When I bought my car from auction it came without a CD player so I wanted to fill the gap with a cheap but good quality CD player. I tend to only use my car to get from a to b so I was not fussed about getting an all singing all dancing model.
I bought this JVC one as it seemed a very reasonable price for the specification it was offering.
==Price and availability==
I paid £49 pounds from eBay. It was brand new and boxed and after seeing the same item on Amazon for £67.99 I thought I got a bargain.
==A glowing display==
The player is very snazzy looking and looks exceptionally good quality. It has a shiny black exterior with red and blue lights on the controls. The LCD screen shows glowing white lettering on a dark background. The buttons and controls are sturdy and it looks like it is a very expensive bit of kit. The only downside for the aesthetic appearance is that it glows really bright. Driving round at night makes it look a bit ridiculous it shines so much. There is a dimmer button though that takes some of the glow out of the dials, otherwise the whole interior of the car glows.
==All hail the USB==
On the front of the device at the right hand side is my favourite addition to the CD player; a USB port. I hate having my car being cluttered with CD discs and I never manage to get them in the right cases so end up with a car filled with CDs in the wrong cases. Coupled with this, on a long journey you can only listen to one CD at a time and need the passenger to change the disc over for you. When you have a USB port you can load as many songs on the stick as possible and then plug it in, hours of fun. It is also much safer than having your ipod connected as this can get scratched and you need a cradle for it. The USB stick inserts directly into the machine. The only downside to this is that my stick is quite large and as it protrudes it blocks access to my cup holder. The load time for the USB stick does seem to take quite a while (I use a 6GB stick and the largest the machine will take is an 8GB) and you can be driving a few minutes before it kicks in, despite this once it is loaded it plays really well and you can search through to find specific songs using the controls on the front of the machine.
The machine also plays CDS and these can be copied CDs or shop bought ones. Again, this takes a while to load but it is relatively silent you do not get the whirring that normally comes from a loading CD player. After a minute from the CD loads, the screen often reads with the song name and track number, again making it easy to scroll through to find your favourite song.
The sound quality depends on the size of your speakers but with the 4x50M amp it gives most speakers enough to play with and sound quality is fantastic. There is a three band equaliser for sound output, bass, mid and treble. Sound is crisp and clear and the bass option really gives music some extra penetrative tones.
You can turn up the volume fairly loud before the speakers give a tinny, booming sound. I tend not to have my music too loud as I do not want to offend people with my choice of music.
There is a radio tuner where you can pre set up to 24 radio channels. This can reach FM/ MW and LW radio channels and it is really quick at finding channels. To pre set them you need to just hold down one of the buttons. It is just as easy to locate saved stations. I only have 5-6 different station pre sets, but it is good to know I can store more.
There is also an AUX jack for you to connect your iPod or MP3 player.
I'm not very good with cars but I fitted this myself and it really is a case of plug in and play. The player is excellent quality and I am pleased with it. I always remember to take the fascia out when I leave the vehicle unattended. There was no case that came with the device which is a big disappointment so I had an old drawstring cloth bag that I now store it in. Overall, this is decent player for the money.
From reading my reviews about ipod in car solutions many of you are probably aware that I used to use my ipod in my car. I use the word 'used' because in early December some thieving scum decided to do a smash and grab of my beloved MP3 player whilst I ran in to a Tesco Metro to get some milk.
Living in Norfolk I thought I would be OK leaving the Ipod in the cradle whilst I locked the car and ran in, especially since I parked right outside the shop. How wrong I was.
MP3's are the way forward and I wanted a way of playing MP3's in my car without having hundreds of pounds worth of kit that could be pinched so easily. After a bit of research I found out that many radios have a USB interface whereby you store MP3's on a USB flash drive and this is plugged in to the face of the radio.
Due to the credit crunch/recession etc. I did not have a large budget, nor do I need a top of the range radio, so I looked around for a reasonably priced radio with this feature. After a bit more searching I found the JVC KD-G351. This seemed to be exactly what I was looking for.
I'm not going to list all the technical specifications of this radio since this can be obtained from many websites, including JVC's website.
