Gear Nuts

Ground Control, this is Off-Road Gear One, a.k.a. ORG-1, as I'm still orbiting the earth in the experimental mobile-entertainment vessel I transmitted from last month. Do you copy?

Yes, I copy, ORG-1. This is Steve at Ground Control. I can hear you loud and clear - and without distortion, I might add.

Hmm, that's what I said last time. Anyway, I'm following up my previous report regarding all of the cool happenings in the field of mobile electronics at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which was held in Las Vegas back in January. Last time, I focused solely on satellite-radio gear, but this month I want to cover a lot more ground, so I'll dive right into it.

Swim away, ORG-1.

Blaupunkt's PA 275 two-channel amplifier ($290)

Thanks, Ground Control. First off, I gotta say, it was great to see such a full-on rollout of in-dash-ready MP3-oriented head units and in-dash DVD players. A year ago, there were barely enough mobile products in either category to count on one hand. Most of the major companies have now embraced MP3, as Rockford Fosgate's RFX 9100-9400 series ($300 to $600) and Sony's Xplod CDX-MP450X ($400) attest. And DVD heads abounded from the likes of Clarion, whose Joyride package ($3,000) essentially replaces the much-talked-about AutoPC, and Kenwood, whose KVT-910DVD receiver ($2,800) also includes a 6 1/2-inch widescreen LCD video monitor.

On the techno-cool side of things, I really got a kick out of Pioneer's DEH-P9300 receiver (price not available at press time), which enables you to display personalized screen savers on its faceplate by way of the company's organic electroluminescent (organic EL) technology. To do this, though, you'll have to go through your dealer, who has the proper hardware and software to get your downloaded still images showing on the 9300's face.

I'll bet yours has a shot of your favorite band, the Tragically Hip.

No comment. Moving on . . . . It's worth pointing out that what might be considered "traditional" car stereo gear - meat-and-potatoes products like power amps and speakers - also saw significant activity at CES. These categories are indeed thriving in the wake of the mobile-entertainment explosion - after all, if you decide to add things like video monitors and DVD players to your system, you'll need more juice to power them as well as more speakers in order to accurately reproduce a 5.1-channel surround sound environment.