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Sony CDX-DAB6650 - In-Car DAB Head Unit review



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Sony CDX-DAB6650 - In-Car DAB Head Unit
  • Sony CDX-DAB6650 - In-Car DAB Head Unit
  • Sony CDX-DAB6650 - In-Car DAB Head Unit
  • Sony CDX-DAB6650 - In-Car DAB Head Unit
  • CDX-DAB6650 - CD/MP3 with DAB Tuner


Our Score:


Sony’s in-car DAB head was announced to journalists way back in March 2005, but it took until nearly the end of the year for it to finally be made available to the public. Even once you could buy it there were further delays due to a shortage of the dedicated glass-mounted aerials that were required to pick up DAB signals. Was it worth the wait?

As well as offering CD playback the 6650 has a built-in FM tuner, but of course the only reason you’d be interested in this particular unit is the fact that can pick up DAB signals, without the need to resort to an expensive external box. For most people, who have no issues with existing analogue signals, DAB is something of a ‘so what’ technology. They argue that it offers little benefit with often inferior sound quality, which contrasts to how it was originally advertised as offered superior ‘CD Quality sound’.

I discussed many of those issues here but to get to the heart of the matter straight away, in an area of perfect reception for both FM and DAB, a station such as Radio One will sound better on the former than the latter. The DAB sounds fine, but the FM sounded fuller and richer. However, DAB has numerous advantages over FM such as being free of the hiss and fade, especially in poorer weather conditions. In those cases DAB will simply sound better as as long as coverage is good, it’s a more robust transmission method.

Additionally, as DAB is a data stream it’s easy for it to offer benefits such as the name of the station always being available on the display, as well as extra information about the broadcast, such as the name of the DJ, the track playing or details of show your listening to.

To really push DAB in this country though, there are a number of DAB only stations, many of them from the BBC, such as 1Extra for Hip-Hop, 6Music for alternative rock and BBC7 for drama and plays. The question is, how well does the DAB6650 let you enjoy them?

If you’re comfortable pulling out your current car stereo then you shouldn’t have too much trouble fitting the DAB6650. However, as I wanted to get an iPod installed at the same time, and wasn’t familiar with glass mounted aerials, I decided to leave it to the professionals and got it installed at Hendon Car Stereo a nearby car audio supplier and installer. These guys installed my Minidisc head unit a few years ago so I knew they’d do a good job.


June 30, 2008, 3:10 am

Hi, Benny,

I've had the Sony CDX-DAB6650 in my last three cars, and my experiences co-incide with your report.

I've not had any real difficulty in installing the DAB6650. It was a straight swap in my Fiats, and required a Connects2 harness adaptor for the Citroën to enable remote control from the steering wheel.

The supplied internal windscreen aerail worked well on the Fiats, but getting a strong signal on the Citroën required an external aerial to be fitted as the windscreen is athermic, reflecting a lot of UV and other signals, so severely reducing the signal strength.

I agree with you about pre-setting the DAB channels on the DAB6650 - it can be a pain, especially when travelling around the country and looking for local MUXs. The National DAB networks are is fine. Local transmitters seem prone to going AWOL when the car is in a motorway cutting or in a shadow in town. The National DABs are not really prone to this except in a few places (e.g northern end of the M6 Toll).

The display needs improving and enlarging, so that at least the time, the channel, the pre-set number and mode, and the scrolling text.

The DAB sound is what you'd expect; a bit thin and clinical when compared to FM. I can play my iPod through it, but it's a messy procedure as all the controls are on the iPod. A separate power supply maybe be needed for the iPod, it needs to be at full volume, and the iPod continues playing if the TA kicks in or the source is changed.

While it performs well, I sometimes wonder if Radio5, Gold and Highways Traffic were on FM whether I'd use it at all.

And to cap it all, it's no use on the continent as they're moving to DAB+.

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