An advanced equalizer and the Imprint audio processor allow users to fine tune the dynamic range, staging, and individual speaker delay to meet the needs of their unique vehicles and optimize the sound for the full vehicle or specifically for the driver's seat. So that you don't waste all of that processing power playing back compressed digital audio, the receiver also features a Media Xpander (MX) setting that helps correct information lost at time of compression. The MX can also be applied to analog sources, such as FM radio, to boost sound quality, but it sounds best with digital sources.
The iDA-X100 is also upgradable via external modules for additional functionality. Satellite radio, HD Radio, Bluetooth hands-free, and an external CD changer are among the modules that can be connected to and controlled by the iDA-X100 through its proprietary Ai-Net connection. When connected to the Bluetooth module, the iDA-X100 also gains the ability to stream music from A2DP Bluetooth-enabled devices.
When connected to Alpine's HD Radio receiver--the TUA-T550HD--and an Apple iPod, the iDA-X100 gains the ability to iTunes-tag songs. If the HD Radio broadcast contains artist/song information, holding the center select button stores the song's metadata onto the connected iPod. Later, when the iPod is reconnected to iTunes for syncing, a playlist is created under the Store heading called "Tagged." Users can then listen to a 30-second preview of the song or purchase the song for downloading.
We tested the iDA-X100 with a 16GB iPod Touch. Upon connecting the iPod, the iDA-X100 began scanning the device. After about a 10- to 15-second search, the receiver started playback. The receiver picks up playback wherever the iPod left off, so if you were listening to a song or podcast as you entered your car, the iDA-X100 would resume at the exact spot you paused.
The full-speed iPod connection allows for extremely quick navigation of artists, albums, genres, and podcasts--nearly as quick as the iPod itself. The direct connection to the iPod means that the iDA-X100 can play back any format that an iPod can, including MP3, AAC, and Apple Lossless. We're very happy about that last one, as most iPod-compatible receivers don't play the lossless format.
When connected to a USB key, we were able to browse folders full of MP3s just as quickly as with the iPod. The center knob and its Percent Search feature make it very easy to jump from folder to folder without drudging through menus.
We only ran into one consistent glitch during our test of the iDA-X100. While listening to audio stored on an iPod, if we powered the unit off while leaving the iPod connected--for example, to step away from the vehicle--upon restarting the car and the receiver, the iDA-X100 would forget that a device was attached and require that we disconnect and reconnect the cable to rerecognize. The glitch didn't occur with music stored on a USB key, so it may be more of an issue with the iPod's firmware than the iDA-X100, but it was annoying nonetheless.
Some will look at the Alpine iDA-X100 and see a receiver that won't play their CDs. These people will feel that they're not getting their money's worth by purchasing such an odd device.
Alpine lists the iDA-X100 with an MSRP of $399, but we've found it retailing for as low as $299. For a similar amount of money, one could have the Sony XPLOD CDX-GT920U, which features a fantastic-sounding CD player, but no iPod compatibility and sluggish browsing of MP3 devices over USB. The Alpine also features a more advanced audio processor that, with tweaking, makes the iDA-X100 sound better than the Sony XPLOD unit.For those ready to completely embrace the digital age, the Alpine iDA-X100 may be the perfect device. It offers everything one needs to browse digital media quickly on the road: an ultrafast USB connection, a sharp and easy-to-read screen, and a simple and intuitive interface.