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MG MGF Technical - Advice on choice of Head Unit

Not sure whether to post this on technical or general, but I need to air my thoughts and could really, I mean really, use some insightful commentary. As you'll see some of the questions are more techie and some are touchy-feely.

Choices for my new head unit have boiled down to two: the Pioneer DEH P77MP (210) or the Becker Mexico Pro (270). Both can play MP3s, both can run an auto-changer and both are relatively discreet. I haven't seen the units in the flesh and that is most of the problem, but I may not be able to for a while, so here are the significant differences from my point of view. Please let me have your thoughts on these issues and any others:

1) Pioneer seems better served by dealers and therefore I assume parts, repairs etc. Does anyone know the relative reliability of these manufacturers?

2) Pioneer majors on MOSFET amps and Burr-Brown DACs (which I know of from the home hifi scene). The Becker bumf talks about scratch-proof CD handling and chock protection. Both have whizzy radio techniques to get good reception. Given the limitations of a soft top and the simple (but good) co-axial Infinity Reference 652's in my doors, any views on which of these units will sound better?

3) Similar question re power outputs: as far as I can tell from the (a) translated and (b) more limited Becker info, RMS is 18 watts per channel and "Music Power" is 30 W. I think that the equivalent Pioneer is 27W continuous and 50 W max. Any real-world difference?

4) Pioneer looks marginally simpler to set-up and programme, though once done, I doubt that there would be much digging around in either set's menus for the detailed functions. Has anyone tried either unit or similar?

5) Becker in black with Amber display will blend in really well with the original MGF interior ... see pictures of Becker GPS unit on Dieter's site. I also like the fact that it is frameless - does it fit securely?

6) Pioneer's ally front plate and silver dials should fit with the light-chroming in my MGF, but will the bright white display be too much (can't be dimmed in steps, can only turn on or off the auto-dimming when headlights are turned on).

7) Pioneer removable face is whole of the front, including buttons - will it seem large after the MGF? The Becker unit leaves the buttons on the set which looks to be neater. Anyone know how long-lived the face-plates attachment points are?

8) Becker uses multi-function buttons along the bottom without much spacing between them....that said, so does the MGF original. The Pioneer's buttons have more space but are small. Any views on how either of these feel?

9) Does anyone know which is easier to create MP3s for? They both have limitations, but as an MP3 novice, I can't evaluate them.

Well, at least I hope that gives some of you the giggles...seems like a lot of questions before picking a head unit, but that's the way I'm built. All assistance out of the maze, gratefully received.


C Golvala

(1) only problem I had with the pioneer was a badly designed button, which broke if you droped the face aquard. This was redesigned the next year, but the button was still available 5 years later from the local audio place. The other make I have not heard of, so I would err with the known

(2)MOSFETS/DACS/Anti skip cheese, they all have this stuff - they're just chooseing what sci-junk to wow you with, the only diffrence you'll hear will be power.

(3)Power! the pioneer wins hands down, by 30%. Don't be fooled by PMPO, music power, peak power or any other junk, RMS is where it's at.

(4,5,6) don't know how much any of these will/should bother you - I find the display quite bright from my kenwood, but I like to drive round with the dash lights off (in the midget)

(7) Use the boot, I've never had any trouble with a face off that a squirt of contact cleaner doesn't cure (or as a get you home fix, blowing hard on the contacts

(8) the size of the buttons doesn't matter, _as long_ as you can diferentiate between them without looking _and_ you can easily hit it without hitting the button next door. Buttons are better the fewer there are.

(9)You want to be able to see ID3 tags, the kenwood doesn't scroll - which is annoying for long song names especially as it insists on using the first 5 chars for the track number "xx - ". You will want one that can play MP3's in directories.
"MP3" is now a generic term to mean "lossy compressed music", but the real names as follows:
MP3 - The famous one, most software can make this
WMA - The microsoft one, with DRM & better compression, you don't want DRM
AAC - The natuarl next step from MP3, also the default for iTunes, and same compression as WMA
MP3Pro - not got a lot of market penetration, seen as a step up from MP3.
OGG - OGG-vorbis is a free codec designed outside patents held by the main players, not in a lot, but it depends on how free software takes off.

you want them in order from the top, MP3 is required, WMA and AAC would be nice, anything else is a bonus.
Will Munns

If you are serious about radio I would consider a DAB system - I have been very impreseed with the home DAB system I have now because it picks up crystal clear from a piece of string ariel in the cuboard under the stairs on the ground floor.
Will Munns

Thanks Will. Clear and decisive as always. I know what you mean about the ergonomics of accessible buttonage and that is one downside of the Becker. There's a word for the tactile feedback of buttons on equipment, but I can't remember what it is.

Some questions for you on the subject of power. Am I right that RMS is the same as continuous, as quoted in the Pioneer specs? It looks like I'm well within my speakers' power handling specs: RMS 60 watt and 92dB sensitivity.

Interestingly, the Pioneer can control a DAB radio, though unlike you I've had decidedly mixed results at home. When the signal can be received clearly, the quality is great (thought the time lag to the analogue radios is a pain). The difficulty is that the signal can only be received if the radio is placed quite high up (6 ft or more) and is easily blocked or interfered with by movement.



Yep RMS=continious power, once you start wandering into PMPO range you start getting distortion as the head unit cannot keep up. The reason why PMPO is quoted is because the numbers are bigger.

>It looks like I'm well within my speakers' power
>handling specs: RMS 60 watt and 92dB sensitivity.

Yep, but remember that there is more than one way to cook you speakers, clipping (distortion on the output signal caused by having the volume too high) will do for the speakers just as quickly as overdriving (distortion caused by the speakers being pushed past their design limits).

