Fusion - the joining of two or more things to form a single entity.
The above heading is an apt descriptor of the Fusion CA-CD850 single-DIN head unit. To begin with, it certainly fuses a lot of features into a relatively compact unit. But along with all that, possibly the most surprising feature of all is the price – at around $200 this thing rocks!
Antipodean Electronics Company
Although only established in 1998, Fusion has now grown to distribute in over 30 countries, and boasts subsidiaries in the USA, UK and, of course, Australia. Along with car audio, it also designs and sells marine and home audio/lifestyle products. Fusion has certainly developed a reputation as a company providing products that punch well above their weight. All this and from New Zealand as well. Possibly not the easiest place to start up an electronics design and distribution company.
Fusion’s latest premium offering in high-performance car audio is the Fusion CA-CD850. The CA-CD850 comes packed in a normal retail box, well-padded and protected and insulated with some good, heavy-duty egg carton packaging. The unit itself is heavy without being unusually so. The detachable fascia is packaged separately, in a nice solid plastic carry case. The wiring supplied is of good quality and gauge, while plugs and connectors are also up to spec. Installation was straight forward, as the unit is a standard single-DIN size and not overly deep at 157 mm. Optional subwoofer output, two sets of RCA Line Outputs for front and rear separate amplifiers, and the connection for the external microphone are all located at the rear of the chassis.
Once installed, it was time to explore the options and study the instruction manual. The display itself is easy to read, even in direct sunlight. It’s also possible to change the lighting scheme between blue and green, depending on your tastes and dash. The fascia control panel clips into place easily and securely. Powering up, it took about five minutes to get sound, after only a basic scan of the quick start menu in the manual.
Once done, further reading revealed a lengthy list of adjustments available in the sound menu. Along with all the usual adjustments in treble and bass, there’s also adjustment for the midrange. On all three areas of the frequency band, there is further adjustment provided by way of CFQ. According to Fusion, this gives the user the ability to adjust the centre frequency of the bass, midrange or treble controls. This is a great option, in that it allows the user to preset the range over which the frequency is adjusted via the other broader controls. Also included are the usual presets for EQ, including Flat, Pop, Dance, Rock, Classic, Jazz and Vocal. The user setting returns to the last adjusted setting. It also retains this setting, so it won’t lose it on power down.
The Fusion CA-CD850 also allows iPhone/iPod connection via a front access USB Port, to the right of the fascia (next to the 3.5mm Aux-In connection) so it’s closest to the driver. USB thumb drives can also be inserted here for music playback. Also included is an AM/FM tuner with worldwide abilities including Oceania, of course, and the USA and Europe.
Pairing up with Bluetooth via the iPhone was simplicity itself. A simple press of the Bluetooth button on the fascia, followed by entering the usual 0000 in the iPhone, and it was done. Of course, the CA-CD850 also allows hands-free phone calls and answering and Fusion includes an external microphone. Clarity and external sound suppression was excellent. In fact as good as, if not better, than my Bluetooth earpiece.
SD Card insertion is behind the faceplate, which drops slowly at a push of the ‘Open’ button. Also available is an optional Remote Control for the CA-CD850.
The CA-CD850 plays almost any format you care to try with it. MPEG 1, 2 and 2.5, MP3, CD, CD-R and CD-RW. So almost anything you can put your music on, the CA-CD850 will accept.
Although rated at 50 watts maximum and 22 watts RMS for each of the four channels, the internal MOSFET amplifier is no slouch in either sound quality, or drive. It had no problems driving a 4-ohms 90dB load on the bench, with minimal increase in heat output and no audible sign of distortion.
Sound quality from the Fusion CA-CD850 is where this unit really shines. The sound is rhythmic, dynamic and, most importantly, enjoyable. The almost infinite adjustability, via the preset EQ and CFQ will keep even the most jaded user occupied for some time. At its price point (and for quite a bit more) the Fusion is amongst the best we’ve heard.
Differences in formats are clearly audible, with Redbook CD being the preferred option. Having recently acquired some direct recordings from original pressings and masters, this was a perfect opportunity to explore them in a “vehicular environment”. The Rolling Stones 1969/70 album Let It Bleed, remastered and repressed by Abkco, is an example of just what can be done with an older recording that was never that great to start with. It now jumps right out at the listener. Jagger’s soulful vocals are amongst the most emotional we’ve heard in a car system. The album now has genuine dynamics and not just ‘loud sounds’, as remembered from previous examples.
In a similar fashion, The Doors’ LA Woman, from Elektra Records EKS-75011, is far superior to any other edition heard previously. Morrison’s dense and articulate vocals are enthralling, conveying all the angst and protest of the generation. But for an absolute audio workout, it had to be Sonny Boy Williamson Keeping It To Ourselves from Analogue Productions APB 0036 Ltd Ed. This album simply defies usual description and had fingers tapping and heads nodding with every session in the car. Coupling whispered passages with resounding peaks, this is an album that keeps listeners on their toes in so many ways. Definitely a favourite on the Fusion CA-CD850 and one that allowed it to exercise its talents to the full.
Following these tasty morsels, some classical was in order. Classical music is a workout for almost any audio component. The combination of an orchestral scale, complex compositions and a wide dynamic range often sorts the “men from the boys”. In this instance, the CA-CD850 proved its mettle yet again. From Reference Recordings, The Arnold Overtures by London Philharmonic with David Nolan offers quite a variety of music. (When available in Vinyl, this album can top USD$300 in sealed condition). My CD copy is a treasured item, especially as it’s recorded direct from a master tape. Even listeners who are not known to be fans of classical music at all, were immediately impressed. Both by the album itself and the reproduction provided from such a modestly priced head unit.
In some ways, the Fusion CA-CD850 is a difficult model to classify. Sure, there are better units out there in terms of more features, power and pedigree. Yet, one struggles to think of any that come anywhere near this unit for the price. Along with as many features, connectivity options, adjustability and keen pricing, the CA-CD850 just plain sounds spectacular, with a lot of different genres. It took everything thrown at it and came out smiling. Unhesitatingly recommended.
- Nothing at the asking price
Type: Single-DIN head unit receiver
Features: AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA/SD/USB compatibility, Bluetooth A2DP audio streaming and telephony, included external microphone, iPod/iPhone audio playback, dual rear sub RCA outs with D.S.L.C, worldwide tuner
Power: MOSFET 4 x 50 watts maximum, 22 watts RMS
Product page: www.fusionentertainment.com