Before we get stuck into this Alpine iLX-F905D review, I want to take you back in time. Long ago, Japanese car audio was very different to ours in the UK. Car audio theft was rife and a huge multi-shop organisation existed mostly just to fit insurance replaced radios. It was a roaring trade, driven by crime. In Japan, you could have flashy feature speaker grilles. You could fit the radio’s front panel on permanently and have tweeters in cute pods showing on your dash. We had to have stealth shelves and hide stuff. Kenwood had MASK units that turned the face into a blank steel plate. JVC had EL Kameleon, which had to be seen to be believed.
It is refreshing to see the Japanese brand set free from Euro crime pressure. My first culture shock when I got taken to Japan was at the airport. The limo-bus announcer put his microphone in a plastic cup taped to a lamp post near where he was working after use. It would have got nicked at Heathrow in minutes! My host said when I asked, marvelling, “Nobody would steal it… how would they do the announcements?”
Anyway, back to the subject of focus – a premium Japanese single-DIN car stereo which I placed at the top of the tree in a recent round-up of similar products. In this Alpine iLX-F905D review, I’ve comprehensively put it through its paces, and with decades of experience in the car audio scene, I’m well-placed to assess its strengths and weaknesses. So, if you want to know exactly why I think it’s worth the lofty asking price, check out what I’ve written below!
RRP: £899.99. Buy it here.
Setup & Operation
I have been doing simple little video clips of each stereo unit as I go. This one had to start with all the cables plugged in the back. They all have labels on them where they need them. My clip reveals that had I plugged in two Alpine cams, you could have seen me in two angles on the screen! The plugs are on a multi-pin cable set. The vehicle data bus connection is also on another of these multi-pins. Steering wheel remote control integration and the vehicle display interface connect here. I need to learn more about what can show in your own car’s display by this route.
The GPS antenna plugs in, which is to back up the accuracy to your handset’s GPS. The DAB and FM aerials and the microphone get their own sockets. It’s a mass of wires back there but the fan keeps it all cool. The screen doesn’t feel warm and the thermocouple showed just 37ºC max
The operation is all by touch screen and it’s a fine example. A pretty slice of industrial design, Halo9 looks really up market on its mount. I found out about the Aux being full A/V when I called up Mr. Alpine to tell him I thought I had found screen missing in the GUI. He explained how it was full A/V – video too! Then, I whinged about the two USBs only allowing data to be used with one of them. The second was a charging facility only. Happily, the next software update will change that, so both will read data as well as charge devices.
I plugged in my USB TV show (my ill-fated pilot episode of a show called The Tackle Room), the music USB, and of course played my toddler singing through that. He’s 28 now, and that recorder and its internal immovable files are digital heirlooms.
How Well Does It Work?
Confession time. I wasn’t going to admit it, but I messed up. Getting hold of the kit to test was just stage one. Having been to collect the unit at a dealer’s, I didn’t immediately check the contents. It wasn’t until Test Day that I found all the looms were left at Alpine’s service centre. I had literally ‘borrowed’ this iLX-F905D from the back of the famous Alpine VW demo van. I had to ask the same guys who advised me about DAB plug holes and sockets, if they could break open the their stock and lend me the wires. Big up to Team Impulse in Watford. You can get stuff of this quality in there, with nil ‘we-will-get-it-in’ delays. They rock. (Beautiful showroom, by the way.)
At last, the fun bit…
Music, radio on DAB and FM. My kid singing. The joys of showing the world where I live (sigh….) by GPS, and the Spotify and YouTube thing. I admit I didn’t try Tidal. I was at the launch of MQA, (Tidal’s favoured data codec) at the top of the Shard. Sadly MQA has become less relevant as nowadays, we can simply use huge data, rapidly. The iLX-F905D does just that, reading the FLAC goodness from the USB in nothing flat. Being able to see it all laid out on the supersize screen is deliciously cool, too. I was fretty that one taste of Tidal’s awesome multi-format high resolution library and I was going to be aching for their best £19.99 a month service. Heck, maybe I aughta!
High End Audio
Alpine are legends at high end. Their F#1 Status product has been updated, so you can spend £25,000 for the full system and then get it installed. It comprises the entire system, from source to speaker. Then, they have the tech from that line, available in speakers and amplifiers, called “Alpine Status”. The 14-channel HDP-D90 has major DSP but Halo9 can use the other amps and speakers. Set that up, and it will be world-class.
True HiRes is all about the detail and crisp edges to sounds. Tidal offers a bazillion tunes as does Spotify but if you have a collection of your own stuff, you will want it to sound its best. In the same way that Pioneer has Automatic Sound Retriever, Alpine have a system to add back high and edges to lesser-res music. Having listened to it, the three-levels choice Alpine MediaXpander system, is audibly the best. Tracks sound truly improved. I enjoyed the speed of the graphics and didn’t struggle working out what to do to get the result I wanted.
That Class D amp is no bigger in wattage than the MOSFET ones but it is significantly more efficient. The first head unit to brag about doing this, Halo9 is annoy-the-car-next-to-you loud, just on inbuilt power.
I played for ages and didn’t get to the bottom of everything it can do, especially the six channel time alignment and 56-band parametric equaliser. Even the EQ presets are awesome.
A total technical monster of automative electronic goodness that will delight you for years to come. An easy Best for High End with the HiRes and 6V configurable pre-outs. And for being The Kraken of Car Audio, it gets Best Overall as well.
As Will Smith said. “Turn up the bass and let the Alpine blast…”
Halo9 is beautiful and truly is a cruel competitor for BEST OVERALL in the 1-DIN group test. It can bring all the two-DIN screen real estate and more, with its new era of secure housing in a car.
It has everything and it has it at the top end of quality. The processor is a beast and can put video picture-in-picture at a Graphical User Interface whim. There’s a cluster of multi-pin connectors on the back as there simply isn’t enough space for all the normal sockets. Even the Aux is on an in-line socket. That latter can do video as well as audio. The only one in ten that can, despite three having both Aux and screen, albeit 3in!
- 1-DIN body GPS-equipped car radio with ‘floating’ 9in HD capacitative HALO screen, twin cam connection
- 4x50W MOSFET CLASS D internal power amplifier, 24-BIT DAC, Fr, Rr, Sub pre-outs at 6V
- Unaffected by stop/start, Wireless remote control ready, HDMI in/out, 2x corded USB (1 data, 1 charging)
- FM, AM, DAB+, AUX, plays FLAC, AAC, WAV, APE, MP3, MP4, MOV, FLV, MKV
- HiRes, with integrated TIDAL app, optional RUE-BK01 remote control, vehicle data-bus connection
- Works wirelessly with Apple Car play, Android Auto (USB wired), Bluetooth (V4.2), Made for iPhone