Influenced by the other 3 owners reviews, I set about researching a Panasonic CQ RDP 383 for the new car I was getting two weeks ago. I saw it initially at £100 + £10 delivery online, but I took a quick look in the latest Argos catalogue as saw it was £150 with free fitting at a garage of your choice. Not being the most technically minded, and not wanting to mess up the installation, I was going to opt for this. I asked the Car dealers to quote me a price for it as well?. "yep we can do it for £150 in your new car" hmm hoped they would undercut it. Anyways due to a mix up in the price for my car, I stuck to my guns and demanded that they either go out and fit the Panasonic in the car for free or I won't buy the car..it worked.. Looks wise, the head unit is pretty cool. In the day time, it's ok, but as the night comes, is a lovely blue neon display with some red buttons for track skipping. Nice shiny silver trim around the display as well. Comes with a little box (like a sunglasses box) to put the head unit in which is nice enough. Detaching the head unit from the main CD Box is as easy as pressing a button on the top right of the face, it pops out and you put it in the little box to take into your house for safe keeping. When coming back to your car in the morning you just click the head unit back into place and your ready, takes about 5 seconds. Performance wise, does what it says on the box. One thing I found strange was that while other manufacturers are clear to point out that their unit has EON (automatically finds the strongest signal for a radio station), the Panasonic doesn't advertise this. Well it's got it, together with RDS (displays radio station names), MP3 and WMA ability. The Player can also display ID3 tags for your MP3's (basically this means it will display the artist/album/title on the display while the song plays). If noone quite understands what MP3 and WMA is, t
hey are 2 of the major ways to compress a song off a normal audio CD to about 1/10 of its original size. This basically means you can fit about 10 times as many songs onto a recordable CD that you make on your home computer. The difference between MP3 and WMA is that WMA is Microsoft's version of MP3, but there's no real difference both in sound or file size. One advantage that WMA has over MP3 is that Windows XP has a program built into it called Windows Media Player, and with this you can encode your music CD's into WMA....only WMA though. Mind you, there are plenty of free MP3 encoders available on the internet. Of course you will need a CD Writer drive for your computer but these can be picked up for about £40 new now. I've got a 40x CD writer in my computer and it takes about 4 minutes to write 200+ songs onto a blank CD. A funny thing the car dealer said to me as he was handing me over the various manuals for the car - "how much do these MP3 discs cost?". Well if anyone's wondering this, I'll tell you what I told him - you don't need any special CD to write MP3's onto, just a standard writeable CD (CD-R or CD-R/W) and as for the cost, well I recently went to Jessops camera shop on the high street and bought 100 black CD's on a spindle for £19.99, so if each CD can hold 200+ MP3's, thats a lot of music for 20 quid.... Of course you don't just have to encode your own music CD's, there are millions of songs online if you know where to look for them....cough, kazaa, cough. I personally use a program called MusicMatch Jukebox which organises my MP3's and easily lets you write them to a CD. Before I went to get my car from the dealers I quickly made up a CD (about 200 songs on it). Once driving the car home, I just pushed in the CD; the player knew what to do with it and it was playing songs within a couple of seconds. Anyway, I'm a happy customer of Panasonic
and can say that if y ou get this unit, you will be as happy as I am.
Thanks to BenGee for his sterling review of the Panasonic CQ RDP383 which prompted me to get one too. I think it is sensible to get the mid-range CQ RDP383 which is around £30 less than the bottom-of-the-range Kenwood or Sony without losing out to them in terms of features. Also I am a fan of the rotary knob which implements vol/bass/treble/fader/balance very well (push in to select). One minor grip is that there doesn't seem to be a way of skipping lots of songs at a time, if you have a folder with 100 songs and you want song 50, you have to press the FWD button 50 times. On my Philips MP3 stereo system there is a 1 and 10+ song skip so song number 50 is simply 5 presses of the 10+ button.
