When Alpine introduced its first 8-inch face receiver a few years back most remained somewhat reticent, preferring instead to stick with the tried and tested standard DIN sized units rather than dealing with this titanic new development and the issues intrinsic to such girth. Alpine is no john-come-lately and indeed it cunningly predicted the units would be received with some apprehension therefore developing in parallel a whole stable of mounting hardware and dash surround plates. Alpine aptly called this system F.I.T, an acronym for Factory Integration Technology. The concept soon evolved to encompass receiver chassis’ boasting complete front end assemblies tailor made for specific vehicles, meeting with approval as people became accustomed to implementing these 8-inch elephants that’d remained in the corner hitherto.
As if this didn’t result in the bar being raised enough, Alpine has now pushed said bar into pole vaulting territory with the release of its latest monster; the X801D-U. Thanks to the fact it does all the same stuff as the other receivers of its class however it’s all within the confines of a single-DIN backend chassis! Brilliant.
Fundamentally the is an all-in-one commander type receiver combining audio, visual and navigation for your every entertainment requirement. As aforementioned this has all been squeezed into a single-DIN chassis, therefore as dictated by the laws of physics some things had to be omitted such as a disc mechanism. That said though Alpine hasn’t just left you in the lurch; it’s also developed the DVE-5300 which is an add-on disc player able to interface with units of this ilk, providing high resolution information seamlessly via HDMI interconnect. Now if the significance of the single-DIN chassis seems a little lost on you then I’ll hazard a guess you’re likely not the owner of ‘3’ series BMW, just to give one example of cars notorious for having a single-DIN chassis radio with a double-DIN face. This receiver is literally a game changer for such owners, as thus far a single-DIN flipper has been the only real remedy.
Seeing as I’ve described the face with all the subtleness of swatting a fly with a Buick, this would be the best place to start. Unpacking it from the standard blue and white Alpine packaging reveals an imposing sight to behold. She’s large. Real large, 43 percent larger than a standard 7-inch screen actually, with a usable screen dimension of 175mm x 105mm. The panel itself is an active matrix transparent thin film liquid crystal design that incorporates twisted nematic display technology, or TN for short. Put simply, TN displays contains liquid crystals that twist and untwist when a certain voltage is applied to them. Altering these properties impacts upon what light can pass through them, hence dictating what colour the crystal emanates. It’s backlit with super bright LEDs and resolution-wise the pixel count sits at 1152000 which equates to 480 x 800 or WVGA.
The unit provides for full colour customisation, allowing for both the buttons and the screen background colour and theme to be changed to suit your car’s internal environment. Naturally, being Alpine means it’s inherently finished with a very professional-looking piano black border with the primary button panel located at the bottom.
Information input is undertaken via a whole swag of methods. Starting with the most basic; the unit incorporates Alpine’s powerful radio tuner chip which offers 12 FM, six AM and six LW presets respectively. Supplementing this is a digital radio chipset which offers 18 storage slots within each of the DAB bands. On the rear reside additional media inputs starting with analogue audio visual plugs. From there you move into the digital domain via an iDevice-compatible high speed version 2.0 USB port able to accept not only audio but
also video files such as AVI, MP4 and MKV with H.264 video.
Immediately adjacent resides a HDMI input which also allows for high resolution infotainment to be plumbed in. Both PAL and NTSC are supported as are most software flavours including FLAC, provided it’s formatted within the standard FAT16 or FAT32 structure. Bluetooth-wise it’s equipped with the latest version 2.1 (+EDR) chipset which allows for seamless interactive telephony and streaming. Numerous phones can be paired and a sensitive external microphone is included meaning you’ll no longer need to scream like Jimmy Barnes in Working Class Man for the call recipient to hear you. Ancillary items like digital TV are but a connection away thanks to the optional TUE-T150DVA tuner, the unit is also plumbed for a reverse camera and there’s a steering wheel remote port.
