story by: Mike Frost
photos by: Ryan Hill
Pioneer Premier DEX-P9/DEQ-P9
Most people believe that to get what you want you must make compromises. Well, not in this case. Pioneer has just proven that you can have it all. The new DEX-P9 head unit, combined with the DEQ-P9 digital preamp/equalizer, has the finest sound quality available and all the professional features you need.
The look of the deck is sleek with a silver face and just six controls which are illuminated by rings of white light. Most of the faceplate is taken up by the huge Organic EL (electroluminescence) display with 256 x 64 pixels. This display has adjustable brightness, and can be read from very extreme angles even in bright sunlight. Classy animations for each main menu function look like words being written by hand, coming into focus as you watch.
The basic functions are available from the faceplate controls, but the real power lies in the remote. About the size of a thick candy bar, there are two large circular pads for volume control and menu selections. Three buttons across the top give you direct access to all the possible sources. Another four buttons on the edges control the attenuator, pause function, main menu selections, and tuner band selection. A sliding cover at the bottom opens to reveal a set of eight buttons that provide control of the deepest menu selections. When you open this cover, the display changes to show the new choices. Also I found the remote to be intuitive and easy to use. You don't have to stare at it to figure it out.
The built-in single CD player is loaded by opening the motorized faceplate. Repeat, random, scan, and pause modes are available, and you can name up to 48 discs (100 discs for external multi-CD players) with titles of up to 20 characters. Pioneer's With the Supertuner III the radio has 18 FM and 6 AM presets which can be programmed manually or automatically scanned. There are five "Local" settings that let you select the level of signal strength that will be scanned, allowing you to pick up only the closest, strongest stations in the area.
The deck has front, rear, and non-fading outputs, driven by a 24-bit DAC with 4V swings. This means that the deck can be used separately from the DEQ-P9 equalizer/crossover unit. Additional connections are provided for cell phone mute, remote turn-on, and dimmer control.
With the DEQ-P9 connected, you have a true 1/3 octave, 31-band graphic equalizer with +/-12 dB of cut/boost in each band in increments of 0.5 dB. Left and right channels have individual adjustment capability by default, but there is a switch that locks them together for simultaneous adjustment. Also included are Bass and Treble shelving filters with adjustable frequency and level, which act as the typical "tone" controls for macro adjustment of the overall tonal balance.
A four-way crossover network feeds four pairs of RCA output jacks to drive your external amplifiers. The crossover is extremely flexible. It can essentially be disabled so that you have only one full-range output; or it can be set up as a two-way or three-way system that also provides a full-range output simultaneously, or a true four-way system. In addition to giving you crossover points at any of the 1/3 octave frequencies, each of the highpass and lowpass filters has six slope selections of 6, 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36 dB per octave. Phase can be inverted on each output, which is needed when using odd-order slopes (6, 18, and 30 dB which are first order, third order, and fifth order slopes) to avoid cancellation in the crossover region. The amplitude level of each crossover output can be adjusted in 0.5 dB increments from 0 to -24 dB for the low, mid and high outputs, and from +10 to -24 dB for the subwoofer out. Each output can be time-corrected from 0 to 134 inches in 0.67-inch steps. Also, overall listening position can be selected for front left, front right, or both, with fine-tuning capability for both distance and level between the left and right channels.
This is the most accurate EQ/crossover I have seen in any mobile audio piece. Five memory presets allow you to save your EQ/crossover/delay settings and recall them instantly -- an absolute must-have feature for competitors. Each of the memory presets can be titled, so you can easily remember what they are; and the memories can be locked so that you don't accidentally overwrite your settings. A "flat" preset makes it easy and quick to hear how your settings compare to the raw signal.
The DEX-P9 serves as the control for a variety of units available from Pioneer that connect with a proprietary bus called IP-Bus. This is a multi-pin connector setup that transmits control signals and audio between all the sources in the system. But when it comes to sending audio to the DEQ-P9, this is not good enough. The precious audio signal is tapped directly from the DSP and carried via optical fiber, so there is no chance of noise infiltrating it. Once the sound has been processed in the digital realm, it is then converted to analog with 24-bit DACs (1 bit for subwoofer) that feed the gold-plated RCA outputs.
Other devices that can be controlled by the DEX-P9 include an XM Satellite Radio tuner, multi-CD players, a multi-DVD player, a TV tuner, a DAB (digital audio broadcast) tuner, and an auxiliary input for other analog sources. XM Satellite Radio is a new service that should be available by the time you read this. Two satellites nicknamed "Rock" and "Roll" will provide 100 channels of music, sports, news, and talk radio to the 48 contiguous states in the U.S. for a monthly subscription fee of $9.99.
With sound that rivals that of the highest quality home gear, and surgical precision in the equalizer and crossover, this pair promises to be a big hit among audiophiles and competitors alike. Go listen to these pieces, you won't be disappointed!
Bass Shelving EQ
Treble Shelving EQ