If it's winter, it means that it's time to hit the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). CES is the consumer electronics industry's annual trade show, bringing together manufacturers and retailers in Las Vegas for a preview of the year's hottest products. As a trade event, like the SEMA Show held each November, CES is not open to the general public, but generates tremendous consumer interest. Witness all the gadget geeks getting face time from the show floor on all the network morning news shows.
In-vehicle entertainment, mobile electronics, and 12-volt - or ICE (in-car entertainment) as our British cousins refer it - are major parts of the consumer electronics universe, representing about $4 billion at the retail level. For 2004, as in years past, video has hogged the spotlight, and like the 110-volt world, LCD displays dominate many manufacturer's new-product intros, even with high-definition displays now available for your truck. True mobile theater has never been easier when you mate a crystal-clear high-def display, some as wide as 20 inches, with a satellite system that can track the birds in the sky while you're cruising at 70 mph or more, and mix in a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio system with a massive subwoofer.
CES shares another similarity with SEMA, besides the fact that it's a trade show held in Sin City; Hummer H2s dominated the North Hall mobile electronics exhibit area, in all shapes, sizes, and colors, both raised and slammed. Two that stood out were the black Rockford Fosgate H2 that was ticketed by the CES Noise Police for doing 165 dB in a 95-dB zone and a blue H2 in the Crossfire booth that benefited from a lift that seemed almost to have its roof touch the ceiling.
Lower prices matched up with more features, and better performance continued to set the pace. The same industry forces that can produce a 13-inch TV with a built-in DVD player that can be sold at your local supermarket for less than $100 are pushing down prices (and retailers profits) to historic low levels. This year, as more product production moves to mainland China, where workers make pennies per day (but get company-supported housing), this downward price spiral will accelerate as fast as a Viper-powered Ram SRT-10, fueled in part by aggressive moves by several manufacturers.
The bottom line is this: The products are better than ever, are easier to install, and offer more features and even greater functionality. Some can actually be called user-friendly. If you're looking to upgrade your truck, the time couldn't be better. Some of our top picks are already at your dealers, with the rest expected by early summer. Start saving now.
1. AM/FM/CD or DVD With Monitor...
1. AM/FM/CD or DVD With Monitor
JVC KD-AV7000 AM/FM/CD/DVD/LCD Receiver
Wow factor: Modular design allows the LCD screen to be removed and used in other locations
How much it will set you back: $1,800
Who to contact: JVC, www.jvc.com, (800) 526-5308
2. Raw Subwoofer Pioneer...
2. Raw Subwoofer
Pioneer TS-SW124D 12-inch Subwoofer
Wow factor: Space-saving 12-inch subwoofer is only 4 inches deep; can even be installed in some doors
What it will set you back: $220
Who to contact: Pioneer, (800) 746-6337, www.pioneerelectronics.com
3. Component Speakers Boston...
3. Component Speakers
Boston Acoustics Pro60 6.5-inch Integrated Speaker
Wow factor: Neodymium magnets extract maximum performance with minimum weight
What they will set you back: $600
Who to Contact: Boston Acoustics, (978) 538-5000, www.bostona.com
4. Mono Amplifier MTX MXA4001...
4. Mono Amplifier
MTX MXA4001 Class D Monoblock Amplifier
Wow factor: High value quotient, 400 watts for less than a dollar per watt to drive your subs
How much it will set you back: $300
Who to contact: MTX, (602) 438-4545, www.mtxaudio.com
5. Satellite Receiver Clarion...
5. Satellite Receiver
Clarion SIRPNP Sirius Satellite Radio Tuner
Wow factor: Small size and portability makes this a great choice to take Sirius with you wherever you go
How much it will set you back: $150
Who to contact: Clarion, (310) 327-9100, www.clarion.com
6. Enclosed Subwoofer JL...
6. Enclosed Subwoofer
JL Audio SB-GM-HUMRH2/12W6v2 Hummer H2 Stealthbox
Wow factor: Equips your H2 with ground-pounding bass in the wasted space behind the spare tire
What it will set you back: $750
Who to Contact: JL Audio, (954) 443-1100, www.jlaudio.com
7. AM/FM/CD or DVD without...
7. AM/FM/CD or DVD without monitor
Alpine CDA-9820XM AM/FM/CD Receiver with XM built in
Wow factor: First head unit that brings the XM tuner on board, eliminating the need for a separate tuner box
How much it will set you back: $350
Who to contact: Alpine, (800) 257-4631, www.alpine1.com
8. Mobile Video Satellite...
8. Mobile Video Satellite System
KVH TracVision 5 Satellite TV System
Wow factor: Five-inch-high antenna brings satellite video into your truck or SUV, at 70 mph
How much it will set you back: $3,500 (antenna, receiver, remote control)
Who to contact: KVH, (888) 584-4163, www.kvh.com
9. Multi-channel Mobile Theater...
9. Multi-channel Mobile Theater Amplifier
Phoenix Gold X200.4 Six-Channel Amplifier
Wow factor: Complete high-powered six-channel mobile theater solution; 200 watts x 4, 400 watts x 2
How much will it set you back: $750
Who to contact: Phoenix Gold, (503) 286-9300, www.phoenixgold.com
10. Navigation Kenwood Excelon...
Kenwood Excelon KNA-DV3100 DVD Navigation System
Wow factor: Covers 6 million miles of U.S. and Canadian roads with 2-D and 3-D mapping views
What it will set you back: $1,800 plus choice of monitor
Who to Contact: Kenwood, (800) 536-9663, www.kenwoodusa.com
11. High-Density Music Players...
11. High-Density Music Players
Omnifi DMP2 Wi-Fi-based Audio/Video In-Vehicle Server
Wow factor: Brings Wi-Fi convenience to the task of uploading music and video files into your truck
How much it will set you back: $700
Who to contact: Omnifi, (800) 366-1616, www.omnifimedia.com
12. Full-Range Integrated...
12. Full-Range Integrated Speakers
Bazooka PMC6903 6x9-inch Three-Way Integrated Speakers
Wow factor: Part of the P. Miller signature line, drop-in solution to replacing worn out 6x9-inch speakers
What it will set you back: $200
Who to contact: Bazooka, (800) 843-8823, www.bazooka.com
13. Security Clifford Matrix...
Clifford Matrix GPS Tracking System
Wow factor: Allows you to track and monitor your car over your phone or personal computer
What it will set you back: $800
Who to Contact: Clifford, (800) 876-0800, www.clifford.com
14. LCD Video Monitor VizuaLogic...
14. LCD Video Monitor
VizuaLogic Sun Visor Monitor
Wow factor: Makes adding front seat monitors to your truck as easy as replacing your sun visors
How much it will set you back: $600 to $750
Who to contact: VizuaLogic, (800) 624-7960, www.vizualogic.com
15. 2/4-Channel Amplifier...
15. 2/4-Channel Amplifier
MB Quart RAA4200 800-watt 4-Channel Amplifier
Wow factor: Top-mounted controls and multiple input/output configurations offer maximum versatility
How much it will set you back: TBA
Who to contact: MB Quart, (800) 327-3777