Smarter car stereo in the smart phone age

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Smarter car stereo in the smart phone age
Pioneer Electronics AsiaCentre product manager Danny Quek explains the connectivity features of the company’s Z-Series head units. -- KAP MACEDA AGUILA

By Kap Maceda Aguila

THE logic is undeniable. People shell out wads of hard-earned money to procure powerful, feature-laden smartphones. They rightfully should be able to experience a seamless experience with these mobile devices even when aboard their vehicles. This, asserted Pioneer Electronics AsiaCentre (PEA) product manager Danny Quek, is the reason the Japan-headquartered electronics giant has deigned to up its game.

In the Philippines, Pioneer is arguably principally known for a rich history in car audio. Before its current logo (which debuted in 1998), Pioneer’s omega and tuning fork symbol was widely synonymous to affordable yet quality car after-market audio upgrades. The company is also responsible for in-car entertainment innovations such as the automobile CD player and the detachable-face car stereo.

Today, while the brand retains undoubted recall among automobile audiophiles, Pioneer Corp. has had to fight for its place and share of the pie against a myriad of companies. Bloomberg reports that North America is set to be the “largest market for in-vehicle infotainment systems by 2022.” Understandably, the United States “will be at the heart of this growth as the country has one of the highest installation rates of infotainment units in the world,” and that “the increasing demand for premium vehicles will drive the market growth as infotainment systems are offered as standard equipment in premium and luxury cars.” Pioneer Corp. is indicated as among the actors expected to make a play for this significantly growing market.

PEA and Zamony Venture Corp. (the latter being the exclusive distributor of the Pioneer brand in the Philippines) recently unveiled new multimedia head units in the Pioneer Z Series — reflecting the earnest and determined push into the future for the brand obviously out to get back in the thick of the aftermarket game.

The 1-DIN AVH-Z7050BT (P41,999), 2-DIN AVH-Z5050BT (P39,999), AVH-Z2050BT (P27,999), and AVH-Z1050DVD (P25,999) represent quick, definitive upgrades over stock infotainment systems that can sometimes be found lacking in performance capability and connectivity. “Our primary target market are owners of more affordable cars who want to upgrade their stock head units,” said Zamony Venture Corp. sales head Gregg Alina to this writer. “Coincidentally, the Z Series’ new features jibe with the recently enacted Anti-Distracted Driving Law.”

The Z-Series head units boast connectivity with Apple CarPlay, AppRadio Mode+, and the Android Auto (yet to be officially launched in the region, although beta versions are available) from the AVH-Z2050BT upwards. They are Bluetooth-ready and can accommodate up to five devices simultaneously. Users can access their media library of videos and songs, use certain apps such as Waze (launched from Pioneer’s new AppRadio Mode+), and even stream online videos (via the AppRadio LIVE app). Music-streaming app Spotify is also available.

The Z Series heralds a “seamless user experience” through plug-and-play convenience. The head unit automatically detects and retrieves available content from phones, a thumb drive, or even a 1-TB external hard drive. Video playback supports full-HD quality (1080p) and, perhaps more importantly, numerous codecs such as WMW, Xvid, H.264, H.263, and MPEG-4 — opening the door for more content to be used.

Pioneer also upgrades the Z models to promise better sound. In a statement, the company says the line banners a “newly developed circuit board which eliminates external interference to enhance audio signal integrity,” and “performance is further improved by leveraging premium audiophile-grade components for maximum listening pleasure.” Finally, all models have been “professionally tuned” by sound engineers. For increased customization, users can access a 13-band graphic equalizer, auto equalizer, auto time alignment, and Pioneer’s proprietary Advanced Sound Retriever. Hands-free functions are also provided.

Mr. Alina reminds buyers to procure only from licensed or authorized dealers, as there are gray-market suppliers hawking smuggled and/or out-of-region units which can prove problematic for owners later — aside from the fact that they lose their warranty.