Aiwa CDC-MP3 Car MP3-CD Playerby Mike Andrawes on September 25, 2000 5:51 AM EST
The big draw for the CDC-MP3 is obviously its MP3 capabilities, but the vast majority of the specifications have absolutely nothing to do with this part of its functionality. The CDC-MP3 is after all still a head unit and handles all the duties a normal head unit would handle.
First and foremost, that means there is a full AM/FM tuner section, unlike the empeg that only includes an optional tuner add-on. A total of 30 presets are available, including 3 sets of 6 FM presets and 2 sets of 6 AM presets. FM mono sensitivity, a specification that indicates a tuners ability to pick up an FM signal, is listed at 12.7dBf where lower is better. Although the measured value here is numerically worse than other tuners from mainstream manufacturers, it performed reasonably well in our testing - certainly better than many OEM head units that the CDC-MP3 may be replacing. It is the same tuner Aiwa uses in their other cassette/CD heads units. For those interested in bringing the CDC-MP3 from the US to another country, there is a switch on the bottom of the unit that will allow the FM tuner to work in 50kHz steps (instead of 100kHz) and the AM tuner in 9kHz steps (instead of 10kHz), as required in most countries of the world.
As an MP3-CD player, the CDC-MP3 can, naturally, also play audio CD's. Once again, we see a somewhat sub par specification from Aiwa in the form of the CD signal to noise ratio, which is only 85dB. While it's not horrible by any means, it is lower than pretty much every other CD section found in competing receivers, which are usually in the 90's and as high as 108dB. If you're really into car audio, especially competition level car audio, this specification may make a difference to you, but in most cars road/wind noise immediately eliminates this from affecting your listening experience.
Aiwa seems to make a big deal out of the fact that most of their newer models can play CD-R's and CD-RW's, but most CD players (be it for the car or otherwise) will play CD-R's just fine. However, CD-RW support is relatively unique in any stand-alone CD player for the car or home.
Like most mainstream head units (but not the empeg), the CDC-MP3 includes an integrated amp that drives 45W peak/22W RMS to 4 channels. This is one area in which Aiwa is able to shine, as this is pretty much the most power you'll see in a head unit's integrated amp. Unless it's a premium system (Bose, Infinity, Nakamichi, etc.), 22W RMS is more power than most factory head units provide and will be more than enough to drive non-premium factory speakers. An external amp is recommended for driving just about anything beyond the factory speakers, however. We'll touch more on those premium systems in the installation section.
For those that aren't even interested in using the integrated amp, Aiwa has included 2 sets of 2.2V preouts (front and rear) that can be used for adding external amps. That 2.2V output rating is pretty much average for an entry-level to mid-range head unit.
Higher voltage preouts mean that any noise you pick up in your signal cables will be smaller relative to your signal. For example, if you're picking up 0.1V of noise on a 2.2V output, 5% of your signal is noise. Meanwhile, picking up the same amount of noise on a 4V output results in only 3% of your signal being noise. Note that the first set of specs and pictures released proclaimed 4V preouts, but apparently some cost cutting was necessary between then and now in order to hit the promised $299 price point.
And if MP3's on CD-R(W) isn't enough or if a new standard arises, the CDC-MP3 does have an auxiliary input on its front panel. It comes in the form of a 1/8" stereo jack, much like that used on your soundcard, and accepts a 300mV (0.3V) signal. This would normally be surprisingly low voltage for a car audio device, but considering that it's meant for small portable devices, it should be fine.
If you still need more music, the CDC-MP3 can also interface with one of Aiwa's CD changers. To answer the question on just about everyone's mind - no, the CD changer cannot play CD's with MP3's on them, just standard audio CD(-RW)'s here. The reason for this is simple - the connection between the head unit and CD changer is analog, so the MP3 decoder would have to be in the CD changer itself in order to play MP3-CD's. While this is not impossible to do, it's something that Aiwa simply has not done - at least not yet.
Finally, the virtually mandatory detachable face for security purposes and a wireless steering wheel remote for convenience are included as well. More on both of these later.