What I consider to be the key specifications are as follows:
i) Dimensions - 182mm x 52mm x 160 mm
ii) Weight - 1.3kg
iii) Volume - 65dB maximum
iv) 19 watts RMS (continuous power)
v) MP3 decoding format - 320 kbps maximum
vi) WMA decoding format - 320 kbps maximum
vii) USB standard - USB 1.1, USB 2
Before I purchased this I read a few reviews stating that fitting this radio was a bit of a mission that was not helped by poor instructions. If you have already read such reviews then ignore them. Fitting this radio is an absolute doodle that takes very little time.
This radio has a standard ISO connector, therefore if your factory fitted radio has this fitment then it is merely a case of plug and play. Even if your factory fitted radio dies not have an ISO connection, as was the case with my Ford Focus, then there are adaptors (wire harnesses) available that go between the factory fitment and the ISO connector. These adaptors are cheap (I paid £3.99 for mine) and available from retailers of stereo equipment such as Wilco, Halfords and the like.
In addition to an ISO connector you may need an aerial adaptor, especially if your factory fitted radio is not of the ISO connector type. Again, these are cheap (I paid £1.99 for mine) and widely available.
Factory fitted radios are normally larger than replacement radios therefore when they are removed you are usually left with a hole in the dash. This hole will be covered up with a fascia and it is important to get the correct one for your type of car.
As long as you have all the necessary connectors, adaptors and fascias then you will have no problems fitting this radio. It really is a case of pull the old one out (ensure you have the correct removers to do this as the ones supplied with this radio will only remove this radio and no others), pull out the ISO, clip in the wire harness (if your vehicle doesn't have an ISO connector), clip in the radio and then push it in the dash. Once the radio is all the way in push in the fascia and hey presto.
There is no need to get a professional to install this radio. There is no need to start cutting wires and connecting them together or soldering them, so if you are going down this road then you are doing something wrong.
****Looks and finish****
This is not the best looking radio I have ever seen, but then bearing in mind that it is a budget radio and how much I actually paid for it, it does not look that bad. It looks pretty much like all other radios in this price bracket which is to be expected, in any case it looks a lot better than the factory fitted Ford radio I had.
The radio is black in colour, which is pretty understated, with silver buttons. The lights around all the buttons are red in colour. These really do show up at night and I think it looks quite cool. There is no option to change the red lights so if you prefer blue, green, orange or any other colour then this radio will not be to your taste.
The radio face is durable and sturdy enough but it is not of the same quality of more expensive radios, however this is to be expected given that this is a budget radio. Whilst the volume control looks sturdy enough, this appears to be the weak point and does feel a bit fragile, however this should be fine providing it is treated with care and not man handled.
This radio is packed with great features. It is a radio player that can play CDs, MP3's stored on a disc and MP3's stored on a USB flash drive. In addition it has an AUX in jack that allows you to connect a portable music player (ipod, MP3 player, mini disk player, MP4 player etc) so you can hear your music through your car speakers. It is really versatile.
The radio has an RDS mode enabling you to get the all important traffic information and PTY standby receptions.
Being 4 x 50 watts total power output (19 watts RMS or continuous power), this radio does pack quite a punch, although sound volume and quality is largely dependant upon the speaker system in the car.
I have factory fitted speakers, that whilst adequate and reasonably loud, are miles away from the after market speakers available. Because of my poor speaker set up I am unable to comment on how far this radio can be pushed until an amplifier is needed to produce even more decibels. Personally, I am not that bothered about having a sound system that'll make your ears bleed and prefer to have my music at a more sociable level.
This radio with my speaker set up produces the same volume and quality as the factory fitted radio as expected. I did not buy this radio for volume or additional sound quality, I bought it for the other features.
This radio does not come with a radio fascia case. I appreciate that this is effectively a budget radio but it is still important to protect the radio's face when it has been removed from the actual unit and as such I think that JVC should have included a case as standard. A case can be bought separately, from places like Halfords and Ebay but this obviously incurs additional cost.
