The Good The Sony CDX-GT520 is a user-friendly car stereo with intuitive controls, support for a wide range of sources including HD Radio, and good expandability options.
The Bad To play HD Radio on the device, drivers will have to buy and install Sony's unwieldy XT-100HD tuner. HD Radio comes at the price of all other FM and AM radio stations.
The Bottom Line The Sony CDX-GT520 is a decent option for those wanting a reasonably priced stereo to play disc-based audio. While it does support HD Radio, it requires the connection of a clunky add-on module, which is almost more trouble than it's worth.
The Sony CDX-GT520 takes the familiar shape of Sony's current line of single-DIN car stereos, having the same basic chassis design as the iPod-playing CDX-GT420IP. In addition to its MP3 and WMA digital audio playback capacities, the star feature of the CDX-GT520 is its ability to play HD Radio, giving drivers access to hundreds of free high-quality audio stations with detailed program and artist information. To play HD Radio via the CDX-GT520, however, drivers must buy and install Sony's optional XT-100HD tuner, a procedure that we found to be far more difficult than it sounds.
With its single open-disc slot, simple hard buttons, and monochrome LCD display, the Sony CDX-GT520 faceplate offers an intuitive interface for playing radio and disc-based sources. In addition to its track-skip buttons on either side of the main control knob, the faceplate includes dedicated buttons for skipping forward and back between folders on MP3 and WMA-encoded discs: a feature that we appreciate in digital-age receivers. We also like the Display hard button to the bottom right of the display, which gives drivers a means of browsing ID3-tag information on MP3 discs, and song, artist, and station information for HD Radio stations.
The layout of the CDX-GT520's bright, white-on-blue display is uncluttered, making it easy to read information at a glance, and we found the simple spectrum analyzer graphic in the top right-hand corner to be a surprisingly informative means of monitoring EQ levels. The front-mounted auxiliary input jack is a nice touch that we have seen in other Sony head units.