Pioneer AVIC-F70DAB

Grappling with radical functionality.

When it comes to audio visual receivers you might have noticed there’s quite some movement at the station; especially where functionality and features are concerned. So much in fact, that designers need the wisdom of Job to know just what to include within the limited internal real estate and what to omit. Luckily for us, 77 year old Pioneer is no beginner, and during its tenure as an electronic king it has developed a functionality acumen that other companies envy. Therefore, when the new AVIC-F70DAB arrived earlier this month I immediately set to auditioning it; if nothing else, just to see what Pioneer had managed to improve upon over the previous model – the AVIC-F60DAB is still a solid market leader.
Pioneer AVIC-F70DAB

Packed to the rafters
It’s mindboggling to witness how technology keeps, well for lack of a better term, physically shrinking. When performing a back to back comparison with the AVIC-F60DAB it turns out Pioneer hasn’t so much changed anything, rather this new techno-behemoth actually has even more functionality jammed into its similarly-sized chassis, such things as Android Auto to site one example. But alas, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves, because while some of us have Pioneer oozing out our ears, other readers may not be aware of just how significant the AVIC functionality list is. So in order to placate the latter we’ll quickly run through them starting with the methods of inputting information.

At the front you’ll find Pioneer’s robust disc mechanism which is not dissimilar to the previous model although it does feature a number of small refinements. This mechanism handles all primary types of plastic hardware, Blu-ray being the only exception. Turning to software, it handles everything including MP3, WMA, Xvid, AAC, DivX, MP4 and FLAC, provided the file structure is within the standard FAT or NTFS format protocols. Also, nearby the disc slot, is a version 2.0 SD card reader while on the rear of the deck are the rest of the digital inputs, including twin high speed version 2.0 USB inputs, a serial BUS connector which works in conjunction with an external vehicle bus adaptor feeding the unit information about the cars particulars. In addition, there’s an HDMI port for transmission of ‘mucho-info’ as you go about accessing said information via your Smartphone.

Analogue connectivity-wise, there are standard auxiliary audio visual composite inputs, 3.5mm jack, twin camera inputs – where reverse gear can be configured to auto trigger and display guide lines – a microphone input and lastly a fully programmable steering wheel control port. From the physical to wireless; there’s both analogue and digital radio tuner chips; the former offering 18 FM presets and six AM presets while the latter (digital) can store multiples of stations within each of the three DAB bands. Of course, the AVIC-F70DAB also possesses a Bluetooth 3.0+EDR chipset, which handles everything from telephonic through to entertainment duties.

Pioneer AVIC-F70DABExpanding on the input abilities that stem from your smartphone; first off you have AppRadio for iPhone or Android, which you select when initially configuring the unit. Once you’ve installed the corresponding app on your smartphone, you’re then able to select multiples of second tier apps which are then manipulated through your phone via the head unit, with its screen mirroring your smartphone’s. The list of apps available is forever expanding and hitherto includes everything from hospitality and entertainment through to performance and navigation. Included here also are the interactive apps such as the commonly requested Aha and Pandora. These allow for interaction with the receiver, organising your content into personalised groupings such as music, radio, podcasts, traffic, weather, e-books, Twitter, SMS, Facebook and the like, with much of this information able to be relayed to you verbally.

Staying with this theme and expanding upon it; MirrorLink, Android Auto and CarPlay are also included in the mix. These technologies are similar to AppRadio but somewhat more evolved, not only in speed but also in their complexity, interaction and information-transferring ability. CarPlay was designed by Apple and handles all iDevice interactions via the CD-IU201S interconnect kit supplied, whereas Android devices are handled via MirrorLink which was developed by the Car Connectivity Consortium and Android Auto developed by Google.

Pioneer AVIC-F70DABNow you might ask, as an Android user, why you’d use MirrorLink when Android Auto is on board – the answer has techno-scholars divided. See, while both perform similar functionality, they’re designed to work primarily with different telephonic platforms. For example if you’re using a Nokia smartphone then you may opt to use MirrorLink, whereas if you’re using a Google phone the choice may be Android Auto. Truth be told both work quite well each has its own intrinsic idiosyncrasies to confront, and you may well find the difference is not so much at the end user but the manufacturers’ because some are more open in their architecture than others. This means companies can develop their own apps easier. In actuality, it’s quite a complex discussion and before long starts drawing in acronyms like SYNC, QNX, GA, MMI and the list so deteriorates onwards. The short of it is that Pioneer includes them both in order to cover all users whatever their preference. Kudos.

