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Clarion CZ509 Product Review

by on Feb.20, 2010, under Radio

I am by no means an audiophile, but being able to listen to music from a source other than the radio is still a requirement for longer trips by vehicle.  I’ve been using a cassette adapter in my car, connecting it to whatever the audio source of choice has been:  laptop, Axim, G1 and sometimes even the Pro-95 scanner or HTX-202 radio.  My truck presented an obstacle to this in the form of a CD player.  I had no intention of trying an FM radio transmitter, so a new radio was needed.  So, really, the only requirement for the new radio was an external input.  To make things interesting, I focused my search on hardware supporting A2DP, which led me to the Clarion CZ509.

The install was straight forward and relatively painless.  The hardest part was getting the wiring connector detached from the factory radio.  I used the kit from Crutchfield since I wanted a no-hassle return option, mostly.  The USB connector is a cable emerging from the back of the radio, while the 1/8″ miniplug external input is on the faceplate.  It would have probably been more useful to have both on the back, or swapped.

The basic functions work as expected.  CD audio sounds fine.  AM radio reception seemed to have the same sensitivity as my factory radio, despite comments elsewhere on the web indicating problems with this.

The USB and CD are capable of playing back MP3 audio, of course, as well as the similarly encumbered WMA and AAC formats. Naturally, for ideological reasons, a decent amount of my audio is in Ogg Vorbis and FLAC formats, which this unit can’t play on its own.

Bluetooth audio sounds pretty good paired to my Android G1 running cyanogenmod, though it can be skippy at times which I blame on the G1s underwhelming RAM and CPU.  The G1 running cyanogenmod has the ability to play my Ogg Vorbis and FLAC media.  The menu interface for pairing the phone is incredibly unintuitive on the CZ509 – have the manual and patience handy when attempting.  The radio does have an auto-connect feature which should cause the CZ509 to connect to your Bluetooth device upon powerup, but I have never had this work.  I’m not sure which device is at fault for certain, but I suspect the CZ509 isn’t doing something right.  Fortunately with the help of a shortcut on the G1, manual connection is only a few screen presses away.  The Bluetooth playback only has play/pause/forward/back controls and has no song title text.  I’m guessing this means the CZ509 only supports AVRCP 1.0.  I’m not currently using the phone audio capability of the CZ509 – I’m not sure where the microphone would go.  Sometimes the G1 will not produce any audio despite an established connection which is readily solved with shutting down Bluetooth on the G1 and starting it back up.  I’ve not had this happen in the middle of a connection.  It would also really be nice if the headset volume controls and Bluetooth volume controls were stored separately in the G1 as I need it full-scale for A2DP and near the bottom for wired headphones.

I’m overall pleased with the purchase.  I certainly could have gotten a more featureful or less expensive radio had it not been for the A2DP experimentation goal, but this radio should serve my needs.

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