I’ve been an Alpine car stereo fan for years and I love using Bluetooth with my Android phone to enjoy great-sounding music and videos.
However, for many people, that require an adapter and dealing with poor sound quality.
In my full review of the Alpine CDE-HD149BT Bluetooth and HD radio head unit, I’ll show you why it’s a great buy for your money, as well as any little things you need to know.
Seriously, this thing is great!
- Alpine CDE-HD149BT – basics and first impression
- Audio quality features and advanced controls
- Sound quality
- Anti-theft features
- What’s included?
- Final thoughts & review score
Alpine CDE-HD149BT – basics and first impression
Over the years Alpine has produced more and more car stereos with Bluetooth, iPod, and even Pandora features built-in. However, you’re able to now enjoy all of those features and iPhone and Android smartphone capability, advanced audio controls, and superb flexibility for far less than ever before.
In the past, comparable products cost as much as several hundred dollars while the CDE-HD149BT sells for between $225 and $260 typically (prices vary widely, so see my recommendations at the end).
The CDE-HD149BT is a great looking single-DIN (standard sized stereo) unit with both a tilting faceplate for loading a CD and a removable faceplate for discouraging theft of your audio investment. It’s a fun and exciting unit to use! The dot matrix display lists channels, audio source, song titles, the time and date, and so much more.
Music source features
This is a very cool head unit! Just being in front of it you feel a sense of excitement knowing how much audio control and listening advantages you have. These include:
- Bluetooth with A2DP audio quality support and AVRCP for controlling music from the control panel
- HD radio tuner built-in (years ago these required a separate purchase)
- CD player
- USB music storage support: MP3, WMA, and M4A audio files supported
- AM/FM tuner with presets
- SiriusXM tuner controls (add-on tuner purchase is required)
- Pandora streaming music app remote control over your phone’s Bluetooth connection
- Rear AUX input for all other music sources
And yes! It will charge your smartphone, too.
Don’t worry about having to manually stop the music or fumble with your phone someone call – the stereo will automatically switch over to hands-free calling when necessary and you can use the included microphone to talk. Call waiting even works, too.
Speech volume can be adjusted if you like and there are 5 sound settings to choose from to improve audio for calls.
A microphone is included for the hands-free calling feature of the head unit. It is easy to install, and I find the mic and plug-in cord to be a pretty easy task as far as installation goes. Most of the work is simply hiding the cable once it’s connected. The clip allows good positioning on your sun visor for the best results.
Alpine’s proprietary MX setting can be enabled to improve the sound of audio depending on the audio source you’re currently listening too, including Bluetooth audio. Think of it as a “boost” feature, although I personally recommend getting much more familiar with the excellent audio controls at your service, as they allow you to tailor the sound exactly as you’d prefer rather than the fixed changes that the MX function applies.
The unit is well-built and the rotary knob for volume and other settings feels great in the hand. The center can be pushed for additional select/menu features when applicable.
The CDE-HD149BT is a great looking and pretty easy to use model. They’ve squeezed so much into the design that the majority of settings and initial features you’ll use (until you’re set up) are accessed through software menus.
Push the open button to release the faceplate in order to insert a CD. Pushing it back up snaps it into position again firmly and without issue. The 256 x 64 dot LCD display is clear and works great.
Text and graphics are well thought out. But in heavy sunlight, the glare can make it a little hard to see the images and readout.
Menus are fairly easy to use but you’ll definitely need to break out the instructions (I used the .pdf version from Alpine) and I recommend save the .pdf to your smartphone later use – that’s a lot easier than having to hunt for it and download on the road.
Firmware update ability
Firmware can be updated by USB easily, which is a feature I always look for. Cheaper brands don’t provide this at all. But at this level of engineering expertise, I kind of knew Alpine would provide a way to do so.
Note: I did not need to perform a firmware update before this review so I can’t report on the experience.
Audio quality features and advanced controls
Here’s one area where it really outshines the rest. The built-in audio controls and equalizer features are worlds above many others and weren’t available in car stereos of this price range in years gone by. I’m truly impressed with the level of control you have for the price.
It’s largely thanks to the digital signal processing (DSP) design the company used to give a whole list of possibilities and 24-bit digital audio quality.