This is one of the first products that I have bought directly as a result of a dooyoo recommendation (thanks to BenGee for an excellent review). I have an old Clarion tape deck in my Peugeot 205 which was seriously beginning to show its age, the main disadvantage being that it played tapes and the reception was so gone that only radio 1 and vibe 101 were the only FM stations that it could pick up and medium wave reception was pretty awful. So having got fed up of the Sara Cox breakfast show very quickly I started looking for alternatives. First I tried using a CD to tape converter and personal CD player in the car. This was OK until the car started moving and the personal CD player started skipping. Next I put the personal CD player in a suspension cradle, which stopped it skipping. However it was so much hassle sorting out the wires and batteries for the player every day that I gave up using it quickly. Having been impressed with MP3 CD players and their ability to hold multiple albums or songs on one CD I was interested in one for the car as soon as one was available at a reasonable price. Unfortunately the only ones available at under £200 were from Roadstar or Goodmans. Now I'm sure that these two companies make some good products but unfortunately most of them seem to be the cheapest of their type in the Argos catalogue so I wasn't prepared to trust them. Panasonic generally have a better reputation. I bought the unit over the web from MCS Direct (www.mcs-direct.co.uk) for £100. The order was processed and despatched very quickly. MCS use CityLink as couriers - the order was delivered within a week, only slightly delayed because their delivery cards looked like junk mail so I missed them for a few days - doh! In the end I collected the parcel myself as they couldn't deliver out of hours or leave the parcel with a neighbour. Argos have also started selling this stereo too now but at nearly £50 more so their
description of 'great value' is probably true for the stereo but not if you buy it from them! The unit is supplied with a comprehensive manual, mounting collar, mounting bolt, trim plate, ISO antenna adaptor (didn't need this) and dismounting plates (little metal tabs to remove the radio with). It also has connections for a CD changer unit if you want to add this later. The unit also has a removable front panel and hard carrying case for it. The unit automatically beeps at you when you turn off the ignition to remind you to remove the front panel. It can be installed in any dashboard with an opening of 182mm by 53mm. Now I know absolutely nothing about car stereos apart from the very basics. I initially had no idea about what connectors my car had or even if a 4 speaker unit would be OK for the car. Fortunately it was easy to install and fit. Most modern cars are fitted with a block of ISO connector connections - nearly all new car stereos (or head units) are designed to fit an ISO connection so plug straight into this. There is generally another lead for the coaxial aerial lead. The car connector block will contain connections for power, earth, radio illumination, each of the speakers etc. Most cars now have 4 speakers (front and rear left and right) but mine has only 2 and the CQRDP383 is rated as 4 speakers at 50W. However this is not a problem - it connects and works fine with 2 speakers and the controls to change the balance between left and right work too. Therefore older cars need a harness adaptor containing a convertor block to connect to your old car?s connector block to an ISO connector block to plug into the new stereo. Halfords sell many of these - one type usually covers a range of car models and they cost about £10. Installation of the unit in the end was very easy and took about one hour. Most of this time was actually spent trying to start the car again afterwards and rather than fitt
ing the stereo - disconnecting the battery arms the alarm on my car and activates the immobiliser. The first step is to disconnect the negative terminal of the battery to avoid the possibility of shorting anything while changing the electrical connections. The main steps are then to first remove the old unit by releasing the clamping pins holding it onto the mounting collar in the dashboard fascia panel. To do required flipping off the cover tabs and then using either knitting needles or special removal rods (Halfords £3) and pulling it out. The connector block and aerial lead then unplug from the back and you can pull the old mounting collar out (either properly by bending back up the tabs on it, or impatiently by bending and ripping it out). I put the mounting screw