This radio does not come with a remote control. Whilst remote controls promote safe driving (since there is no need to take the hands off the steering wheel if the remote is mounted in the middle of the wheel) I do not find this too much of a problem since I am left handed and can easily reach the controls to adjust the volume, change the track etc.
Because of the different shapes of USB flash drives this radio cannot be used with all types of flash drive. It will only support drives up to a maximum of 2gb. Whilst this does not appear to be a lot I think it is more than adequate since this is a couple of thousand songs at a high quality bit rate, which should be more than enough for any road trip. I appreciate that you won't be able to carry your whole music library on one flash drive but does it really matter? You can either carry multiple flash drives or just be a bit selective of the music you take, which requires a bit of planning.
USB hubs and SD cards will not work with this radio.
The instruction manual is very concise, user friendly and easy to read. The manual clearly shows how to use each feature of the radio in step by step way, meaning you will be up and running with this radio in a very short space of time.
The instruction manual also contains a trouble shooting guide, just on case you do have any problems, and a list of the full specifications.
****Price and availability****
This radio can be bought from many offline and online retailers, and as always, I would suggest doing a bit of shopping around to ensure that you get it at the best price.
I bought mine from Amazon for £50.57. This qualified for the free postage and packaging so this was the total price I paid.
At the time of writing this radio is also available for £79.99 from Bass Junkies so there is a large price differential for this radio.
****Using the JVC KD-G351 and opinion****
Despite it's range of features this radio is very easy to use. The layout and functionality of the buttons means swapping form radio to USB flash drive to CD is quick, easy and fool proof.
The instruction manual is a real 'idiot's guide' and makes learning how to use this radio very easy, just as it should be. Every thing is documented in a step by step manner with good diagrams.
Setting up the general settings (display and clock etc) is a easy and, provided the manual is consulted, will take no time at all.
This radio is really versatile and that is why I rate it so much. Having the ability to play MP3's from a USB key is great since it means I no longer have to carry around a bulky ipod or any other MP3 player, a charging cradle and all the associated wires. I can simply pull out the USB flash drive, slip it in my pocket and go.
When playing MP3's, using a disc or a USB key, the radio does take about 30 seconds to read the data before it starts playing. Whilst it may seem like an eternity whilst sitting in the car waiting for the music it is actually quite quick and comparable to the speed of more expensive radios.
Another thing I have noticed about playing music from a USB flash drive is that it is quieter than listening to Radio 1 for example. This needs to be remembered when swapping between modes as you will find that the volume suddenly increases when you reach the radio mode, which may damage your speakers.
This is not the prettiest of radios on the market, but I like the understated black and silver colour scheme, as well as the red light surrounds. I appreciate that some people do not like any red interior lights, since they generally mean that something is going wrong, but I don't mind them. That said, it would be nice to have the option of changing the colour.
It should be remembered that this is a budget radio. It is far from being a top end model, therefore it would not be right to compare it to one. When considering the features and versatility of this radio it is easy to see that it represents great value for money and has features found on much more expensive radios. The quality is not fantastic but it should last if treated with care.
A remote control would be useful but I am not overly concerned about this. What bothers me is that JVC do not include a case for the front of the radio. Even though this is a budget radio the face still needs protecting when it is removed, therefore a case is essential.
This radio packs a punch, but to really test it you need an after market speaker system, which I do not have.
If you want to play MP3's in your car then I think that this is the best way. Forget about ipod in car solutions, even the professionally installed types (that cost a fortune), radios with the USB interface are the way forward. Whilst these radios cannot hold your entire music collection it will hold enough for many hours driving. This solution negates the need for ipod chargers, ipod cradles etc and a USB key also takes up a lot less room and will not get in the way of any gear stick (a problem with an ipod cradle in many cars because of the location of the cigarette lighter).
This is the cheapest radio with a USB interface that I could find and I am extremely impressed with it. It is a budget radio but it performs really well with a factory fitted speaker set up and is really versatile. Buying this radio is also cheaper than many inc-car ipod solutions and you don't risk having your ipod pinched with this set. A radio highly recommended.