hoping we can provide a little of both. I will state from the get-go however that your results may vary and I would encourage everyone to experiment, listen for yourselves and come to your own conclusions.


We will be using the analog output from each unit. We will use cd's as the source for listening testing and in the case of the Sony GS9 (which has no cd mechanism), I'll take the exact same music file source on the CD and put it on a usb stick to supply the Sony.

As for measurements, I'd like to feed signal into aux inputs and measure output with my software, but if that is not possible, then I will measure using a burned cd (and same file on the Sony GS9) to give a look at a comparative response. I'm a hobbyist and not professional- I'll do the best I can with the tools available.

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Old 02-06-2017   #2
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

if only Elite Car Audio was still around. I did a similar evaluation when I was in Japan
Denon DCT1, DCT A1N, DRX9255, Alpine 7909, Sony C90, Sound Monitor 5000x....on sound board using Luxman amp, Focal Utopia Speakers, Focal sub (i think)

Denon DCT1 won hands down

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Old 02-06-2017   #3
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

Dang it... Here's another reason I regret selling my F#1 7990 years ago.

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Old 02-06-2017   #4
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

Sounds like a good idea, curious if there will be a dsp downstream from the HU's, so that all units are tested on the same tune. I am really looking forward to your feedback on the subjective listening tests, while IMHO at the resolution we measure, I'd be very surprised if the measurements were significantly different across the units.

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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

This is the activity I'd like to see!
I'd say, forget the measurements, it's only listeners impressions that matter.
You need a good amount of expert listeners - no young people, no bass heads, etc.
Minimum of 20+ years of high-end audio listening is a requirement.
Most important would be to set the volume using SPL meter and pink noise recording.
If one of the decks is ever so slightly louder, it will win the test.
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Old 02-06-2017   #6
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

Quote:
Originally Posted by sqnut View Post
Sounds like a good idea, curious if there will be a dsp downstream from the HU's, so that all units are tested on the same tune. I am really looking forward to your feedback on the subjective listening tests, while IMHO at the resolution we measure, I'd be very surprised if the measurements were significantly different across the units.

Yes, since my demo board has a mix of speakers currently being tested I will use a Helix DSP Pro for crossover duties. I could go direct to a pair of home speakers, but currently the best thing I have available is a set of Alesis mkII studio monitors in somewhat rough shape and my Speakercraft in-wall Profile Aim Cinema speakers.

Demoing will be done through the following board setup: Scanspeak 10", Scanspeak 4" 12M revelator mid and Scanspeak 7100 revelator tweeter. (Unless I come up with another solution by then)

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Old 02-06-2017   #7
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mic10is View Post
if only Elite Car Audio was still around. I did a similar evaluation when I was in Japan
Denon DCT1, DCT A1N, DRX9255, Alpine 7909, Sony C90, Sound Monitor 5000x....on sound board using Luxman amp, Focal Utopia Speakers, Focal sub (i think)

Denon DCT1 won hands down

Sounds like it was a fun test

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Old 02-06-2017   #8
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

Quote:
Originally Posted by jackies View Post
This is the activity I'd like to see!
I'd say, forget the measurements, it's only listeners impressions that matter.
You need a good amount of expert listeners - no young people, no bass heads, etc.
Minimum of 20+ years of high-end audio listening is a requirement.
Most important would be to set the volume using SPL meter and pink noise recording.
If one of the decks is ever so slightly louder, it will win the test.

All sources will be level matched for accuracy. As I said in the original post, we're aiming to have both objective and subjective info. Listening impressions are great, and fun- and entertaining to read...but we all hear things differently and have different preferences for our ideal sound. That's why I encourage others to listen for themselves and draw their own conclusions (and why I like to provide some semblance of objective data when possible).

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Old 02-06-2017   #9
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

Thanks for this Steve! I'll keep my eyes on this

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Old 02-06-2017   #10
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

in for this

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Old 02-06-2017   #11
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

Quote:
Originally Posted by captainobvious View Post
Yes, since my demo board has a mix of speakers currently being tested I will use a Helix DSP Pro for crossover duties. I could go direct to a pair of home speakers, but currently the best thing I have available is a set of Alesis mkII studio monitors in somewhat rough shape and my Speakercraft in-wall Profile Aim Cinema speakers.

