Sony CDX-DAB6650 – In-Car DAB Head Unit



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Key Features

  • Review Price: £169.00

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.