Oxygen Audio O-car receiver
Month after month us reviewers audition, test and generally fiddle with all manner of electronic gadgets. Most are impressive in their own way but without trying to sound immodest, it’s somewhat rare for a product to come along that is innovative enough to make us stop and go “wow, why didn’t someone think of that earlier?” American multimedia conglomerate Apple Inc. needs no introduction thanks to the unimaginable success of its iProducts worldwide. Just about everyone in the world it seems owns an iPod, iPhone or iPad so that is exactly where Oxygen Audio, a small audio visual company hailing from France has based its head unit foundations on. It doesn’t just make source units but actually offers the whole gambit of speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers, cables and other devices. However its most interesting products are definitely its head units and docks, which are designed for Apple iPhones and allows them to become the actual source of your car’s audio system. Sound interesting to you yet? Yes it caught our attention here too.
Simply called the O-car, it would be fairer to call the new head unit from Oxygen Audio the world’s most complex iPhone dock but it’s actually a phenomenal innovation, which thinking about it, I cannot believe someone hasn’t developed a long time ago. How it works is quite simple too – you first install the head unit and clip your iPhone into the face. You then download the twin Oxygen Audio applications from iTunes, one being for the radio tuner operation, while the other is for the sound functionality of the deck. Once you’ve opened the application your iPhone basically becomes the face of the O-car and you control everything as if it were a normal head unit
via the phone.
However you also get the added functionality of your iPhone so the overall entertainment and communication environment it creates is perfectly tailored – you have the stuff you like on your iPhone right off the bat without it being packed full of useless features.
Breaking away from the usual review layout, I think it’s important to discuss the actual physical design of the face before we move to the unit’s abilities and features. The face and trim surround ring are finished with a blend of flat and gloss black with the iPhone docking port spanning 80 percent of the right hand side. The left 20 percent is home to a rotary commander that primarily serves as a volume knob once the iPhone is docked. The area around the head unit’s planned living space is a consideration you’ll need to ponder before you purchase an O-car too. Because the face is designed to accommodate an iPhone it is slightly larger than the standard 180mm x 50mm DIN size, measuring in at 182mm x 53mm but you also need to factor in the width of the iPhone which is an even 60mm. The face has a cleverly designed mechanical docking system which allows for the iPhone to be swiveled and tilted at any angle meaning if you have little space the iPhone can just sit sideways and not become overly intrusive at all. If you have more space available however you can swing it through 90 degrees and have the iPhone upright looking at you like a full size cradle. The actual plug which connects to the iPhone also came in for some special attention and actually swivels in its place meaning you won’t wear it out after months of use.
On the subject of features and abilities the O-car is a little thin on the ground but more importantly it has all the necessary ones for anyone looking to improve their factory sound rather than damage their bank account. Because iPhone handle both sound and image, the O-car covers both audio and visual elements so far as interconnection goes including front, rear and subwoofer 4-volt pre-outs in addition to a video output. Next to this is a colour coded and clearly labelled ISO plug which makes for very easy connection in most cars, especially those hailing from the European continent. If you wish to rely on the decks internal power supply to exercise your ears it comes equipped with a powerful internal MOSFET amplifier which outputs 22 watts continuous or 55 watts maximum into each of the four speaker channels and when you consider where amplifiers of this power level were even ten years ago, you’ll appreciate just how impressive this little internal four channel unit is.