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Old 04-27-2012, 04:07 PM   #1
R Diamond
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Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Alexandria, VA
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04 STi (blue/gold)
98 2.5RS Turbo (sold)

Thumbs up Alpine Bluetooth head unit review (long) CDE-HD137bt

I've been using Alpine's new CDE-HD137BT single DIN head unit for the past week and thought I'd review what you can do with it. Haven't seen many reviews since it just came out (mine's stamped March 2012). Got it for $215. Another $75 or so gets you the 138bt model, which adds:
- Sirius ready
- Media expander (makes mp3s sound 'better')
- wma & aac playback (no thanks)
- Equalizer

Installation: Thanks to Abnormal (Douchebag Moderator) making the harness for me in return for beer, this was the easiest upgrade ever. Takes only a few minutes.

Looks/Controls: I like it, but some may hate adding blue lighting to the clashing red and green already in the STi. Doesn't bother me. Controls are straightforward enough once you get used to them.

Sound quality: Not really much quality difference from my previous 2002-era Alpine head unit. Our cars aren't exactly Lexus quiet to notice subtle improvements.

HD Radio: This is worthwhile, offering access to extra stations. Here in DC, music, news and even C-SPAN all broadcast in HD, each with 2 extra side channels. The best aspect is the static-free lock in of a signal. The radio will seamlessly drop down to analog if it has to. Kinda makes me hate AM talk stations, because now I realize how awful it sounds.

BLUETOOTH. The main reason I wanted this unit is so I could listen to YouTube videos & the navigation system on my Droid. The phone's tiny speakers just aren't loud enough to overcome freeway speeds. With the Alpine, it works flawlessly -- as long as the phone pairs up. That doesn't always happen and you need to reboot either the car, or the phone. Important tip: When using Pandora in BT Audio mode (see below), it is essential to shut off WiFi to avoid sound drop-outs. Playback might stutter once or twice with Pandora, but it's otherwise seamless. Fast forward, reverse, pause/play and stop playback buttons on the headunit can control the phone's music/video apps. Verdict: Awesome.

PANDORA. This is a huge disappointment. This device is branded with "Pandora" and has thumbs up/thumbs down buttons, but it doesn't work on my Droid 4. I called Alpine, and they offered no help whatsoever. "We'll log the problem and call you if we find a fix." Yeah, right. I did some searching and it seems this is an issue with Motorola/Verizon's implementation of the bluetooth stack, but it's not like calling Vz customer support is going to get me anywhere. The phone isn't passing any meta data (track name, etc) at all.

PHONE. Gives you a hands-free set up as good as what you'd get in a Benz. Incoming calls sound great, but the supplied microphone is the same cheapo unit that every wired, hands-free device uses. It's mediocre. Called a few people and they said I sounded like I was on a bad speakerphone. Since the system uses a standard mic input jack, it's easy to upgrade. I also should put the mic in a better location. Verdict: makes me happy.

USB. This is both the unit's biggest asset and the biggest drawback. I bought a $20, 16gb micro USB key that you can't even see when you plug it in the stereo. The system automatically reads anything with an MP3 extension and starts playing. It sounds great. But there are massive limitations:

(1) You're limited to 100 folders, and each folder can have no more than 100 files. That's 10,000 mp3s, max. So forget about using any drive larger than 32gb to put an entire music collection in your car. This is not a big deal, just means lowering expectations.

(2) From the manual: "Files are played back in the order that the writing software writes them to the disc. Therefore, the playback order may not be what is expected." If you listen to random MP3s and like them played randomly, this is ideal. For those of us who use the thing for audiobooks or classical music or even something like Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall, it's a disaster. This is a step back from my 2002 head unit that played MP3s on CDs in alphabetical order. Alpine, you suck. The solution is a program called FATSORT which is in the Ubuntu repositories. Just type "sudo fatsort -f /dev/sdb1" to reorder the drive -- dunno how it works in Windows.

(3) Navigating folders to find the file you want is painful, especially with the sorting problem. I made 2 top level folders: music & audiobooks. But the unit just presents every single directory on the drive in a flat list (up to 100) with no hierarchy. Horrible and lazy design.

(4) You can connect a phone or MP3 player via USB port for random MP3 playback or to charge up the device. Not a drawback, a very handy feature.

AUX. Has front 3.5mm jack to use of a real MP3 player to bypass the stupid limitations above.

CD. This plays regular and MP3 CDs. With the above options, I never bothered. Sorry, CD but you're going the way of vinyl. Would have been nice for Alpine to support FLAC to really drive a nail in the physical media coffin.

iPOD. This has full iPod controls, but I own no Apple products and couldn't test it.

