You can hear the difference: how expensive car radios differ from cheap ones

There are a huge number of models on the car radio market. They differ in appearance, cost, functionality and “stuffing”. It is often difficult for a buyer to immediately determine the right model. When choosing between expensive and cheap, the question always arises: “Do I need all the functionality of an expensive radio tape recorder? Maybe it’s better to save money? ” In this article, we will look at the main differences between expensive and cheap radio tape recorders and see if it is worth overpaying for a premium model.

Types of radio tape recorders
Radio tape recorders are divided into only two types – 1 DIN and 2 DIN. The difference is, first of all, in dimensions: the first type has compact dimensions, the second is very impressive.

2 DIN radios usually have a large display. It allows you to play videos, display the image from the rear camera of the car, and so on. It is clear that models with such “bells and whistles” cost more by default. To understand what the price of a radio tape recorder is based on, consider two seemingly similar models of type 1 DIN: Pioneer MVH-S120UB and Pioneer MVH-S520BT. The devices are in completely different price points.

The standard Pioneer MVH-S120UB kit includes the radio tape recorder itself, a power cable (ISO connector), a cover for the panel, manuals and a set of mounts.

The more expensive model Pioneer MVH-S520BT has a little more equipment: a microphone has been added to it.

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Assembly and appearance
The more budget model MVH-S120UB is equipped with a monochrome display. The body is made of black plastic. The buttons and volume wheel are supplemented with red illumination. There are no complaints about the build quality. This is noted in customer reviews and video reviews.

On the front panel of the radio there is a USB input under a protective cover and an AUX connector. The functional buttons include the following: a button to turn the subwoofer on and off, a button to open the equalizer menu, buttons to switch tracks, a button to turn off the radio and select a sound source, a button to remove the panel.

The case of the more expensive model MVH-S520BT is made of glossy plastic. The build quality is not satisfactory. The radio has a multicolor display.

The main panel, like the MVH-S120UB, has USB and AUX inputs. But there are more functional buttons in this model: a call acceptance button, a button to open the navigator on the phone, a button to turn on the Mixtrax function, a button to remove the panel, a button to turn on / off the radio and select a sound source, a button to scroll through tracks.

The back of the radio
The Pioneer MVH-S120UB has the following connectors on the rear panel connection: Pioneer MVH-S520BT has more connection connectors:

Functions and settings of the radio
The Pioneer MVH-S120UB has a wide range of functions for almost any task. The radio tape recorder supports Android devices: it can be controlled using a smartphone. There is a five-band equalizer here. Support for a subwoofer is also implemented, including tuning (cut from the top at audio frequencies from 50 to 200 Hz, cutoff slope – 12 or 24 dB per octave).

In addition, the MVH-S120UB has a built-in audio amplifier with four 50W channels. Connecting speakers to the built-in amplifier and setting them up is supported.

From the audio enhancement software, the following settings are present: “Dynamic Bass”, “Loudness”, “Balance”, “Bass Boost”.

The radio tape recorder supports playback of music files of the following formats: MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, WAV.

But the Pioneer MVH-S520BT has a sound processor. This provides a number of notable advantages over the budget model. The radio tape recorder supports two modes of operation: standard and network (per channel).

Standard is set in the same way as the Pioneer MVH-S120UB. Network mode supports bottom, top speaker setup as well as subwoofer setup. So each driver will play a different frequency range. Parameters can be selected via the official Pioneer Smart Sync app. This makes the setup process much easier.

Also in this model it is possible to adjust time delays – sound delays, at which an even acoustic stage is set in the car. Also Pioneer MVH-S520BT has an extended 13-band equalizer. It allows you to equalize the errors in the amplitude-frequency characteristics.

Pioneer MVH-S520BT has a built-in sound amplifier: four channels of 50 watts each. The audio enhancement functions include: “Balance”, “Signal Level”, “Loudness”, “Dynamic Bass”, “Bass Boost”, SLA. The radio tape recorder supports playback of music files of the following formats: MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, WAV. There is built-in Bluetooth on board.

The Pioneer MVH-S120UB does not change the backlight color – only the brightness is adjusted. In addition, it is possible to set a “dimmer” – automatic brightness control at a certain time of the day. The base radio has a black and red version, and the display color is standard white. However, there are other design variations as well. You can determine the color version of the radio by the last letter of the model number: UB – red, UBG – green, UBW – white, UBA – orange.

The more expensive MVH-S520BT can change the backlight color via the settings menu. That’s not all: you can set different colors for the buttons and the display. Of course, the device can change the brightness and supports a “dimmer”.

With a detailed analysis of the parameters, it becomes clear what the motorist pays for when buying an expensive radio tape recorder. Devices like the Pioneer MVH-S520BT are needed by really demanding users. They can set specialized settings for an advanced car audio system. Time delays, a subtle equalizer, an external microphone, built-in Bluetooth, powerful “stuffing” – you will have to pay for these functions.

In the cheap segment, the radio is much easier. They do not have fine tuning, despite the rather extensive functionality.

In addition to Pioneer, there are tons of other car radio manufacturers on the market. For example, Alpine, JVC, Prology, Digma, KENWOOD, Sony. Recently, the Aura company entered the market, which gained popularity due to the release of inexpensive and high-quality radio tape recorders. Here are some of the models that have received many good reviews from users.

After choosing a car radio, the next step is to install and connect it. It only takes a little dexterity and knowledge of the car’s circuitry. You can also familiarize yourself with detailed guides for connecting and setting up a car radio.