on the back of the unit and used the rubber cushion threaded on the old unit to thread onto it and fit into the rear support bracket on the car. Next you plug the harness adaptor into the cars existing connector block, thread the new mounting collar around the wires and aerial, put it into place on the dashboard and push out the tabs on it to lock it in place. Then the new unit could be connected up to the ISO connector and aerial lead and pushed into the mounting collar and the battery reconnected. This last bit is usually the most fiddly as there is very little slack with the aerial and connector leads although if you are using a harness adaptor this will not be a problem. Then the trim plate clips over the top. The unit started up first time without any problems. It starts in demonstation mode with text scrolling over the display so a quick look through the manual was needed to figure out how to stop this and get it started properly. The controls are very easy to use. The radio comes with TA and EON and RDS. There is a large control knob to set the volume. Tapping the knob also switches to options to set levels for bass, treble, left right balance, fr
ont rear balance (fader) and volume of traffic announcements (TA) if you want these to interrupt your radio or CD. The sound quality is very good, with the controls with the treble and bass controls making it easy to make very big changes to the sound. The large volume dial also makes it easy to operate on the move. The radio is precise and I found it a shock to be suddenly able to pick up a multitude or stations for the first time for years - some were even in welsh. Holding down the seek button jumps to autoseek although manual seek can be used. The autoseek sensitivity can also be changed or disabled. The sound is clear and the seek function finds the strongest signal although this was not at precisely the correct frequency for some stations. As it has RDS and EON it will lock onto the strongest signal for national stations and retune to the strongest signal as you move locations. MW radio is also good and the shielding was better than the old radio - electrical whine and interference had also disappeared so there was no sound of the revs from the engine or whine when the windscreen wipers were in use. Autoseek managed to pick up a large number of stations at medium wave. There are 6 preset buttons to store stations (press and hold to save the current station to memory). Frequencies are FM 87.5-108, MW 531-1602, LW 153-279. CD and MP3 CD playback is simple. Putting a CD in automatically switches the unit into either CD or MP3/WMA mode. The radio-seek left and right keys are used to skip between tracks or fast forward or rewind and preset 1 and 2 keys to jump between subdirectories. The RDP383 can also display ID3 tags on the display for MP3s or just the filenames and directory name. It can play MP3s at bitrates of 32 to 320 kbps. It can also play WMA files 64kbps to 192 kbps. It takes either CD-R or CD-RW although the CD-Rom session has to be closed or finalised on the disk. It is recommended to stick to constant bitrate tracks b
ut it can play VBR tracks (not for WMA) although it can affect playing time information being displayed. In total up to 999 files or folders can be handled, with up to 255 files in one folder and up to 8 subdirectories (trees). There is also a seek function to play the intro of each track in CD or MP3 mode and a random function. TA can also be set and also the volume of the TA announcements. The MP3 playback really is good. MP3 is well suited to cars, where background noise tends to mask out if the sound is flat and the bass and treble is not as good as proper uncompressed music on a CD or minidisk. It is also very easy to switch between lots of tracks quickly using just the 1 and 2 plus the seek keys. I found the MP3 sound to be very strong, even on dance music tracks where the bass usually pulls down the whole volume of the music and tends to drown it out at lower bitrate MP3s. However the dance and rock tracks still sounded punchy and sharp. Seek time is fast between tracks. I have tried a lot of different compilation MP3 CDs and have yet to crash it - it has taken most bitrates and CBR and VBR tracks and not thrown any back yet. The CD also has yet to skip, even after having a good go at trying courtesy of the local traffic calming speed-humps. Overall I think this is bargain of the century - good CD and radio with TA, EON and RDS and access to 6 hours of music per CD without a CD changer. If you have access to a CD burner you will be spoilt for choice in making up your own music CDs.
