As we recently found in our review of the 2007 Audi A3, SD cards can be a useful way of transporting a large digital music library around. With an SD card inserted into the dedicated slot, the DFZ675MC commences playing any music files on the card immediately. As with MP3 and WMA discs, users can skip through tracks using the skip buttons on the faceplate, while folders have to be selected using the Up/Down colored buttons on the right-hand side.
Perhaps the most notable feature of the Clarion DFZ675MC is its Music Catcher II feature, which enables drivers to record CD-based tracks and albums (including those on CD-R and CD-RW) directly into the stereo's memory. There are four recording modes (LP, STD, HQ, and SHQ), and the amount of recorded music the system can hold at one time depends on the recording mode: in LP mode, it can store 663 minutes of music; in STD mode, 497 minutes; in HQ mode, 331 minutes; and in SHQ mode, 248 minutes. To record a track or an album, it must be currently playing. Pressing the red Rec button on the faceplate starts the recording process, and the track starts playing again from the beginning.
During the recording process, an icon flashes on the monochrome display, and when the recording is complete, the track again starts playing from the beginning. We're not too impressed with the system's reversion back to the beginning of the track twice in the recording process for individual tracks, however, this is less of a problem with full albums, which can be listened to concurrently while being recorded. When a track is recorded into the system's memory, it is assigned a numerical folder and a track number. For those who wish to edit this information (which is of little use when trying to find a song in the library later), the options are limited. For some reason, it is possible to edit folder names, but not details for individual tracks or artists.
For the increasing number of drivers interested in making their car stereos an extension of their iPods, Clarion offers an optional controller (the EA1276B interface), which transfers control of all recent iPod models to the faceplate. When an iPod is synced with the system, the DFZ675MC's display will show information for current album, artist, and song, and music can be selected according to the standard iPod categories, including playlist, artist, album, song, genre, random, and repeat.
The DFZ675MC has a number of audio optimization features that suggest this is a stereo for those who are serious about their in-car acoustics. One of our favorite features is its Digital Z-Enhancer, which can be used to activate preset sound tone effects: DZE 1 (suitable for coaxial speakers); DZE 2 (suitable for separate speakers); and DZE 3, which produces an acoustic output somewhere between those of DZE 1 and 2. We also like the DFZ675MC's Listening Position Optimizer, which is a means of calibrating the audio output to the size of your car's cabin. Drivers can select one of three LPO settings (Cmpct, Sedan, and 1Box for larger vehicles) to boost the output to the required level for immersive sound; LPO can also be turned off. The DFZ675MC's built-in Mosfet amplifier produces a maximum output of 50Wx4 channels, and the unit also comes with a four-channel RCA output for auxiliary devices.
Overall, the Clarion DFZ675MC is a feature-rich car stereo with plenty to recommend in terms of audio optimization and digital music. It is let down mainly by its clumsy faceplate, which will take some learning before it can be programmed when driving.