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With the addition of Alpine's KCE-422i iPod cable (about $30), the CDE-9874 turns into an intelligent iPod interface with data and logic control of the player transferred to the stereo faceplate. With an iPod selected as a source, the Search button can be used to access the typical Apple menus (Playlist, Artist, Album, Genre, and so on) with the names of listings in each category shown on the display. The quick browser function also becomes more useful with an iPod as it provides a complete alphabetized list of all the tracks on the player. Drivers can turn the rotary dial to progress through the list to their chosen song, and also use the six preset buttons beneath the stereo display to jump to corresponding points in the track library. Other expandability options include the steeply priced Alpine KCE-300BT ($200), which gives the stereo into a Bluetooth hands-free calling capabilities.
With 16 watts RMS, audio quality of the CDE-9874 is what you would expect from an entry-level stereo. While the system delivers plenty of power, we found the output to be muddy on the low end and shrill on the high end at high volumes. With our stock car speakers, the audio sounded best with the Defeat function engaged. The system provides the usual array of EQ settings, including controls for bass, treble, and balance, as well as some more advanced settings for bass bandwidth, which determines the breadth of bass frequency that is boosted relative to the center frequency. A high-pass filter with three settings gives further control over bass output. For the connection of external amps, the CDE-9874 provide a couple of 2-volt preamp outputs, while an IC setting lets drivers turn off the power to the internal amp when an external amp is connected.
With a price tag of about $150, the Alpine CDE-9874 ticks all the boxes for an entry-level stereo. With an easy-to-use faceplate design, some advanced browsing features for digital audio files, reasonably priced iPod expandability, and good support for external components, it is a cost-effective digital-age replacement for your stock stereo.