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With its monochrome display and blue backlighting, the Pioneer DEH-P6000UB is a sharp-looking head unit. Adding to the appeal of the faceplate, the stereo features a plain control interface consisting of a seven-way "multicontrol" jog wheel and six other hard buttons, for selecting audio source, radio band, and random playback mode, and for programming the display, the subwoofer, and the Sound Retrieval audio customization feature. Three other buttons on the right of the faceplate (clock, list, and eject), complete the picture, leading to an in-dash system with an economical--but intuitive--design. The absence of preset buttons is conspicuous at first, but also suggests that this is a device designed more for the playback of digital audio sources rather than for skipping between radio channels. (Radio presets are available, but have to be accessed using the jog wheel). While the rotary commander is a useful solution for packing a lot of control features into a single interface, we found it at times to be a bit fiddly and loose for our liking: there is a lot of travel and very little resistance in the wheel as it tips over in the four compass directions, and we found that we often unintentionally selected the wrong function when attempting to push the commander in.
Features and performance
The DEH-P6000UB's various sources are selected using a coverflow-esque menu, which lets drivers select sources using simple identifier icons. The stereo's name gives some indication as to its feature set with the "UB" showing that the device has USB compatibility. Its USB 2.0 port can be used to connect USB-enabled digital audio players and mass storage devices. However, it is while connected to an iPod that the DEH-P6000UB is happiest. The DEH-P6000UB's menu structure and control interface are designed for navigating iPod content. With an iPod connected, there are two options for car occupants: either they can opt to transfer all control of the iPod to the stereo faceplate (as with most other iPod-specific stereos), or they can select "Passenger control mode," which enables control of the iPod's music using the player itself--a feature that shows that Pioneer has really thought about the design of the DEH-P6000UB from the perspective of those in the car.
With control devolved to the stereo inputs, navigation of iPod files is straightforward and intuitive. Upon selecting the iPod as a source, drivers are faced with the familiar Apple category menu--comprising Playlists, Artists, and Albums--on the stereo's LCD. iPod options can be navigated using the multicontrol interface as a proxy for the iPod control wheel, which mimics the iPod's menu flows. The DEH-P6000UB does not feature the variable speed scrolling of the iPod player, but does come with a very useful alphabet search function, which lets drivers skip to a chosen place in a list of songs or albums by entering the first letter of the entry: this is achieved by pressing and holding the List button while in the chosen category. Another sophisticated option for refining iPod searching is the DEH-P6000UB's Link Search function: by pressing and holding the List button during playback of a track, drivers can prompt the stereo to search for other albums by the same artist. We also like the presence of a dedicated Random button on the stereo's faceplate, which presents an extremely easy way of shuffling iPod tracks.
In addition to its support for external sources, the DEH-P6000UB can handle several audio formats on CDs including MP3, WMA, AAC, and WAV. When playing digital audio discs, users get plenty of choice for what shows up on the display: by pressing the DISP button, they can show each of the following readouts: playtime; folder and file name; artist and track title; artist name and album name; album title and track title; track title and play time; artist name and album title; or comment and play time. If that is not enough options for you, there is also an indicator to show the current bit rate or sampling frequency of compressed audio discs. The DEH-P6000UB provides an easy-to-use interface for navigating folders and files on compressed-audio discs. A press of the list button brings up the top line menu of folders, which can then be scrolled through (by rotating the scroll wheel or by pushing it up and down) and either played in full (by pressing and holding in the multicontrol wheel), or opened up to provide a list of tracks (by pushing the wheel over to the right). Once a track is playing, users can skip forward and back though tracks (by pushing the controller left or right), or back and forward between folders (by pushing the controller up and down). In general, the search and control functionality for compressed audio discs and audio on generic USB devices is straightforward and intuitive.
The DEH-P6000UB has features for tweaking and enhancing the quality of audio output once it has been selected. The system's headline feature is its Advanced Sound Retriever technology, which is designed to enhance compressed audio by restoring sound lost in the compression process. ASR works only on MP3-, WMA-, and AAC-encoded discs and can be set to one of two levels depending on the amount of artificial harmonic restoration required--typically, audio encoded at a lower bit rate will require the higher ASR level 2 setting. In practice, the ASR technology serves to give compressed audio tracks greater depth and richness.
Parallel with the ASR settings, the DEH-P6000UB has a seven-band equalizer, which can be used to tweak audio of all formats. The system comes with seven presets including two custom EQ curves and an "S.Bass" setting, which enhances low-end output. Other useful audio-tweaking features include source-level adjustment, which lets drivers assign volume levels to individual sources; separate controls for turning on and selecting the level of the subwoofer; and a high-pass filter for diverting all low-end sound below a certain frequency to the subwoofer. No matter how you have your EQ set up, the DEH-P6000UB provides a robust sound thanks to its built-in MOSFET amplifier (14 watts RMS/50 peak x 4 channels), and those who want to upgrade this can take advantage of three sets of 4-volt preamp outputs . The system can also be turned into a satellite radio receiver or a Bluetooth hands-free calling interface with the addition of external modules.
For a price of about $250, the DEH-P6000UB is a good-value single-DIN stereo. We like its snazzy design, its as-standard iPod control including its advanced features for navigating iPod libraries, as well as its many audio tweaking and customization features.