I have just installed the Alpine eX-10 into my car. This unit was originally several hundred dollars but is now discontinued and can be found much cheaper. Amazon have it for $US44.95 Click here. I paid a little more as I saw it online cheap and didn’t do any research. At this price its an absolute bargain and there is nothing that comes close at the price or even at 4 times the price IMO.
The Alpine eX-10 is a combination of devices. Its a Bluetooth handsfree kit for your mobile phone. Its an Ipod/Iphone interface for your stereo, and it is also a display for both, that can be mounted so you don’t have to take your eyes too far off the road to use it.
The Alpine eX-10 comes with a control box that can be mounted out of sight, a 2.4 inch display, that can be easily mounted to your dash. It also comes with a microphone for the hands free function, and a remote control, to drive it all. Some may wonder about using a remote control while driving, but as this remote allows you to feel your way around it with a series of bumps on the buttons, it is actually a lot safer than using the phone or MP3 player whilst driving, as it doesn’t require you to look at the buttons.
Alpine seem to have thought of every conceivable situation the unit could be used in. It has an FM modulator that turns the unit into a little radio station to broadcast the music and phone into your car stereo if you don’t have a direct connection. The quality isn’t as good as a direct connection, but if you have no choice its as good as any FM modulated transmitter on the market and has 4 presets. The presets can be set to any frequency on the FM band, so you can find a nice clear station free frequency. It has 4 because what might be clear at home may have a community station or noise oin the other side of town. If this happens its just a matter of swapping to another preset.
If your stereo has an AUX in socket or connection, you can feed the signal in directly which greatly improves the sound quality. The unit will also feed your phone calls through your car stereo too, which means you get much better sound quality compared to most hands free kits with their fairly average external speakers. It also means your music is automatically muted when the the phone rings, so you wont miss a call. It also has an internal speaker if you were using the unit independently of a stereo but it is very tinny like most hands free kits speakers.
In my country its illegal to use a phone directly in the car, and so you must use a hands free kit or a heads set. This was a large motivating factor in me going for this kit, as a change of jobs means I will be spending a lot more time in the car, so being able to play the music on my Iphone, and make and receive calls, will be cool.
The Alpine eX-10 is very easy to install, but due the amount of cabling involved is best left to the professionals IMO. As a professional installer for many years, I had no trouble installing the unit, and if your handy with a screw driver then it is an easy unit to set up. I mounted the screen to the left of my dashboards instrument cluster. This involved removing the cluster, to route the cable into the inside of the dash. I mounted the supplied microphone to the drivers side sun visor. It just clips on. I then removed the trim of the a pillar and ran cable inside this. The kit does come with some stick on cable clips, if you are not comfortable removing trim pieces.
I then ran cables behind dash into the centre console. I mounted the main control box here. I am still using the cigereete lighter plug to power the kit, but will hard wire it in when I have more time. I have the Ipod connection lead coming up between the seats so can either have it on seat or in the pocket under the stereo.
The unit has a truckload of settings, so reading the manual is required, and even after doing that, I needed to play with a few settings to workout what was going on. The manual is fairly light on with instruction and is really more of a quick start guide. I have read a couple of reviews that complained about things that were due to incorrect settings, rather than the unit not doing what they complained about.
You need to set the HFK(hands free kit) volume so its the same or possibly quieter than music, or maybe even louder if unit was being used in a truck for example. You also need to set the HFK speaker to external if you want the sound of calls to come through your stereo, as it defaults to the tinny internal speaker.
You also need to pair your phone, even if its an Iphone, via bluetooth to get the hands free functionality to work, as the Ipod cable is just for the music. Connecting the phone via bluetooth, known as pairing, is the same as pairing any other bluetooth device and very straight forward with my Iphone and should be just as easy with other bluetooth enabled phones. The unit will also allow you to play music from bluetooth phones that support this function, if you are not using an Iphone or Ipod, which could be handy if you have left you Ipod at home and have music on your phone.
The Alpine eX-10 won’t display video or photos on the screen from an Ipod or Iphone though, which makes sense considering you are driving a car, and that just wouldn’t be safe. Another cool function of the Alpine eX-10 is the quick search function. This is great when you have lots of music on your Ipod/Iphone, as it allows you to jump in10% steps to get to music quickly, rather than having to scroll through every song or album to find music. It sounds complicated but really is easy to use and beats the hell out of scrolling through all your music looking for a track.
The Alpine eX-10 is without doubt the best all round HFK/ipod interface around, that I have come across. It can be a little slow to change tracks, and doesn’t charge newer Iphones or Ipods, but thats about the biggest complaints I could make.
I rate the Alpine eX-10 9 out of 10, and if it charged my Iphone and was quicker to change tracks I would give it the full 10.