Final judgment: Despite the serious flaws, this is a worthwhile way to get maximum use of a smartphone. I spend a lot of time stuck in traffic, so being able to catch up on any form of streaming audio broadcast is awesome.
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Old 05-03-2012, 04:33 PM   #2
watchdoc
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I just bought one of these for my 2002 Honda Insight. I am using a set of Polk DXi650's in the front doors and it sounds really good for head unit power only.

Everything works as it should. HD radio is excellent as well as Pandora and bluetooth streaming.

My only complaint is incoming call quality. I get some noise and breakup with my 3g motorola electrify on us cellular network. My phone has never done this in any other vehicles I've owned so I'm gonna research the issue.

*UPDATE* there are audio level controls for mic, incoming call, and ringer volume. I lowered the incoming call volume and it helps some but I still get some distortion for some unexplainable reason.

Last edited by watchdoc; 05-06-2012 at 08:53 PM.
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Old 05-05-2012, 06:57 PM   #3
iiibbb
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Got the same unit from Crutchfield because I wanted the wireless streaming.

This unit is really nice for the money. I had a Sony with some nice intuitive setups in my last car so I'm not quite used to the way the Alpine is set up.

I'm a non-audiophile. Installation was a breeze. Everything works. It didn't cost much. Has inputs for any conceivable source. Great basic system.
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Old 05-07-2012, 01:00 AM   #4
nubsub
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Thx for the thorough review!
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Old 05-08-2012, 12:10 AM   #5
rkjunior
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Unless they changed something, Pandora only works with an iPhone..
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Old 05-08-2012, 12:18 AM   #6
iiibbb
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rkjunior View Post
Unless they changed something, Pandora only works with an iPhone..
Well they changed something because it's worked with my HTC Incredible 2 for the past year when I got it.

BT wirelss nicely - but I'll be interested to try the thumbs up/down button and see if I have the same bug.
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Old 05-08-2012, 12:36 AM   #7
rkjunior
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Maybe the new Alpine's do both. My INA-W910 only does iPhone
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Old 05-13-2012, 05:54 PM   #8
iiibbb
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This unit does both... in fact it only does iPhone wired. I can control my Droid through a bluetooth connection. This is a great unit for droid.... assuming you have a decent droid I'm sure.

Mine is an HTC Incredible 2 and works great.
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Old 05-13-2012, 06:50 PM   #9
rkjunior
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i hope they come out with a firmware upgrade soon for the INA-W910.
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Old 05-14-2012, 11:21 PM   #10
DarkSilver
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I have an alpine wma-505 installed, works great but has issues with things like album art on older ipods. also wont charge an iphone but will charge an older gen 1 ipod. been waiting for a firmware update from alpine for years but have yet to see one.
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Old 06-07-2012, 09:39 AM   #11
johneusavage
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Default Bluetooth w/ phone Big Problem

With my CDE-HD137BT, the Bluetooth connection to my Motorola Razr cell phone for phone calls worked initially with no problems. Then, the connection was periodic. Now, no connection at all. This all happened within a week?!?

Any thoughts and suggestions to resolve this will be thanked more times than the national deficit!!!
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Old 06-07-2012, 07:32 PM   #12
johneusavage
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nubsub View Post
Thx for the thorough review!
How do I locate this review/link?
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Old 06-07-2012, 11:34 PM   #13
iiibbb
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johneusavage View Post
With my CDE-HD137BT, the Bluetooth connection to my Motorola Razr cell phone for phone calls worked initially with no problems. Then, the connection was periodic. Now, no connection at all. This all happened within a week?!?

Any thoughts and suggestions to resolve this will be thanked more times than the national deficit!!!
I occasionally have trouble with the bluetooth link. It usually goes away if I cycle through the sources (pandora or BT audio).

However, I've also corrected it by going to the bluetooth menu and selecting connect (somewhere in the bluetooth menu, can be accessed by the button to upper left of dial, or within the menu tree of the button to the lower left of the dial).

YMMV
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Old 08-11-2012, 07:01 PM   #14
johneusavage
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Default With Bluetooth & GPS on: no directions from speakers & cell

With Verizon-Razr Maxx cell phone:

Bluetooth & GPS on, the cell indicates directions are coming from the car speakers, yet only the radio can be heard. Sound for directions cannot be heard from the cell phone nor the radio.

Any thoughts will be greatly appreciated!
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Old 12-05-2012, 08:41 PM   #15
eb50
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curious, what mic did you end up getting as an upgrade? looking to pick this up for xmas.
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Old 01-22-2013, 09:44 PM   #16
scotty68
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anyone having issue with BT? i have connected to my s3 t999 but now have a note 2 and won't connect to it. gives me password error (doesn't have any)
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Old 02-07-2013, 01:41 PM   #17
chimchimm5
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Thanks for the review... the USB thing is a disaster and good thing you mentioned it.

That's a deal breaker for me.
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