Moving along to exportation abilities before our collective heads implode; there’s quite the exhaustive list of outputs to cover, starting with 4-volts front, rear and subwoofer RCA pre-outs and an internally-mounted MOSFET amplifier which can output 22 watts continuous or 50 watts maximum at 4-ohms, all with distortion staying at a respectable 5 percent. Naturally there’s also a plethora of additional audio visual outputs, including the option of separating front and rear outputs, whereby allowing rear passengers to present their own entertainment.

Processing power
Between input and output of information don’t let’s forget about processing. Pioneer has improved out-of-sight over recent years so far as inbuilt digital processing is concerned and the AVIC-F70DAB is the best to date. Starting out with basic fader, balance and loudness controls, from there we expand to include a 13-band graphic equaliser with frequency centres set at 0, 80, 125, 200, 315, 500 or 800Hz, 1.25kHz, 2kHz, 3.15kHz, 5kHz, 8kHz or 12.5kHz, with a gain of +/- 12dB.

For the crossover options, the satellite channels feature a high-pass settable at 50Hz/63Hz/80Hz/100Hz/125Hz/160Hz/200Hz with a 6dB/12dB/18dB slope while the subwoofer channels feature the same frequency points, but as a low-pass, in addition to a 0-degree or 180-degree phase switch. There’s also time alignment providing for up to 500cm distance delay on each channel and for a little extra control you’re also able to adjust speakers’ individual levels between -24dB and +10dB. There are numerous preloaded presets in addition to two custom slots for your own tuning preferences, and it’ll also auto-tune each of these facets if you so desire.

The navigation package installed is vastly more complex that any app you can get via your smartphone and utilises Navteq navigation software including 4WD off-road mapping and SUNA live traffic updates. Its positioning is extremely accurate thanks to the situating software employing not only the car’s speed pulse but also multiple satellite channels to fixate its position. Voice guidance and text-to-speech ability is included as standard, as is high resolution two or three dimension maps with landmarks included in the display, school zones, fixed red light and speed camera locations and an extensive point of interest database containing the better part of one million items searchable by name or distance from your current position.

Whether you’re enamoured by the look or not, one cannot argue that the face is not clean. Finished with a gloss black surround encircling its large 7-inch anti-reflective TFT touch screen, the panel offers a 16:9 ratio/WVGA resolution of 1,152,000 pixels or 2400 x 480 which is superbly backlit with bright LEDs and able to handle both NTSC and PAL. Pioneer has done a fair bit of work perfecting the aforementioned combination, allowing the design to appear visually outstanding in almost every way, from detail and sharpness through to anti-aliasing, contrast and brightness. Below the screen are the primary buttons which can have their illumination colour modified to match your car’s dash. This also translates to the wallpaper on screen, as well as the overall look, feel and layout.

To be fair, installing the AVIC-F70DAB is not an inconsiderable task, and not only insofar as the physical practicalities are concerned either. Sure you’ll run head-long into Pauli’s exclusion principle as you attempt to locate real estate behind your dash for all those interconnects, but please people: once you do get the unit in make sure you put all that processing power to good use. Pioneer has put much effort into including a serious DSP and it would be great to see owners and retailing staff making the best use of all the aforesaid abilities.

Time for listening and, more importantly, time for trying to get my head around all the functionality. Audio-wise the AVIC-F70DAB is quite straightforward. It outputs a clean and controlled audio feed through its high- or low-level inputs, with the latter being exceptionally quiet right up to full volume. Gone are the days where you needed to worry about your deck introducing external artefacts to the sound stream. The display is equally as impressive and the face moves with an almost noiseless operation.

Where things start to go a little awry is when you begin seriously interacting with the unit. Not that it’s hard to use, quite the contrary. It’s more a case that the unit almost does too much. To that end I set my unit up with only the primary apps I suspected I’d use and for me the auditioning experience was a most pleasant one. However, if you’re a certified techno propeller head you could easily consume half your year attempting to utilise every ability this thing possesses.

Overall the AVIC-F70DAB experience is an exceptional one. It looks and sounds terrific and, even when it’s busy telling you where to go via the astute navigation system, its operation is virtually flawless. Its challenge is its sheer complexity and if ever there was a first world problem nice to have; this would be it. State-of-the-art stuff.

Pioneer AVIC-F70DAB

Pioneer AVIC-F70DAB multimedia head unit
Cost: $1999

+ Exceptional features list, Comprehensive sound-tuning capabilities, Superb display quality
- So complete that it may be daunting

Type: Double-DIN multimedia head unit with GPS navigation
Features: 7-inch TFT screen, CD/VCD/DVD/MP3/Xvid/DivX/WMV/AAC/FLAC. AppRadio, CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, DAB plus multiple audio visual inputs and outputs
Power handling: 4 x 22 watts continuous/4 x 50 maximum (4-ohms)

Contact:: Pioneer Electronics Australia