Being the advertisers dream when it comes to buying stuff, I normally opt for well known names. And when it came time to install a stereo in my car, the list of manufacturers was short. I opted for this, the Blaupunkt Woodstock DAB 53, mainly because of the DAB or Digital Audio Broadcasting. At the time it was the concensus that DAB would surpass what we had then and still have now, go figure!!
Despite that minor grumble and the cost, somewhere in the region of £350 at the time although I do not beleive you can pick them up new any longer. The DAB does ensure a much clearer reception and sound quality although you can only store 20 stations.
Of course you still have access to analogue radio with this, with the ability to store 30 stations. Both can have traffic updates interrupt your staion of choice although this can be turned off. The CD/ MP3 player allows for the playback of mp3 encoded discs, memory cards which slip into the SD card reader, and CD-R and CD-RW discs. The discs when played, will have information regarding artist and song title displayed, this applies to the tuner as well which shows the station you are on or the typr of music you are listening to. This last option enables you find more stations of this music type through the PTY-EON search.
The device has numerous features which can be classed as useful or just plain gimmicky. There is a timer that allows the unit to play for upto one hour with the ignition switched off. This is to conserve the battery. You can also tie your mobile phone into the system so that you can hear calls through your speakers. If your car can vary it's dashboard illumination, then again you can set the display on this to match the overall lighting. Also the volume can be automatically adjsuted to compensate for increased speed and therefore environmental noise.
In addition the front panel, through which all of the information is displayed on an LCD, can be removed for additional security purposes. It comes complete with manual for fitting and operating, although if available, you should probably get a professional to install it. The finish is a matt balck contrasting with silver buttons and neon blue highlights.
So would I recomend this. No. The price I paid for it was ridiculous and when you consider that most of the features come standard with the stereos in cars like a Fiat Punto then you have to ask why pay more. DAB has not taken over and indeed doesn't look like it will. Like all good technology, it is outdated. Competitors saw what it could do, so they bettered it. And yet despite those misgivings I bought, I am still happy with it and I wouldn't get rid of it. So if someone offers you a Woodstock DAB 53 for free and installs it for nothing, great. If not then go elsewhere.
About 18 months ago I wanted a CD/radio combination to replace the tape/radio unit that's fitted as standard to my Ford. At the time, there was a big advertising campaign for DAB, so I thought that'd be good to get too. I've heard good reports on Blaupunkt kit, and the fact that the DAB-52 appeared on the Ford Accessories list convinced me, so I bought the DAB-53 mail order from a Blaupunkt dealer.
I got my friendly local Ford dealer to remove the existing radio and aerial and replace them with the DAB-53 and the "combi" FM+DAB aerial, (this looks wierd since it sticks straight up, rather than being at 45 degree like the standard-fit aerials). Since the DAB-53 is much smaller than the normal Ford radios I also had to get a blanking plate from Blaupunkt too.
Initial impressions were bad - the new radio had worse FM performance than the Ford unit, and the DAB station quality was patchy to say the least. Miraculously, after about two weeks the unit seemed to settle down, and DAB quality is now living up to the advertising - maybe it needed "running in"? FM performance is still sometimes spotty - it seems to want to hold onto poor signals longer than is desirable before auto-retuning. One nice feature is that if the DAB signal degrades, the unit will sometimes 'fall back' to the FM-RDS broadcast of the DAB station, if it exists.
The display - which is removable for security, and can be stored in a special case supplied - is a large electro-fluorescent one in a soothing blue shade. Unfortunately, heavy electrical demands, (like during a wet, cold night), make it dim noticably, and bright sunlight washes it out completely. I'd have preferred a backlit LCD, but the display is clear and easily readible, (most of the time). The graphic equaliser portion of the display is large, without being overly obtrusive. In DAB mode, the display can show scrolling messages from the DAB station, which can be a little distracting for the driver, (in which case they can be switched off).
Controls are not difficult to use, although the menu system is less than logical and requires a lot of referring to the manual to use. This system is capable of recording a DAB program to SD which, paradoxically given the other problems with the unit, is quite easy and simple to do. There's also a speed-sensitive volume control, but this doesn't seem to be working on my installation.
The DAB-53 can play MP3 files on either CD or SD card. Unfortunately it seems to be choosy about SD media, and how it's formatted, or what brand of CD-R is used. I'd recommend that if using SD, that big name cards, (Lexar, Sandisk, etc) are chosen, and format them on the DAB-53, rather than on your PC. CD media should be reputable brands, rather than the cheaper 'generic' stuff.
On the subject of CD playing - the DAB-53 has one of the worst CD mechanisms I've ever seen. It's clumsy and unreliable - I've had a CD stuck in the drive on three separate occasions, and on the last of these the CD media itself got damaged, which was annoying because it was a 'proper' CD, rather than an MP3 CD-R. The loading mechanism can also seem a bit hestitant about loading a CD, you need to be gentle with it.
Similarly, the SD slot can be a pain as the card can't be changed without removing the display, and removing cards can be a bit of a trial sometimes - don't try and do it on the move!
Sound quality from pre-recorded CD's is notably good, although it seems slightly more at home with classical or pop tracks than dance/house or heavy rock music. MP3 reproduction is also equally good, if a little quiet. I've not had to setup my own equaliser presets, as the supplied set sounded pretty good, although I find the 'Rock' preset is a little bass-light for my taste and end up using either the 'Pop' or 'Classical' settings in preference.
In use, the DAB-53's okay, the easy-to-use main controls and the good display are pluses, marred by a few dumb choices in the electronics. For example, if the unit detects that there's a DAB equivalent to the FM-RDS station you're listening too, then it'll always select the DAB station, (there's maybe a way to stop it doing this, but the manual's poor). If you leave the "traffic flash" function (which is useful on FM-RDS) switched on when on DAB, you'll get an annoying beep every 60 seconds. The last example I'll give is that if you switch from FM-RDS to DAB and then back again, you'll sometime find that instead of selecting the FM-RDS station you were last on, the DAB-53 will try and select an FM-RDS equivalent of the DAB station you were listening to.
In summary, the DAB-53 is versatile with good sound quality and display. Unfortunately, it suffers from issues with media compatibility, CD handling and some minor annoyances in the user interface for which the manual is no assistance. If I had to choose a tape/radio replacement, I don't think I'd pick the DAB-53 again, which is a shame given the sound quality.