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Natural ability.
 
Given that Philips launched the Compact Disc in partnership with Sony, and the DVD alongside Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba, you might consider the company to have a good insight into what an in-vehicle Multimedia Head Unit should be. Over the years, of course, the Philips brand has become spread across multiple owners — its TVs today come from TP Vision, for example, while the Philips record label is part of Unversal Music.
 
The incar audio division is, with the rest of Philips audio, part of Gibson Innovations (formerly WOOX), and the level of quality achieved is evident from the moment you unpack the Philips CED1910BT. It’s a nicely simple design, with a clean and elegant fascia dominated by a 6.2-inch WVGA-resolution display (800 x 480 pixels), which doubles as a touch panel. There’s no flip-down/flip-up action on the fascia; Philips has chosen a fixed fascia with the CD slot located above the screen. Given the common connections at the rear of the unit, and slots either side of the fascia for SD card and USB, there’s no real need for the screen to move; there’s still plenty of space for control buttons vertically on both sides. Like we said, neat and clean. A comprehensive little remote control is included, of the credit-card type. It provides the most commonly used functions and operates instantly and easily.
 
The complete package contains almost everything needed for install, along with comprehensive operating and installation instructions which are, unusually, supplied in a printed manual — refreshing in these days when we so often have to refer to a disc or a download. A printed manual is a lot easy when you’re getting down and dirty behind the dash!
 
Multiformat entertainment
In addition to standard CDs and DVDs, the disc drive here can also handle discs of MP3s, and can play DivX and DivXVOD formats too (don’t be playing video when your vehicle is moving, of course!). You can load MP3s onto a USB stick if you like, or plug in your smart device to charge and play.
 
Many will prefer to use the Bluetooth connectio, and the CED1910BT paired quickly and easily with an iPhone 5 and even with a moderately elderly iPod used in these tests. Changing between the Bluetooth sources was instant, along with reconnection when returning from out of range, something that many units don’t do so well. The Philips recognised when a previously paired device came back into range and immediately locked onto the signal. Bluetooth range proved an excellent eight metres, if not more. 
 
There’s a rear lead for video camera input, and video outputs for rear screens, along with reversing camera, external microphone and GPS antenna. A full set of line-out connections means external amplifiers and active subs for system extension are all catered for. 
 
Smart-phone connections allow integration with your phone book, along with call answering and dialling via the touch-screen. Incidentally, the touch-screen itself is one of the more responsive offerings I’ve come across — sensitive without being overly so, plus the app icons are large and legible and the operation is ‘definite’. Where some brands seem to have a very wide touch area for each app, which can lead to hitting the wrong icon at times from the driving position, not so the CED1910BT, where the screen operations weree a pleasure to use. Navigation is available via a Map Data card that must be purchased separately (see the price differences) and inserted in a slot in the front to initialise the Navigation feature.
 
Listen to the music
The Philips CED1910BT offers the user the option of eight pre-set equaliser options for tailoring the sound, or the playback can be tuned by the user via on-screen adjustments for Bass, Middle and Treble, as well as level controls for individual sectors of the vehicle. Philips Zone Technology means listening levels can be adjusted to suit driver or passenger areas as required.
 
At first listen, the Philips seemed a little flat-sounding — nothing drew particular attention as deficient, but the ‘wow’ factor was somewhat absent, so that Gorillaz’ Feel Good Inc emerged nice enough, but not as immediately inviting as some units around this price. But this proved one of those systems which, in fact, does it right for longer-term listening. Once some time had been spent with the system, it became clear that the CED1910BT is one of those rare audio devices that reproduces a natural sound — nothing over-emphasised, and nothing missing either. For a reviewer facing multiple sound systems, or for a consumer auditioning several systems, it can be easy to neglect the value of this kind of sound balance. Don’t skip over it. Longterm listening is rewarded with the realisation that a lot of attention has been paid to the quality of the sound here. Naturalness is the order of the day. Rhythm and pace are important in any musical event and are often blurred or missing in the motor vehicle environment. Not so here! 
 
A great example to demonstrate this exactly was Green Day’s 2017 album ‘Revolution Radio’. Track 2, Bang Bang, features some heavy drum work by Tre Cool, and many systems reduce this to a ‘one note’ rumble. The CED1910BT had enough sheer punch and definition to allow the listener to hear exactly what was going on, retaining the pace and timing to get the most out of this track. While it might sound laid-back, nothing was dulled-down, everything was in its correct place, completely balanced and natural. You’ll thank yourself for selecting such a sound balance  over truly longterm, enjoyable listening.
 
Indeed I rarely found it necessary to engage the various additional sound options — the Philips sports Max Sound Boost and Dynamic Bass Boost, but as is often the case, playing tunes cleanly was, well, cleaner. CD was a clear winner in terms of clarity and articulation over iPhone and iPod via Bluetooth — it’s worth noting that the Bluetooth is limited to Philips’ own SBC codec, without the higher AAC or licensed aptX codecs, so a direct connection of your device via USB may deliver the best sound, along with all the convenience and speed of digital storage media. 
 
And in the end
The Philips CED1910BT is clearly a mature product in a market segment striving to offer something new to differentiate each model from the next. It has all the convenience 
and connectivity, and most of the bells and whistles to compete, including navigation as an option (see pricing for the extra). But I found these features were not what made it stand out from the crowd — after spending time with the Philips, it was the unit’s ability to simply ‘get out of the way’ and not draw attention to itself, leaving the listener to enjoy the music. That’s the thing we liked most about the CED1910BT.  
 
Philips CED1910BT multimedia head unit 
Price: $599 nav ready; $799 nav equipped
+ Gets out of the way & lets the music through
+ Plenty of connection options
- Sounds laidback at first – but give it time!
 
Type: 2-DIN multimedia head unit
Display: 6.2-inch WVGA touch panel
inputs: CD/DVD slot, USB, SD/SDHC card, microSD for navigation; Bluetooth audio and hands-free; external mike, antenna, GPS antenna, rear-view camera, composite AV in, remote in, Smart Connect
Outputs: speakers out, preamp out, sub out, 2 x video out
 
Contact: DLG International for your nearest Australian dealer on +64 9571 3375