Clarion NX501 Bluetooth Car Stereo Review- Best Clarion GPS Nav Unit!
I don’t know why everyone seems so surprised when they buy the Clarion NX501 bluetooth car stereo with GPS Navigation and find out that it is a quality piece of audio equipment! Maybe they are like me and have been out of the car audio receiver game for a while and now that they are back they find out that Clarion is all grown up. I mean, 15 years ago when I was really into the industry Clarion was kind of equated with the likes of Jensen or Audiovox. You know, it was ok for basic stuff but not really considered top tier. Well that has changed quite a bit and now Clarion is putting out some fantastic head units the keep up with the best brands in the car audio industry. Let’s check out the Clarion NX501.
Audio – Clarion has upped its game on this double din unit so that it will compete with Alpine and Kenwood and the other big boys. There is a 24bit digital-t0-analog (DAC) converter that helps to put some life back into compressed files. This also works from your Ipod or Iphone as it used the USB port to get the music to the head unit it actually makes your Itunes tracks sound better as well. There are 3 sets of preamp outputs that you can use to hook up amplifiers and extra speakers. They are rated at 4 volts. The front and rear outputs have high pass filters so that your smaller speakers do not get distorted by too much bass. The two subwoofer outputs are really cool! The subwoofers can be adusted in sound and in volume right from the receiver and they have low pass filters built in. The head unit has the Beat Eq feature giving you some control over your sound with preset and customizable settings for bass, midrange and treble sound levels.
Video – TheNX501has quite a few options where video playback is concerned. You can play most formats of DVD, including ones that you have burned to disc. You do have to be parked to do this unless you bypass the parking brake function. Clarion has given you quite a few options in addition to your DVD collection. You can use the USB port to view movies via a USB thumb drive. Imagine that, you can have on your keychain an 8gb thumb drive but what you really have is the latest X-men movie, ready to be viewed on your lunch break….that beats turning in those TSP reports doesn’t it Lumbergh? Now you can also use your Ipod or Iphone to give you video nirvana, but let me cover that in my section on the Iphone.
Bluetooth – Like some of the other big boys, Clarion has used Parrot to provide a lot of the high end functionality of the bluetooth protocols on this head unit. You have hands free calling as well as phonebook transfer. What this gives you is the ability to make calls by dialing right from your touchscreen. It also gives you access to the last 50 calls, letting you dial the number of someone you have recently talked to with the push of a button. Another feature that is really hand is that the HSP (headset protocal) is supported by this receiver, letting you keep connected to your bluetooth headset, using it to speak into giving the person you are talking with a much better audio experience. Bluetooth audio streaming is included in this unit so you can stream Pandora right from your Blackberry, Android or Iphone, which is pretty hand if you have a passenger who wants to share a song with you. No cords necessary. The only thing that I think is kind of cheesy is that Clarion makes you buy the wired microphone separate from the head unit. Really? Really? This unit is your flagship Clarion and you want to nickel and dime us for something that everyone else includes? I don’t know about that.
GPS/Navigation - The NX501 really shines in the Navigation category. The GPS processor is by SirfPrima and is quite powerful. It uses both GPS and Galileo satellites to receive its coordinates and combines that information with maps that are already downloaded by TeleAtlas onto a 4gb SD card that installed in the front of the unit. You can actually update the maps through USB drive by going to Clarion’s website, giving you the most up to date maps possible. Another cool feature that I found is that you can enter in a destination by typing in the phone number of the place you are headed…that is crazy! By the way this unit has 15 million points of interest in it data files. Another nice feature is the 3D maps giving you a full visual of the surrounding terrain and buildings.
Iphone/Ipod – What can you say? You get all the usual feaatures like full touchscreen control of your Iphone or Ipod. Select artists, tracks, albums and whatnot. What you now get with the addition of a video cable is the ability to play video content right from your phone! Download a movie from Itunes and play that over your lunch break. Get a Netflix account and stream video right to your in-dash! The possibilities are endless. Hulu, Zune, you name it and you can have it wherever you and your car happen to be. Oh, if you are really old fashioned you can also download the Pandora app and stream that via cable or bluetooth directly to the head unit. How old school…no video?
Expansion – The Clarion NX501 gives you all the room for expansion that you need. You have more audio options in the form of HD Radio and Sirius Satellite tuners that plug in direct to the head unit with no adapters, giving you so many content options. If safety is a concern you can get a rear view camera and hook it up to the included port in the rear of the receiver. If you have steering wheel volume controls and you want to keep that function there are steering wheel controllers that are available to keep the functionality that is original to the vehicle. Last but not least, in fact maybe most important are the audio and video outputs for adding a monitor in the rear of the car so that kids or guests can be entertained on the drive home or across country!
Amazon.com: 3.8 Stars out of 5, $550 -$600. The reviews on this head unit were really polarized on Amazon. Out of 9 reviews two people really hated the unit, but even some of the 4 star reviews were really odd as they had weird reasons for not giving the unit 5 stars. Overall the beauty of the display and amount of features for the money were highlights here.
Sirius Satellite Radio - SIRIUS SCC1 Connect Universal Tuner
HD Radio - Clarion THD400 HD Radio Tuner
Backup/Rear View Cameras - Clarion CC4001U Rear Vision Camera
Bluetooth Microphone - Clarion RCB199 External Noice Cancellation Microphone for MAX685BT and VRX785BT
Ipod/Iphone Video Cable - Clarion CCA748 Interface Cable