The Alpine CDE-102 CD receiver is about as entry level as car stereos come these days. It plays CDs and that's about it...or is it?
As it turns out, even an entry-level car stereo can hide a few tricks up its sleeve. For example, the Alpine can playback digital media from its optical drive and a USB port on the faceplate.
As a single-DIN car stereo receiver, the Alpine CDE-102 doesn't have very much faceplate real estate to work with and, as a result, its interface emphasizes efficiency over aesthetics.
The Alpine has the bulk of its controls on the left end of the faceplate, nearest to the driver. A bank of four blue buttons for source/power, band (AM/FM), skip forward, and skip backward highlight the most commonly used functions.
Next, a metallic knob with a rubber grip twists to control the volume and can be pressed like a button to cycle through basic audio adjustments for bass, treble, balance, and fader.
To the right of the volume knob are two buttons: a telephone/voice dial button that does nothing out of the box and a sound/setup button. Below the volume knob are three buttons for mute, search, and play/pause. Pressing the search button changes these three buttons' functions to back, escape, and enter, respectively, and changes the volume button into a scroll wheel.
Beneath the exposed CD slot, a monochromatic single-line LCD screen occupies the bulk of the faceplate. Users can alternate between displaying artist, title, album, file name, or folder name, but not at the same time. The display can only show 10 characters at a time, so long titles will have to scroll.
To the far right of the screen is a USB port with a rubber cover and a 1/8-inch analog auxiliary input. Many people may like the front USB port for easy access and simpler installation, but we're not fans of cables hanging around the cabin or having our USB thumbdrive sticking out into the air where it could be accidentally smacked and broken off. A USB pigtail that could be hidden in the center console or glove compartment would be a much more elegant solution.
Lining the bottom of the display are secondary function buttons for radio presets, repeat, shuffle, and a view button that cycles through display information.