Sections: 1. Introduction 2. Installation 3. Appearance 4. Radio 5. CD Playback 6. MP3 Playback 7. Anti theft 8. Value-for-money 9. Conclusion 1. INTRODUCTION I bought this MP3-CD head unit as a replacement for the cassette deck that came with my Peugeot 205. These were my main reasons for upgrading: · Time and effort required making new tapes. · Inability to skip through songs · Inconvenience of using cassette adaptor ? volume changing when switching back to radio mode. · Sound lost clarity at higher volumes. I was looking for a player that met the following requirements: · Play MP3 cd's - remove need to change discs constantly · Good sound quality · Reliable · Not too expensive - roughly £100 or less! 2. INSTALLATION I will start by saying that I have never fitted a car stereo before. The only thing I knew was that my car uses a 13-pin connector (Peugeot 205 standard) and the latest industry standard is the ISO connection. However, with help from my dad, who has no previous experience either, we were able to install the stereo in less than 15 minutes. We used the following equipment: · Removal rods to take out the existing stereo (£3.50 Halfords) · Harness adaptor (£9.99 MCS Direct) To start with we disconnected the battery under the bonnet, to prevent it from powering up while we put it in. We used the removal rods to take out the existing Clarion cassette deck. We then took out the old cage and put the new one in, bending the tabs down to hold it firmly in place. All of the leads were connected together (really easy) and then the unit pushed to the back of the cage. We connected the battery, I turned the key and it powered up! 3. APPEARANCE The faceplate has a silver finish. The LCD display is very bright blue, a
nd displays text in white. It is very easy to read. The forward / back button glows a dim red. 4. RADIO Sound from the radio is crystal clear! It has a whole range of features, including RDS, which shows the station name, and EON, which retunes to the strongest signal. Traffic Announcements can also be received. The radio has six numbered buttons, which can be used as memory presets for storing your favourite stations. 5. CD PLAYBACK Controls Controls are well laid out and cover all the standard functions. A rotary volume knob means it is fairly easy to adjust the volume while driving. Bass, treble and balance levels can be accessed by pressing in the volume knob. Sound quality Sound quality is very good and combines punchy base with crisp highs. A "loud" setting makes the base even more prominent, although this is best used at very low volumes, as it is very strong! CD-Text CD-Text is a technology developed for regular audio CDs, which displays track and album titles on compatible players. For some reason, there are very few pre-recorded CDs that make use of this technology. Maybe the record industry is too lazy to use it! However, if you are recording your own CDs from your computer, most burning applications, such as Nero, is capable of creating CD-Text. I have tested this out and it worked fine in the Panasonic head unit. 6. MP3 / WMA PLAYBACK The following text refers to MP3 playback, as I have not yet tested any WMA files. However, I wanted to note that the player does support WMA files. Loading Time MP3 discs take just under 10 seconds to initially load. Once loaded you can skip between folders / tracks instantly, without any delay. Between tracks When you leave a track to play through, there is stil < br>l no noticeable gap in sound before the next track begins. I have tested this by watching the timer, and it seems to continue immediately. I will test this with a continuous dance mix in the near future, just to make absolutely sure. ID3 Tag Display can be pressed to switch between file and folder titles. It is therefore best to name your files using the track title, e.g. "Excuse Me Miss.mp3", and folders using artist and album title, e.g. "Jay Z - Blueprint2". Fast-forward / rewind through MP3 tracks I understand that, from reading other messages, this feature appears to be missing from a lot of other car MP3 players. I can confirm that you can fast-forward through an MP3 track, to reach a particular part. This is done at a constant speed, i.e. it doesn't gradually get faster. Bitrate The manual states that the player supports bit-rates of up to 320kbps in MP3 mode, and up to 192kbps in WMA mode. This covers just about any file available. I personally tested MP3 files ranging from 128kbps up to 320kbps. I can say that all files played without any problems. Sound was excellent ? indistinguishable from CD at 160kbps and above. Note: the manual said the VBR (variable bit-rate) files are not recommended. However, very few people use this setting anyway. 7. ANTI-THEFT The player comes with a removable faceplate. Whenever you switch off the engine, the player beeps 3 times to remind you to take the faceplate. Be sure to take it though, as it is very eye-catching and is bound to attract thieves! 8. VALUE-FOR-MONEY The player was excellent-for-money at only £99.99 from MCS Direct (www.mcs-direct.co.uk). Other brands offering MP3 playback at this price include Goodmans and Roadstar, both of which have poor reputati
ons. For £30 -40 more y ou will find the entry-level Kenwood and Pioneer models. However, neither of these models have a rotary volume knob, which are easier to use while driving. On the Pioneer player, I have read about delays between tracks, which could get annoying! 9. CONCLUSIONS If you have MP3 files on your computer, and access to a CD burner, then this is definitely the player for you! Even if you don't, why not get it anyway? It costs about the same as most other entry-level head-units. I was initially worried about compatibility with discs and files, but this has not proved a problem at all. It allows you to listen to hours of music without having to change the disc, and is a lot more convenient than using a CD changer!