The Alpine head unit can process any 2-channel stereo signal and feed it through the Dolby Pro Logic 2 processor. Of course you have the option to flip between standard stereo output and full fat 7.1-channel surround, while the option of a 3-channel output sits somewhere in the middle. Thereâ€™s no denying that in the majority of cases the standard stereo output just sounds flat when compared to the Dolby Surround variant. Not only is a wide and immersive soundstage created using Pro Logic 2, but itâ€™s also easier to pick out subtle sounds and effect that would otherwise get lost in the music, especially when listening in a car.
Itâ€™s worth noting though, that youâ€™ll still need to employ a certain amount of personal tweaking to get your music just right. Although the vast majority of genres that I auditioned on the system sounded significantly better in 7.1-channel than the standard stereo output, when I listened to something resembling Rock with the guitars far more prominent in the mix the overall effect was a little harsh, while in stereo it sounded fine. Of course you have control over bass, treble and even the dedicated subwoofer channel, so itâ€™s fairly easy to get the output just right, and if you're really concerned with audio quality you'll make the effort to do so.
Dolby is also well aware of the fact that you have to put up with some very ropey source signals when in your car, whether that be from radio stations or even from your own MP3 player. Although the Pro Logic 2 processing canâ€™t work miracles, it will do its best to make the most of whatever you feed it, even if youâ€™re incredibly stingy with your bit rate in order to fit more songs on your iPod.
In the Freelander 2 only the top HSE models come with the system, although it can be specified as an option on any build. Although itâ€™s a generally accurate perception that a high end after market in-car entertainment system will outperform a manufacturer fitted one, this could be the first setup to buck that trend. After all, when youâ€™ve got to squeeze 14 speakers into a car, itâ€™s a lot easier if the cabin is designed to accommodate them. Now we just need every other car manufacturer to offer a similar installation!