Last but not least the unit can also connect to specific vehicles via its CAN UART interface. This essentially communicates to the vehicle in question via the CANBUS and allows for information such as climate settings and parking sensor feeds to be displayed on
With information on board, its exportation is performed with equivalent ease, starting with front, rear and subwoofer pre-outs for music, each able to output up to 4-volts. Audio visual on the other hand is output digitally via HDMI and this pertains primarily to feeding rear monitors when the receiver is being programmed for a dual zone environment. Should you chose not to run an aftermarket amplifier, the unit is equipped with a powerful internal 4-channel MOSFET amplifier which can happily push out over 20 watts all day, easily doubling that figure for sporadic bursts, all the while keeping total harmonic distortion at an acceptable level.
Turning our attention to the manipulation abilities; first and foremost the sound is shunted through a 24-Bit digital to analogue convertor before being sent on its way. Tuning wise first tier controls begin with the basics such as balance, fader, rear speaker controls in addition to subwoofer phase and level controls. Second tier abilities grow a little more complex and stem to include equalisation, crossover and time alignment. The equaliser features nine parametric bands with adjustable frequency centres and logarithm widths for each band, with a boost or attenuation ability of +/- 14dB. The crossover features a low-pass option for the subwoofer and high-pass for the satellite channels, with cross frequencies adjustable between 20Hz and 200Hz and slopes between 6dB and 24dB. There’s independent time alignment for each channel with a maximum range of 9.9ms or 336.6cm achievable, hinging on whether you prefer setting your delay via time or distance.
Also present are ancillary controls such as media expander, and the unit can operate in conjunction with Alpine’s TuneIt application. This crafty little app essentially allows you to access your tuning tools via your smartphone, all the while interfacing with Facebook for additional information which can be read aloud courtesy of its text-to-speech ability.
The navigation facet of the package utilises Primo 3.0 NextGen navigation software and includes specialist 4WD off-road mapping and SUNA live traffic updates in order to keep you on the move when everyone else isn’t. It’s extremely accurate, employing a hybrid positioning sensor system in order to ensure it displays you right where you actually are.
The software package is comprehensive offering such abilities as voice guidance and text to speech, high resolution 2- or 3-dimensional maps with landmarks, school zones, red-light and speed camera locations, not to mention possessing a point of interest database resembling the Encyclopædia Britannica. Included in the deal is Alpine’s MapCare option, which provides three years of free updates and gives you sound peace of mind knowing that you’ll have access to the latest information at all times.
With abilities all but exhausted I got down to auditioning. Alpine includes all the usual suspects in the box, ranging from colour coded and clearly labelled looms and instruction disc through to various aerials and interconnects such as USB and HDMI. I spent a few hours getting the stage and linearity just right and, I’ll tell you what, as someone who’s reviewed plenty of receivers with only bass and treble adjustment, the sound processing suite on board the X801D-U is a right blessing.
As usual we started out with the zero noise test track. Cranking the volume results in minimal hiss and external noise thus paying tribute to the overall quality of the design and components. Turning to real music, the output is quite clean, devoid of artefacts and is quite linear too. Not completely unheard of these days I grant you, however days past have borne witness to plenty of receivers boosting bass and treble significantly. Overall it performs amicably no matter the source, thanks by and large to the high resolution offered by the digital connectivity coupled with the ability to tailor sources independently. Given the stunning display it’s a sensational receiver to eyeball and that extra room is akin to adding an extra meter to your home screen!
If you wanted to be cantankerous you could point out that Alpine hasn’t exactly reinvented the wheel here. However as you begin to appreciate that it’s managed to squeeze the whole kit’n’caboodle into a single-DIN chassis, you cannot help but again be awestruck by Alpine’s remarkable technical prowess.
Alpine X801D-U Multimedia head unit
+ A technical marvel, Great sound tuning features, Clean, powerful sound
- Not even a nit pick
Type: Single-DIN 8-inch screen with Bluetooth, DAB and GPS navigation
Power Handling: 4 x 22 watts continuous, 4 x 50 watts maximum
Features: Mechless unit, multiple inputs and outputs including USB with iDevice control and HDMI. Adjustable colour touch screen, sound processing suite including PEQ, time alignment and crossover. Camera, remote, DVD, DTV and CD ready.