A Class Act
Product Review of the Blaupunkt San Francisco CD72 In-dash CD Receiver
Todd Cabell is the Senior Director of E-Commerce at Crutchfield. He drives a 2000 Ford F-150 with an Alpine stereo in the dash, Polk/MOMO speakers, a Rockford Fosgate amplifier, and an MTX Thunderform under the rear seat. He hopes to one day outfit his 1962 Mercury Comet with a worthy sound system as well. He received a B.A. in English from Davidson College, an M.A. in English from the University of Virginia, and a Cambridge/RSA CELTA Certification for ESL Teaching from Cambridge University.
More from Todd Cabell
The wealth of in-dash CD receivers currently available to the car audio shopper is truly staggering. Crutchfield alone carries over 150 different head units, ranging in price from just over $100 to over $2,000. To make choosing a single receiver even more challenging, most of the models within a given price range tend to offer comparable features and performance that can make it difficult to choose between them.
So, when Blaupunkt's San Francisco CD72 arrived on my desk, my first question was, "What makes this head unit stand out from the rest of the pack?"
A high-end receiver
The San Francisco CD72 is Blaupunkt's top-of-the-line model, selling for $549.99 designed to compete against the best that other manufacturers have to offer. In that ballpark, you'd better show up with your best game on, or you won't last long. Initially, I was disappointed to learn that the San Francisco does not play MP3 files; but, after spending a week with it, it's clear that this receiver has most of the bells and whistles you'd ever want (plus a few you probably never thought of):
- a powerful internal amplifier that cranks out 33 watts RMS per channel, more power than any other receiver in its class;
- Digital Sound Adjustment utilizes four equalizers and an included microphone to evaluate your vehicle's acoustics and adjust the sound contour to match your interior. You can then fine-tune the settings with a 4-band parametric EQ;
- Dynamic Noise Covering (DNC) boosts or cuts frequencies affected by increased speed or road noise;
- TwinCeiver digital AM/FM radio tuner system;
- six built-in EQ settings (Vocal, Disco, Rock, Jazz, Classical, and Linear); 5 sound effects (Cathedral, Theatre, Concert Hall, Club and Stadium); and a couple of stage effects that manipulate the soundstaging from left to right.
There's a lot of power and sound-shaping muscle here. Ordinarily, I have more than enough power in my 1996 Ford Ranger to satisfy even my most violent urges. Once I installed the new receiver, I put it to "The Test" Rage Against the Machine's first album. Believe me, I was extremely happy with the power as the first raucous riff of "Bombtrack" exploded in my ears, and there was plenty of clean headroom left on the volume knob.
The intelligent layout of the display makes it easy to navigate through menus and tweak the sound. The multipurpose "Softkeys" eliminate the clutter of lots of little buttons designated for separate functions. Each button takes on a new function as you drill down through the menus. The result is a sleek, sophisticated appearance that understates this receiver's prodigious capabilities.
I had my EQs set and the radio configured before I cracked the instruction book (always a good sign). The Softkeys allow you to access a wide variety of sonic controls. My first move pump up the level on my sub to maximize the power of guitarist Tom Morello's and bassist Timmy C.'s gutty riffs!
The San Francisco CD72 really shines on AM/FM reception. The TwinCeiver tuner system relies on a pair of digital tuners (hence the name TwinCeiver) and two antenna inputs to provide optimum radio reception.
To install the TwinCeiver, you connect your vehicle's factory antenna into one input on the back of the unit (just as you would on any receiver). The other input is for the supplied powered antenna, a small black disc that mounts on the inside of your windshield. Two clear "antenna strips" (approximately 1' long) are then attached to the windshield with adhesive backing. You must also run a power cable back to the receiver's harness and ground the antenna (typically, to the vehicle's roof).
|The TwinCeiver's powered antenna mounts on the inside of your windshield for optimum reception.|
How the TwinCeiver works
In the setup menu, you can configure the receiver for one or two antennas. From there, you can choose one of two FM radio reception modes: Static or Dynamic.
- In Static mode (with two antennas configured), the TwinCeiver acts as a diversity tuner continuously analyzing the signal from each antenna to select the cleanest signal. The DDA mode improves reception, particularly in areas suffering from multi-path interference;
- In Static mode (with one antenna connected also called PRE mode), the TwinCeiver uses one tuner to play the tuned station, while the other tuner constantly searches for the best available frequency for the tuned station;
- In Dynamic mode, one tuner plays the tuned station and the second tuner searches in the background for all receivable stations. The abbreviated names of all receivable stations are then displayed next to the Softkeys.
I was anxious to check out the TwinCeiver's highly-touted reception. On my 20-minute commute, I often listen to an NPR station, and I always have trouble maintaining clear reception as I skirt the Blue Ridge Mountains that lie directly to the west.
With the TwinCeiver's dual antennas and digital directional antenna system, I locked onto the NPR signal easily. The reception is clean and clear through the problem area, with occasional interference from another local station. As Blaupunkt's instructions, I switched from Static to Dynamic mode to deal with two stations broadcasting on adjacent frequencies and, sure enough, the interference disappeared. Very impressive.
A clean finish
As you would expect from an upper-echelon receiver, the San Francisco CD72 looks as good as it sounds. The sleek silver chassis is fronted by a large, fold-down faceplate. A grippable rotary knob on the left lets you crank it or yank down the volume accordingly. A joystick-style knob on the right is for navigating through menus and saving your settings.
The red, white, and blue color display uses large, easy-to-read characters. Instead of being able to tilt the faceplate up to give me the best view, the San Francisco CD72 has an "angle" adjustment that basically acts as a dimmer, which easily compensates for glaring sunlight. I must say, I did find myself wishing for face angle adjustment.
While the performance and features of the San Francisco happily lived up to its price tag, the installation of the unit was not a bed of roses.
The installation instructions were confusing at times, with each step of the installation process line listed in seven different languages. Since the receiver's internal amp produces an astounding 33 watts RMS, you must connect the receiver's constant power directly to the vehicle's battery to receive sufficient current draw. This involves finding a wiring path from your dash to the battery, and may require drilling through the firewall.
The San Francisco has left/right front, left/right rear, center channel, and subwoofer outputs, but you must connect a harness (consisting of a molex plug and two metal contacts) to the back of the receiver before connecting any amps or subs. Likewise, the Thummer steering wheel remote (included) also requires that you connect two harnesses to the rear of the radio and mount an infrared receiver to the dash. This can make for a tangle of wires that you must stuff behind the receiver when sliding the unit into place. None of these issues should present a problem for anyone who's installed an in-dash receiver before, but if you're a first-time installer and nervous about it, get a professional installer to do the job for you.
And the band played on
One other cool feature even after you turn off your vehicle and remove the key from the ignition, the receiver will play for up to an hour and then shut off, protecting you from running down the battery. It's nice to be able to keep the tunes playing while you gas up or run in the store.
|Easy to use and easy on the eyes Blaupunkt's San Francisco CD72 looks right at home in the Ranger's dash.|
The bottom line
If you're looking for a first-class in-dash receiver that's got understated European styling, plenty of sound-shaping control, an AM/FM tuner to die for, and enough power to make you cry, the San Francisco CD72 is a great choice. It won't play MP3 or WMA files, and it doesn't offer satellite radio controls, but its CD playback and radio reception are as good as it gets period. Just give yourself plenty of time to install this digital wonderbox, or you may find yourself cursing in German.