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The Eclipse CD3100 is a stylish standard-size car stereo with a useful control interface, a unique navigation function, and some advanced audio customization features. We like its sophisticated dual-purpose dial/rocker switch for navigating digital audio libraries, and the solid feel of the switch gear and hard buttons on its faceplate. While its LCD screen shows too few ID3 tag characters for our liking, the display does include some useful visual graphics for setting EQ levels and for the CD3100's unique Area Shot turn-by-turn text route guidance.
The single-DIN-size faceplate of the Eclipse CD3100 features a unique layout. To maximize space for controls and display space, the system's single disc slot is hidden behind the motorized faceplate, which drops away in a smooth, downward motion at a touch of the Eject button.
Rather than using separate controls for volume and track selection (as in the setup that we just saw on the Kenwood DPX 302), the rotary volume knob doubles as a four-way push-button selector. This is a very economical design, and enables users to perform a range of selection and navigation controls using the same interface.
Pressing the Mode button to the left of the dial activates rotary mode, which temporarily replaces the volume function with another level of control: for example, when playing MP3 and WMA discs, the dial in rotary mode can be used to search for tracks in the current folder, with the ID3 tag information showing up on the LCD display. This is a useful feature, since drivers have to deal with only one primary interface to search for and select music and to control the volume.
In addition to basic AM/FM receiver duty, the CD3100 can handle standard CDs, as well as MP3- and WMA-encoded discs. There is, however, no support for DVD audio. Through the use of add-on modules, the system can also be used to play music from iPods (using the iPC-106 module) and auxiliary inputs (via the AUX 105 module), and as a tuner for satellite and HD radio.
The CD3100 offers a wealth of EQ customization options. In addition to the preset EQ configurations (Defeat, Power, Sharp, Vocal), there are plenty of ways in which users can tweak the audio output to their own tastes. The simplest way to do this is by adjusting the basic band settings for bass, treble, and midrange by using the control knob. A useful graphic on the left of the unit's display gives a visual representation of the current EQ setup.
For those who want more control over the output, the CD3100's parametric equalizer can be used to adjust the frequency and sharpness of each of the three bands: for example, bass can be set to one of four frequencies (wide, midwide, normal, and narrow), enabling drivers to optimize the acoustics to their cars' specific speaker arrangements. Settings for crossover adjustment of high- and low-pass filters allow even more customization, while a nonfader setting lets drivers sync the front and rear speakers and the subwoofer for optimum output.
The most unique feature of the Eclipse 3100 is its Area Shot navigation function, which provides turn-by-turn text directions to a preprogrammed destination. To use the Area Shot function, users have to go through a laborious preparation process. This involves finding the stereo's individual serial code; using it to register at Eclipse's Web site; programming destinations online using the Navteq-powered Eclipse route finder; saving the route file (in AST format) locally to the computer; burning the file onto a CD/R; and uploading the file from the CD/R to the stereo. (A far-more-efficient means of transferring the route data would be through a USB port on the front of the faceplate--perhaps something we'll see in later iterations of this model).
With all of these prerequisites in place, the stereo can then be used to display text and graphical directions from your starting point to your destination. The Eclipse CD3100 has no built-in GPS receiver, and so, unlike regular navigation systems, is unable to tell where the car is at any one time. Instead, drivers have to press the Up button on the rotary dial each time they have completed a turn or a stretch of road (pressing the Down button will take you back to the last direction if you've missed a turn). While the programming process is extremely time-consuming, the directions are surprisingly thorough. In addition to advising drivers when to turn right or left, the test directions give detailed guidance, informing drivers to "stay straight" or that "Kezar Drive becomes Lincoln Way," for example.
The Eclipse CD3100 is a car stereo for drivers interested in fine-tuning their in-cabin acoustics. It manages to combine an intuitive user interface with a useful search feature for navigating digital audio CDs, although programming its Area Shot navigation feature is more trouble than its worth.