Sony CDX-GT550UI In-Dash Car CD/MP3/IPOD/USB Player

Published: 06th March 2012
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The Sony CDX-GT550UI illustrates that Sony, a huge consumer electronics market leader, can respond with the agility of a startup to remain on top. This may not seem an amazing feat to most buyers who are familiar with Sony products as it always seems that Sony has an entry in any part of any consumer electronics market segment. Even in the lower end of the marketplace, the Sony CDX-GT550UI is a very good product.

Nearly bullet-proof in construction, it installs easily and provides great sound from the start. All one need do is follow Sony's instructions and the installation should be easy as the detachable control-head CDX-GT550UI is a direct replacement for most original equipment (OEM) radios. The detachable head is a great anti-theft feature as the CDX-GT550UI will not work without the proper removable faceplate.

The reasonably priced CDX-GT550UI has a surprising array of features. A small, but important example, is its outputs. Instead of providing just a pair of preamp outputs for external amplifiers or subwoofers, it provides four 2-volt preamp outputs so one can easily interface an amplifier or subwoofer. It also features built-in high- and low-pass filtering so one can easily tailor the system response.

Not alone that, though, the CDX-GT550UI allows one to interface and control an iPod or iPhone by using the cable that was supplied with the Apple device. The Apple-supplied iPod-USB converter cable quickly makes the iPod or iPhone part of the CDX-GT550UI, using Sony's Quick BrowZer trackbutton system. A simple twist of the control button lets one search or track across the iPod for a specific tune or playlist or to simply search the iPod's content. Controlling an iPhone is just as easy through the same large trackbutton on the left front of the Sony's multi-colored faceplate.

Indeed, one can download the Pandora app and set up the iPhone to access and use the popular sound service. One can use the built-in one-line display if one chooses, but it is limiting, so that it is a better idea to use the iPod/iPhone's built-in display features.

The CDX-GT550UI display is perhaps the most irksome feature of this otherwise nice unit. Although one can brighten it to an extent, it will still washout in bright daylight, making it hard to see and use. On the plus side, though, the device is RDS-compliant so when one is using the sensitive AM/FM receiver with its 18 FM presets and 12 AM presets, one will see a readout not only of the frequency, but also of the station, artist and the music being played. It may scroll across the screen if it is too long, but chances are the display will be large enough in most instances.

It offers features that one will find on more expensive Sony units to provide quality sound output. For example, the CDX-GT550UI offers seven built-in equalization curves to help one tailor the sound for your vehicle. one can then set a user-programmable EQ circuit with the best of the other seven settings to fine-tune the CDX-GT550UI's response.

Because it has a standard USB input, one does not actually need an iPod or iPhone to have a unique audio experience because one can download audio from many of the streaming sound sources on the Web and load them to a thumbdrive in MP3, WMA and AAC compressed format.

The magic that occurs when one plugs the thumbdrive into the USB socket is that Sony's SenseMe circuitry recognizes there is a thumbdrive in that socket (its own version of plug and play). Working in conjunction with Sony's Digital Music Plus Technology, the CDX-GT550UI restores the high-range frequency response that was lost during compression, usually the 15 to 22 kHz segment. This restoration provides one a complete listening experience. That same technology applies to the CDs, CD-Rs and CD-RW disks that the CDX-GT550UI can also play.

The Sony device is satellite-ready, with the appropriate option. It is also high-definition-radio-ready with the proper add-on, so those two key modes are available. Looking closely at this control-head, one can see that, while it is not a high-end system, it still offers the same circuitry and quality Sony puts into those systems.

Source: Sony-CDX-GT550UI

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