Good looks; good sound; three input options
Long SD read times; no rear USB port
When we were talking to the lads from Pioneer regarding an in-car headunit that would fit the brief of this Car Integration feature, they started bandying around the word ‘mechless’ – a term we weren’t familiar with.
Turns out it stands for ‘mechanism-less’, and means that the unit doesn’t have a drive for CDs or tapes. It’s all digital.
In the case of this MVH-8350BT Multimedia AV Receiver, for example, you have the option of playing music, movies and photos via an SD card slot, USB port (with direct control for iPhones and iPods) or Aux 3.5mm jack. It also has Bluetooth connectivity and an external microphone for taking and receiving phone calls in safety. And, of course, an FM/AM radio tuner.
As this is a single-DIN unit (which means it’s one of the ‘normal’ rectangular headunits rather than a bigger square model), the screen on which you can view movies and photos is naturally small – just 3in, in fact.
This is really too small to be useful for multimedia, but the full-colour LED/TFT display is great for displaying song information and even cover art. It’s also given Pioneer the ability to include a full and easy-to-use menu system and cut down on the number of buttons needed.
This lack of buttons has given the MVH-8350BT a pleasingly minimalist design, aided by a flat fascia and the use of glossy black plastic. To the left of the screen is a panel (removable for safety) containing Source, Home and Back buttons and a big seven-way Rotary Commander dial.
To the right is an Aux jack and a USB port behind a flip-back door. This front USB port is the one thing I don’t particularly like about this model – it means that you have to have a cable dangling down when you connect your iOS device, instead of having the ability to use a rear connection to hide everything away in a cubby.
Feelings are mixed about this, though, with some of my colleagues saying they prefer it this way because it makes it easier to plug-and-go. The answer, surely, would be to provide both front and back USB ports.
When your iPhone or iPod is plugged in, the MVH-8350BT gives you full control via a combination of the dial and the Home and Back buttons. You can browse any way you want, shuffle, search and even link-search for more music or videos from the same artist or even similar music from different artists.
To play videos, your iOS device must be plugged in to both the USB and Aux jacks via the remarkably chunky cable provided by Pioneer. (The ability to play videos or photos, by the way, is turned off when your handbrake is released.)
The SD-card option of playing your media is far more elegant, just requiring a memory card to be plugged in behind the removable panel. The controls for the AAC/MP3/WMA/WAV files stored on the card are similar to the iPad ones.
The only drawback to using this method is the Pioneer’s relatively slow SD read times (10 seconds in my case).
The Bluetooth capability of the MVH-8350BT is very good. The pairing process is painless and has to only be done once, and the unit fades out the music to let you take the call, and fades it back in when you’ve finished – as it should.
In-call quality of this Pioneer model is excellent, thanks in no small degree to the external microphone which your installer will place close to your driving position.
Something I particularly like is the ability to store favourite phone numbers in the preset memory.
Macworld Australia’s buying advice.
The Pioneer MVH-8350BT is an excellent AV receiver with tonnes of features, clean looks and good sound from its 22W x4 amp (50W max). Controlling it is relatively straightforward, but you need a good read of the instruction manual to get the hang of it. It’s recommended, but only if you can live with wires dangling down your dashboard.