Jump to content

- - - - -

SONY MEX-GS600BT Bluetooth 1-DIN Head Unit

In A Nutshell
A single DIN headunit that looks like a ‘normal’ CD deck but has real digital capabilities. It’ll play music from iPods, iPhones, Android devices and Bluetooth. It streamed music from a Kindle Fire, it played my iPod, it played CD like a virtuoso and the radio sounded good when it stayed on the channel I wanted, as it has a bit of an attitude towards ‘permitting’ you to use marginal signal FM radio stations. MEX-GS600BT has a really potent on board chip amp of 4x52 watts and you can tell. It sounds great but I NEVER managed to get the thing to stop going into demo mode.

Manufacturer: Sony
Product Details: CD/MP3 player, smartphone/Walkman®/iPod®/iPhone® connectivity via rear USB, Bluetooth® & App Remote, front Aux, 3xRCA outputs
Website: http://www.sony.co.uk/product/car-cd-player-bluetooth/mex-gs600bt
Typical Selling price: £149.99

Overall 8.0

Sound Quality 8
Appearance/Display 7
Ease Of Use/HMI 7
Features 9
Value For Money 9

Editor Review : SONY MEX-GS600BT Bluetooth 1-DIN Head Unit
OK, one thing to get out of the way immediately, is that I normally fail to play with FM radios much. The sensitivity and selectivity issues are complex, require serious road-driving testing, (as Kenwood still do, all the time, with their FM radios, despite being fully committed to digital radio) yet in the past, when I worked with a chap who did this with every radio, reporting at length, about 1% of the readership knew what he was on about and only a tenth of them cared. However, this one has been in my life for a while, in my car, so has been on the receiving end of a more thorough pull through than any headunit in years.

And I admit, I am really the wrong buyer for this radio. I would want a fancier interface to make it simpler to use for an idiot. (Me!) For it looks like a pretty ‘normal’ CD tuner without seeming to own much in the way of whistles and bells yet it is in fact a bit of a digital animal.

It’ll play your iPod or iPhone music via connecting to the USB cord on the rear. It’ll do the phone call Bluetooth thing and it’ll even play Bluetooth music. Which I tested from my gal’s Kindle Fire on a bit of Fatboy Slim. It also has some serious control stuff like a choice of 35,000 colours for the display and a slew of other things you can adjust and alter, like EQ and subwoofer and crossover filters for the RCA outputs.

The trouble is, the majority of the control goes via a twist-and-push rotary controller or what always used to be a simple volume knob in the old days. It is a digital step switch like all digital volume knobs and so does not have any limit to rotation like an old fashioned one but goes round and round. Not an issue, they have all been like that for ever. But my problem is the PUSH bit. It is way too sensitive. And my car, despite being a barge of an estate, is still a place where I bump about a bit. So, in the same way that for all practical purposes, no CD player for in car use can be scrolled within a track to find a moment you especially want to hear, you cannot avoid pushing that knob when you simply reach out to adjust the volume.

And in any mode or source at any time, if you hit that knob too firmly when reaching out to turn it down so you PUSH it, you will immediately bap it into an adjustment or setting mode and YOU CANNOT THEN ADJUST VOLUME! And yes, it can be shouty if you just wound down the window at a drive through.

First, you must touch the ‘source’ select button again and twist to select the source, say ‘Radio’ and then press the knob again and carefully – without pushing this time - adjust the volume.

I was in the queue at Trax (A huge show at Silverstone race track) and needed to turn my music down as I got to the gate. I failed and in utter bloody “I CAN’T TURN IT DOWN! OH DAMN!!” mode, I first ripped the knob clean offa the front of the unit as I clawed at it and then the only way I could silence the bloody thing was to stab mindlessly at it until the very face came away, so I could stop finally being so damn rude to the poor yellow jacket who merely wanted to guide me to ‘B22’ zone for the car audio contest I was reporting upon and compering..

In so doing, I think the knob actually went out the window for I have not been able to find it in the car since.

Then there is the damn patrician attitude of the tuner. I live in Watford, I like Capital FM ‘pop hit radio’ and have been a listener for decades to their breakfast show, since Chris Tarrant did it. I choose to listen to the station. I care not that it has reception issues on FM in my area. I ENJOY it. But the radio feels I am not correct to like such a weak station. So despite the memory setting button in the same position FIVE that I use after BBC radio stations 1 to 4, it continually stops that station from being audible when I power up in my drive and while still often showing the Capital Radio RDS ident, will yet feed BBC Radio 4 or BBC 3CR to me. I love the BBC but I prefer to choose. So this has been driving me effing spacky. And if there IS a way to stop it doing that, as after all London’s Capital FM HAS no ‘other’ frequencies it can be found on, via RDS, since it’s ‘local’, then I also failed to find that, too. It has been irritating.

How Well Does It Work?
Now for the cool stuff.

