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Alpine CDE 102 review: Alpine CDE 102

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The Good The Alpine CDE-102 offers MP3/AAC/WMA playback via CD and USB port. Percentage search makes browsing large libraries a snap.

The Bad There aren't enough preamp outputs to make this a serious starting point for system building. iPod and Bluetooth integration require additional equipment.

The Bottom Line The Alpine CDE-102 is an excellent OEM replacement stereo, but serious audiophiles and system builders should look further up the product lineup.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.3 Overall
  • Cabin tech 6
  • Performance tech 6
  • Design 7

Review Sections

The Alpine CDE-102 CD receiver is about as entry level as car stereos come these days. It plays CDs and that's about it...or is it?

As it turns out, even an entry-level car stereo can hide a few tricks up its sleeve. For example, the Alpine can playback digital media from its optical drive and a USB port on the faceplate.

As a single-DIN car stereo receiver, the Alpine CDE-102 doesn't have very much faceplate real estate to work with and, as a result, its interface emphasizes efficiency over aesthetics.

The Alpine has the bulk of its controls on the left end of the faceplate, nearest to the driver. A bank of four blue buttons for source/power, band (AM/FM), skip forward, and skip backward highlight the most commonly used functions.

Next, a metallic knob with a rubber grip twists to control the volume and can be pressed like a button to cycle through basic audio adjustments for bass, treble, balance, and fader.

To the right of the volume knob are two buttons: a telephone/voice dial button that does nothing out of the box and a sound/setup button. Below the volume knob are three buttons for mute, search, and play/pause. Pressing the search button changes these three buttons' functions to back, escape, and enter, respectively, and changes the volume button into a scroll wheel.

Beneath the exposed CD slot, a monochromatic single-line LCD screen occupies the bulk of the faceplate. Users can alternate between displaying artist, title, album, file name, or folder name, but not at the same time. The display can only show 10 characters at a time, so long titles will have to scroll.

To the far right of the screen is a USB port with a rubber cover and a 1/8-inch analog auxiliary input. Many people may like the front USB port for easy access and simpler installation, but we're not fans of cables hanging around the cabin or having our USB thumbdrive sticking out into the air where it could be accidentally smacked and broken off. A USB pigtail that could be hidden in the center console or glove compartment would be a much more elegant solution.

Lining the bottom of the display are secondary function buttons for radio presets, repeat, shuffle, and a view button that cycles through display information.

The faceplate is detachable for security and stores in a hard plastic case. On the rear of the unit, you will find a standard wiring harness, an antenna connection, Alpine's proprietary Bluetooth module connection cable, and a pair of stereo RCA preamp outputs. The first output is a full-range front channel; the second output can be switched between full-range rear channel or low-pass filter subwoofer output.

The Alpine CDE-102 starts with playback of AM/FM radio and Red Book audio CDs then adds MP3/WMA/AAC playback to the mix. Users are also able to feed their media to the unit via USB port.

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