Car Electronics at CES
Although a few CDs have been matrix-encoded with Dolby Surround (a perfect match for Pro Logic) and Circle Surround (which HD Radio was using to encode 5.1 surround in its demonstrations), there are probably more surround discs out on DVD-Audio, a format developed with discrete multichannel sound in mind. DVD-Audio car players are now available, factory-installed in the Acura TL and in aftermarket equipment from Alpine (which is promoting it actively), Panasonic, Eclipse, Kenwood and Pioneer.
Today's head units do more and display more, with graphics, navigation and text from RDS, HD Radio, MP3 or WMA files, and satellite radio. Display requirements mean more controls in less panel space; touchscreen controls can help, but force the driver to look away from the road to see what he or she is pressing. Alpine's high-tech solution is PulseTouch, a touch screen with tactile feedback that lets you feel where the on-screen "buttons" are; Clarion's Optimedia Design, in the DXZ945MP head unit, is a scalloped display surround that lets the user's finger tell where it is on the panel.
Head units that use integral hard drives to store music, track info, and other data are now available not only from Pioneer and Sony but also from Kenwood, Delphi, and others; Clarion's DXZ945MP uses a 128-megabyte flash memory, called MusicCatcher, for the same purpose.