Road Gear: Alpine PXE-H650 System Integration Processor

MAKE MUSIC NOT WAR The car-stereo aftermarket has been engaged in guerrilla warfare with superpower automakers ever since the first Bose system salvo crossed the industry's bow. Because OEM radios are now more advanced (and nearly impossible to remove), the aftermarket is gradually (and grudgingly) conceding the dashboard to focus instead on superior amplifiers and speakers for upgrades. Its latest weapon: Alpine's PXE-H650 system integration pro-cessor, which drops a stock radio's output to preamp level so components can be added downstream and mobilizes sophisticated DSP technology called Imprint, codeveloped by Tom "THX" Holman.

BATTLING INSURGENTS The PXE-H650's supplied microphone captures a car's acoustics and identifies sonic insurgents before engaging Imprint to correct frequency response, quell distortion, and generally conquer the interior. Interestingly, Imprint is also suited to OEM applications. And while it's an open secret that some of the best-known aftermarket brands supply firepower to both sides of the car-stereo conflict, the ultimate winner is anyone who cares about good sound in a vehicle. Price: $400 alpine-usa.com 800-257-4631

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