As I always do, before making any technical measurements I like to hook the product up into my reference system and play with it and listen to it for a while. With a few CD’s in hand, I adjusted the outputs set for a flat response, and turned off all the advanced DSP settings. With CD sources I was very impressed with the sonics of the Alpine CDA-117. The unit sounded very much like my reference CD player, no doubt at least partly thanks to the 24-bit Burr Brown digital to analog convertor. Plugging in my trusty iPod Classic, once again I had nothing to complain about in terms of sonics. I messed around with the MediaXpander while listening to my iPod, but frankly my tracks are ripped at only high bitrates, so the MediaXpander had little effect. I have heard it work its magic on lower quality rips however, and it’s a useful feature, particularly when your MP3 files are ripped at lower bitrates.
The AM/FM tuner is excellent, as is generally the case with Alpine radios. Sound quality and station selectivity was very good to excellent.
ON THE BENCH
On our unforgiving test bench, the CDA-117 measured as one would expect from a serious, high performance source unit. The built in amplifier exceeded the published specifications for both power and signal to noise, and the pre-amp section is about as good as you’ll find these days, at any price. With more than 4 volts of output capability, very good signal to noise performance, and a reasonably low source impedance, the Alpine CDA-117 will be capable of driving as many amplifiers as you want to connect to it, and the signal it provides should have excellent immunity to radiated noise, and very few ground loop problems. Another nice feature I noted while making the measurements, was that when set for a flat response, the CDA-117 does not clip the preamp outputs, even at full volume with an all high-bits track playing.CONCLUSION
Every once in a while a source unit comes along that’s designed for the audiophile or anyone looking for a true high performance musical source. The Alpine CDA-117 offers that in spades, and still provides all the connectivity capability most of us want in our daily rides. If you have been searching for
a true high performance head unit or a replacement for an aging source unit that simply sounds great but lacks modern conveniences and adjustability, your search is over. Run, don’t walk to your nearest Alpine dealer, and check this one out. Your ears will thank you.