It sounds bloody amazing! It poohs on the quality of the poor old Parrot Asteroid that I had in the Daddy Bus for so long, which despite being really clever, was not from an outfit known for audio first but rather being Lords Of Bluetooth. (Indeed, their stuff just swept the trade awards, voted by dealers) The speakers in my car have never sounded so good. Radio is rich and deep (when you are on the station you WANT!) and the iPod sounds delicious. And as for CD, well, WOW! It is huge, rich, detailed and just so much more involving than compressed file music, that I got a CD holder and pulled out a slew of discs to play, which has been novel after being disc-less.

But the control of the iPod is a real pain. You have to go into menus and go layers deep and it was REALLY challenging to get it to do what I wanted. I was going to a concert to see Frank Zappa’s bonkers 200 Motels played by a huge orchestra. (That was damn surreal, although meeting the Great Man’s Widow was fabulous - my Brother played the snotty “Bad-conscience” in the show at the Royal Festival Hall, as though being snotty was, like, HIM!) I was in a traffic jam on the M40 caused by folks transferring to the North Circular A406 to get around London instead of the M25 that had been blocked by the tragic death crash of a big lorry. I just wanted to play Zappa and let an album just play.

Despite my best efforts and the facts that with just a few dozen keystrokes I could have worked it out, I failed to do this in a half hour stuck and in the months it’s been in the car, I also managed only once to get the iPod to go into the joys of shuffle mode to play hilarious random DJ.

Plus, in all that time , I have never ever ever ever been able to stop the bloody thing from going into demo mode between times and frankly flashing super bright odd colour changes of the display, that again and again make me take my eyes off the road in the dark, as I yet again catch a flash of pale light. I gave up ‘setting’ the colour as it seemed to ignore it and just go off into demo mode again – but it DOES hold the colour I set when in ‘operation’.

Don’t get me wrong, the HMI is easy to use and I was able to set a colour for the display I loved, really easily and all the other stuff is easy, too. But ONE press instead of a twist and then you find that the twist you just applied to turn it up or down simply didn’t happen and the display will be reading god knows what mode.

Myself, I would be a punter for a unit with a far more costly display that can handle way more than a couple of lines of text, for then, you don’t have to be doing what amounts to GUI keyhole surgery as you drill through layers with just a few characters of information at once.

It is a bloody clever unit with astonishing capability for the money and yet the marketing urge that has married deep clever power with a VERY reduced display technology has this simple flaw.

I think it is the Anglo-Japanese thing. We Europeans are thick fingered and clumsy and in the same way that a top Japanese executive I know recently revealed that he didn’t know a car CD tuner came to life from ‘off’ if you simply shoved a disc mindlessly into the slot – for he would never do such an operationally ‘ornery’ thing. The regular user in Japan may well not have a problem with this. I may simply be stupid and bit Dyspraxic with it! (Posh word for clinically clumsy.)

So, it works well but can be challenging to operate since it’s mostly all done by that one Twist & Pulse knob that you have to be a bit roboto-accurate to use properly!

Why Buy It?
If you want an everything-unit then this IS it, apart from the Double-DIN world of DVD and navigation. Plus it is dead affordable. If you are sensible and not clumsy then you will not have any of the issues I had with pressing when I should have been twisting and may find it a joy to use. Plus it looks dead ordinary for such a clever piece of kit, making it safer to leave the removable face panel on it when parked in nicer places and of course the iPod or Android music plus the App stuff it can do, which I need to change phone from a ruddy Black berry to a Samsung S4 I reckon, to try - I wasn’t able to get at much, let alone having texts read out to me.
It’s damn clever and packs a savage amount of technology in for the money asked.

Full Features & Specifications
- MOS-FET 52W x 4
- Bluetooth Wireless Technology with A2DP music streaming
- External microphone included
- Rear USB cord, direct iPod/iPhone connections
- Radio with RDS (Radio Data System)
- EQ7 Equaliser
- Loudness Control
- High-Pass Filter/Low-Pass Filter
- Three RCA Pre-Out Terminals (Front + Rear & Dedicated Subwoofer)
- Subwoofer Control
- Automatic Level Optimiser
- Variable illumination
- Steering Remote Control Ready (requires optional adaptors)
- Media Type: CD-RW, CD-R
- Supported Digital Audio Standards: WMA, AAC, MP3
- Sound Effects: Rear Bass Enhancer
- Bluetooth functions: Audio streaming, hands-free calling
- Bluetooth Profiles: Hands Free Profile (HFP), Serial Port Profile (SPP), Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP), Phonebook Access Profile (PBAP)
- Display Controls: Volume, fader, balance, loudness, subwoofer level
- Crossover: Active crossover
- Low Pass Frequencies: 60 Hz, 50 Hz, 80 Hz, 120 Hz, 100 Hz
- High Pass Frequencies: 60 Hz, 50 Hz, 80 Hz, 120 Hz, 100 Hz
- Features: ZAPPIN technology, iPod/iPhone ready
- Equaliser Type: Digital graphic 7-band
- Radio tuner - AM/FM
- AM Preset Station Qty: 12 preset stations
- FM Preset Station Qty: 18
- Supported RDS Functions: EON.
- Connections: Audio line-in (mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm), USB (4 PIN USB Type A) 3 x audio line-out (RCA phono x 2)
- Infrared Remote control