Demoing will be done through the following board setup: Scanspeak 10", Scanspeak 4" 12M revelator mid and Scanspeak 7100 revelator tweeter. (Unless I come up with another solution by then)
Thanks for clearing that up. Well if someone you know is good at cabinet building, those drivers would make an awesome floor stander.

I'm also really curious about your subjective opinion on the Panny bottle head. I assume like your amp test, those auditioning, don't get to see which unit is playing. GL sounds like a lot of fun.

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Old 02-06-2017   #12
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

Quote:
Originally Posted by sqnut View Post
Thanks for clearing that up. Well if someone you know is good at cabinet building, those drivers would make an awesome floor stander.

I'm also really curious about your subjective opinion on the Panny bottle head. I assume like your amp test, those auditioning, don't get to see which unit is playing. GL sounds like a lot of fun.

You're welcome to drop on over and participate

Yeah, I was thinking of building a nice reference setup with some of the excellent drivers I have available here.I could definitely do it...just a matter of the time involved which is in high demand and low supply right now with my other projects and the donation build I'm working on.

I have a bunch of speakers on the test board from midbasses 8-10", to midranges, tweeters, planars, ribbons...all kinds of cool stuff. I've actually been really impressed with the Fountek Neo X2.0 ribbons which I didn't anticipate I'd like so much (I've had ribbons before and enjoyed them, but these are sweet). I also will have some others coming in the next couple weeks including the new Satori tweeter and some Mundorf AMT's as well as another pair of mids. Fun times!

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Old 02-06-2017   #13
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

I'm in for the read

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Old 02-06-2017   #14
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

when is this going on? im not TOO far. maybe i can participate

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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

This looks interesting. I would have like to have seen an Eclipse CD8053 in the mix, as well.
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Old 02-06-2017   #16
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

Hah, I would like to have seen a couple others as well. Sourcing these isn't easy or cheap though.

If someone wants to ship one my way I'll throw it in the mix.

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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

Quote:
Originally Posted by SkizeR View Post
when is this going on? im not TOO far. maybe i can participate
I'll reach out once we have a date Nick. My little demo room isn't very big (I have my acoustic drum kit in there too) but I'm sure we can squeeze you in there

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Old 02-06-2017   #18
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

Quote:
Originally Posted by captainobvious View Post
I'll reach out once we have a date Nick. My little demo room isn't very big (I have my acoustic drum kit in there too) but I'm sure we can squeeze you in there
Cool, I also have a panny tube deck with an upgraded tube if you want to try that as well

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Old 02-06-2017   #19
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

Hmm would be interesting to compare it to the one I have with a stock tube.

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Old 02-06-2017   #20
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

^^^ Fortunately Steve both you and Nick weigh about a minute lol, so I'm sure you'll both fit in that room. Glad to see if you two get together as I have crazy respect for both of your opinions.

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Old 02-06-2017   #21
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

I think I have a couple ell bee's on Nick at 6'2 195 hahaha.

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Old 02-06-2017   #22
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

either way, im down to come by so long as im around. 15-23rd im away, and weekend of the 4th im away

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Old 02-06-2017   #23
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

Lol, it's the volleyball player in yaa coming out. Thumbs up.

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Old 02-06-2017   #24
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

I can offer an mx5000 to the mix.... lmk

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Old 02-06-2017   #25
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Default Re: The High-End Head Unit Shootout

Here's what a test like should look like, in my opinion.

The tester should choose 3-4 target curves and use each head unit to see how closely they can replicate those curves.

What's going to happen (again) is that the objective tests will show one head unit has a earlier roll off, more bottom end, etc. and people are going to think that they should by one or the other because they like a "bright" or "warm" sound, when in reality a couple clicks on the EQ could make them sound and measure identical. What difference does it make if each one is slightly different out of the box, but each can be easily tuned to any type of sound?

People have already shown how clean the signal is on some of these units, a slightly different FR on some of them isn't going to matter one bit, assuming it has the tuning abilities to match a target curve. In the case of some of the units without DSP, measure the signal and be done. It doesn't tell you much except whether or not if clips, and the FR without processing.

I think these tests are fun, and I give you props for doing it, but I still don't think it's going to provide anything particularly useful that hasn't already been provided.

2005 Subaru Impreza RS:
Pioneer P99RS / Alpine PDX-V9 and PDX-F4 / Melodic Acoustic Euphoria 6.5 / Pioneer Stage 4 midrange / LPG / 2x AE SBP 15
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