The most notable ones are:
- Individual time correction (TCR) controls for each audio channel to adjust stereo imaging
- High and low pass crossover filters with 0, 6, 12, and 24 dB/octave slopes and 20-200Hz frequencies
- 6 available audio user presets so you can make and compare changes without having to worry about losing any
- SPATIAL feature: an Alpine-only option to expand the audio listening sound space for a more realistic experience
- Selectable volume level for each audio source (like CD, Bluetooth, and so on)
I’ve owned advanced car audio equipment for years including digital signal processors and equalizers by Alpine.
Those are units costing hundreds of dollars, some close to $800 and this is the first time I’ve seen an in-dash car stereo that nearly everyone can afford contain so much processing and adjustment power.
It’s pretty astounding and I’m sure you’ll come to appreciate as much as I have.
For decades you were stuck with some “bass and treble” level controls and little more, perhaps with a bass boost button control as well. The great news is those days are gone! The design includes 10 equalizer presets available for selection including “flat” (no effect, default setting) and works great.
6 rear RCA jacks are available for connecting to external amplifiers for even better sound. An AUX input jack is available there as well, along with the USB cable for USB music access.
If you’re like me you don’t like being restricted to presets in order to get the best sound possible you need a true equalize to do so. You’re in luck there, too, as Alpine includes a 9-band parametric equalizer with user storage preset. And let me tell you, it’s very easy to use and works great.
If you’re not familiar with how an EQ works, it’s pretty simple so don’t worry. The parametric equalizer basically allows you to adjust a range of audio frequencies to boost or cut the level of sound in that range.
Adjustable frequency bands: (20 Hz to 20 kHz)
Band 1: 20 Hz ~ 100 Hz (63 Hz)
Band 2: 63 Hz ~ 315 Hz (125 Hz)
Band 3: 125 Hz ~ 500Hz (250 Hz)
Band 4: 250 Hz ~ 1 kHz (500 Hz)
Band 5: 500 Hz ~ 2 kHz (1 kHz)
Band 6: 1 kHz ~ 4 kHz (2 kHz)
Band 7: 2 kHz ~ 7.2 kHz (4 kHz)
Band 8: 5.8 kHz ~ 12 kHz (8 kHz)
Band 9: 9 kHz ~ 20 kHz (16 kHz)
And it even has an adjustable bandwidth (called “Q”) too!
As the unit has 6 available RCA outputs to connect to external amplifiers (front, rear, and subwoofer) it’s helpful to know that the subwoofer output is independently adjustable (including on/off) so you won’t need any additional components to do so if adding a subwoofer to your system.
AMAZING smartphone audio control
One thing that really blew me away was being able to control the stereo from my Android phone after installing the Alpine TuneIt app which is also available for iPhone too.
With the app, you have the ability to wirelessly control the equalizer, time correction, EQ presets, and all major built-in advanced audio controls. Unfortunately, while the app generally works well it seems like it’s a bit “quirky” at times and still leaves room for improvement.
With the level of quality you get in the head unit itself, I would have expected better from Alpine, but it’s a relatively minor complaint.
I imagine it is likely due to them using a 3rd party app developer without sufficient testing and debugging before release (just my guess).
Connected via USB or over Bluetooth, you may control your Pandora music app using the faceplate controls for added convenience instead of having to pick up and touch your phone while driving. You can even use the Thumbs Up & Down buttons!
One really cool feature I like (as I’m a Pandora user, too) is being able to add a Pandora station and bookmark it for calling back later.
Faceplate color customization
Another great feature is the ability to change the faceplate’s button backlighting. Selectable colors are blue, green, red, and amber to match most vehicle interiors at night.
Steering wheel interface capable
Not surprisingly the stereo can also be controlled with your car’s factory steering wheel controls. That requires an aftermarket adapter and there may be some limitations to which buttons will work with the control interface, so be aware of that ahead of time.
Normally the basic controls will work but a few may be lost when changing from the factory to an aftermarket stereo when installing the steering wheel interface adapter. (This isn’t the fault of Alpine – companies like PAC who make these specialty adapters have to work around limitations of the vehicle)
Nearly all major iPods and iPhones are supported via the USB connection, but a USB adapter is required for that (KUC-445i) so you’ll have to spring for more money if not using Bluetooth and want to use the built-in iPod controls.
The KCU-445i must be purchased separately if you’d like to use a plug-in iPod or iPhone control. It sells for close to $25 or so. But it’s not necessary if you’re using a Bluetooth iPhone.