For the record "sensitivity" is not about how much power the speakers can take, it's about how loud the speakers sound, so a speaker can be very poorly designed for a high power handling, or well designed for a lower power - but sound the same volume!

> the Pioneer can control a DAB radio,

Don't do that! external DAB is hugely expensive

>When the signal can be received clearly, the quality is great

The digital cliff - I guess I'm lucky and on the right side. The lotus boys are happy with their DAB sets - but this might just be "early adopter syndrom"

>thought the time lag to the analogue radios is a pain.

Yep, I find it really anoying too - doubt is would bother you in a car unless you were in a traffic jam
Will Munns

Cheers Will. Even though this is turning into a dobule-act, here's a quick response and another question.

I suppose what I was getting at re the sensitivity of the speakers was that I don't need that much power to generate volume - heck 92dB beats my home speakers' 89dB (twice as sensitive, if I recall correctly). Does anyone know what the RMS of the original Philips's OEM stereo was?

I've got to get my hands and eyes on both these units to help finalise the decision. The one or two online reviews of the Becker are very complimentary (they supply for Mercedes, Porsche etc) but the Pioneer reviews are much more numerous. Dieter's site shows two Becker units installed (one with navigation) and I'd love to hear what these owners think of the sound and quality of those units.




If it comes down to looks in the end, I'd go with the Pioneer. It's more classy IMHO.

Sam Murray

Well guys, in the end it is the Pioneer and hopefully it arrives tomorrow. I've seen a number of shots on the net of the unit installed in other cars and although I still have a couple of doubts, I'm sure it will look OK in the F.

For the real aesthetics buffs out there, the question-marks are (a) the frame (the Becker is frameless) (b) the resulting integration into the dash (mind you the original HU is not that well integrated) (c) the combination of brushed ally and the lightly chromed interior of my car and (d) the white lights, which look to be a little too bright (there are a few posts about this online and one even suggesting a fix).

What swings it in favour of the unit is a combination of the sound quality and ergonomics. The SQ may only be of marginal effect in the context of an F without serious ICE, and the Becker is no slouch in that respect (considered to have a warmer tone than other brands), but the Burr-Brown DAC and amp configuration is worth of a much more costly HU. The Becker's buttons are two close together to easily distinguish them but even more, the UI requires too many pushes of this and then that button to set-up and even to use. The Pioneer is leagues ahead in that respect which means I can concentrate on the road and the driving.

I'll let you know how the installation goes and what I think of the set up in due course. For the record, I have bought this from, who were superbly helpful today and have a great reputation (as well as unbeatable prices!).

Regards and thanks for all the help...



Well done on reaching a decision.

I expect the bright display will be a benefit in sunny weather with the roof down. I can't see a damned thing on my Kenwood display!

I look forward to reading your review.

Sam Murray

I'm feeling guilty and stupid in near-equal measures. The Pioneer has gone back to Car Audio Direct and the Becker Mexico Pro has been ordered. WHY, you ask? Well:

1) I ordered before seeing in the flesh and feeling - which is always a bad idea and I knew it was, but...finding a shop that had them in stock was difficult (particularly the Becker) and I was in a hurry.

2) Result was that the Pioneer doesn't look right at all in the car. Probably more so to my eyes than even the Blackpool illuminations variety, because something colourful would at least not look like a bad attempt to blend in. The brushed aluminium is really quite dark in colour (somewhere on the net it is described as almost brown and now I know what that means) and the buttons are or look chromed. This mix-and-match works well enough but better out of the car than in.

3) The white LED display can't be seen at all with the roof open! Not that you often need to check the CD track or radio channel, but the problem is that the LED's cover is flush with the face (and slightly bowed top-to-bottom), so the lettering gets no shade. Yes, the original unit is hard to see in strong sunlight, but this is really hard to shade with your hand.

4) In contrast the white lights around the main buttons and on two of the small buttons are really intrusive. Although the unit allows them to dim with the headlights are switched on, either there is no control wire in the MGF for this function or it didn't dim enough. I found this really intrusive.

5) It has to be said that the sound quality of the Pioneer was really good, both radio and CD (even without adjusting the levels). Inevitably, in the F I doubt that I was making the most of what was available, but I could hear an improvement over the stock unit. By 50-60 on the volume dial (out of 100?) the speakers were feeling the power, as were my ears, so I suspect that the less powerful Becker will be enough. By the way an old post suggests the Philips HU is 15W, but doesn't say whether max or RMS.

6) Ergonomics was another point that was in favour of the Pioneer, but in practice I noticed a couple of things. To turn the unit off, you press and hold the left hand button and that can be remarkably irritating - do so for too short a time (in a rush) and it just changes source. To eject a CD takes two presses - one to open the door one to eject (on the Becker you press and hold the one button, it seems). On the Pioneer the menus are buried and you need many presses of a single button to find the right one - this is good in that you don't have to see the options on the display all the time, but actually a pain when you want to change the fourth parameter for the fifth time in a row (not that you do so too much after setting-up). Ultimately this may be six of one and the proverbial as the Becker looks to have some ergo-flaws too (though less the more I read between the lines of the badly written manual), but I will have to live with those.

Well, I hope that gives you all a bit of a laugh. I've played with a Becker unit now and the quality is striking. If you like good tactile feedback in the rotary controls, try this one (particularly now they've lost the shiny plastic). As a frameless design, it is apparently harder to fit (takes more attempts to get right) but I think that the ultimate look will be better (see Dieter's website). I hope that the display will be visible and I'll have to live with the disadvantages of the Becker v the Pioneer, but this time I think I've made the right compromise.

Car Audio Direct were excellent again, so I thoroughly recommend them.

Cheers (and more when I install the Becker)


This thread was discussed between 18/07/2005 and 25/07/2005

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