Note: I do not own an iPhone or iPod so unfortunately I couldn’t test those as well. However, I’ve heard good things, aside from minor complaints.
iTunes tagging feature
When you hear a song you like, simply press and hold down the CDE-HD149BT’s Volume button for two seconds. The tagging feature lets you tag songs you hear on SiriusXM and stores the info on your iPhone. The next time you connect your iPhone to iTunes, you can be able to preview your selections and then buy/download them directly from iTunes.
GameAlert for sports fans
Want to know if your favorite sports team is playing live but want to keep enjoying other music in the meantime? The CDE-HD149BT has GameAlert that will display an on-screen message if your favorite teams’ games are being broadcast.
You can then jump to that station with the push of a button so you can listen to the game. It’s a cool feature even though I’m not a sports fan, personally.
I’m sure your next question is “But how’s the sound?” The answer is…great!
The audio is crisp and clear thanks to the digital signal processing when using the internal amplifiers, although just like other head units you’re limited to 18 watts per channel at 4 ohms.
I would have liked some type of higher power Class D amplifier but perhaps there’s simply not room after packing so much into it already.
Like most stereos, the CDE-HD149BT is good for casual everyday listening and some high-volume listening, but as expected it can’t drive woofers or components speakers (especially with heavy bass music) too hard without beginning to distort from a lack of sufficient amplifier power.
For a great, low noise output signal the RCA connections can provide up to 4V of line-level audio.
If you need higher power I definitely recommend taking advantage of the RCA outputs, and you’ll actually be able to get an even cleaner sound! A great amplifier I can suggest is the MRV-F300 I’ve reviewed and really liked.
The detachable faceplate actually swings down when released for inserting a CD. But it also easily detaches and can be re-inserted when you leave your vehicle unattended and is stored safely in the included protective case.
The box includes the standard basic items for a single DIN size Alpine car stereo, plus a few additional items you can use right away.
- Plastic protective case for the detachable faceplate
- Removal keys for the locking installation sleeve
- Hands free microphone with visor clip, double-sided tape, and cable
- Power and speaker output wiring harness
- USB female extension cable (for using a flash drive)
I definitely recommend planning before installing it in case you’ll need additional cable extensions or speaker wire. You may also need the right vehicle harness adapter and installation kit. (My advice is to check out Amazon because small car stereo shops make a lot of money off of items like this, plus you won’t have to spend a whole day searching this way).
Final thoughts & review score
All in all, this is hands down one the best car stereos under $300 you’ll find anywhere, and it’s a great value for what you get.
Bluetooth connects and stays connected reliably and quickly, too. It’s capable of remembering the last device it paired with (your phone) which means it won’t attempt to connect to nearby devices while you’re trying to do the same already.
If you’re looking for great features and excellent sound from your phone via Bluetooth (or many other sources!) don’t hesitate to check it out!
Overall quality - 9.5/10
Performance/Sound Quality - 8.5/10
Installation ease - 9/10
Features - 9.5/10
Value - 9.8/10
An amazing amount of technology and control for its price. Wonderful Bluetooth sound quality and surprising audio controls
The Alpine CDE-HD149BT is a VERY impressive car stereo with some of the best features money can buy. Featuring digital processing technology, A2DP Bluetooth audio support, and both iPhone and Android compatibility it has something for everyone. With an advanced audio equalizer, crossover, and time correction controls it can satisfy even the most advanced music listener. If you love a good value and want great Bluetooth performance you’d have to be crazy to pass up such a great choice.
- Great sound and clear audio
- A2DP Bluetooth support for great sound quality
- Pandora control functionality
- Facebook notification support
- 9-band EQ with user presets
- 10 selectable factory audio EQ settings
- Detachable faceplate and storage case
- AUX input
- USB flash drive support
- iPod support (with required cable)
- 4 selectable illum. colors
- 6 RCA outputs: 4 front/rear, 2 dedicated subwoofer
- Can connect to steering wheel control adapter
- iPhone & Android app wireless audio adjustment
- Hands free call feature
- Auto-answer & phone book features
- iPod & iPhone plug-in control possible
- CD/FM/AM/HD radio built in
- SiriusXM ready (requires tuner)
- Subwoofer output level/phase/type controls
- Rotary control knob
- Firmware update cable via USB
- USB supports MP3/WMA/M4A
- Time and date
- 6 presets for storing user custom audio adjustments
- Limited internal amp power (18W channel/4 ohm stable)
- Push-button remote is separate
- AUX input is located on the rear-requires extension cable
- iPod plug-in support cable is separate
- Music app control is limited to Pandora
- No digital audio output (TOSLINK)