Not that long ago, a full-featured audio system in your automobile meant AM/FM radio with a CD player, or heck, maybe even an 8-track player. Nowadays, new cars ship with built-in GPS, digital tuners, USB interconnectivity, sophisticated displays, mobile phone connectivity, and a multitude of features. However, as the quality of cars increases, Americans are holding on to their autos longer and longer, so upgrading to an audio system like the flagship Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX makes a lot of sense.
Our 2003 Honda Odyssey is a versatile workhorse that came standard with an AM/FM radio and cassette player. Not needing the cassette deck, we opted for a built-in CD at an additional cost. The dash was designed for double-DIN (4" tall) systems, which meant that the AVH-W4500NEX fit perfectly into the existing dash with no modifications. Older vehicles often mean easier retrofits. The system worked fine, but the stock speakers, amplifier, and receiver were average in terms of audio, and several notches below even entry-level modern systems.
After discussing the options with Pioneer, we wondered if it was appropriate or reasonable to adopt new technology in an older vehicle. The reasons people hold on to older cars are varied. Some drivers just grow attached to their vehicles, others see the miniscule trade-in value as not commensurate with the actual value that a well-maintained vehicle is worth. Older vehicles are cheaper to insure and register, but still have modern safety features.
So, in 2015 we had the Pioneer AVH-4100NEX installed in the Odyssey, and it earned a favorable review on the website. Next, we added the Pioneer ND-BC8 Universal Rear-View Camera, and in 2017, the Pioneer TS-WX120A Amplified Subwoofer System gave the system some serious bottom end, made possible by its 150-watt built-in MOSFET amplifier.
We found that the Pioneer AVH-4100NEX was a fine product, with a few rough edges when it came to Android Auto, which wasn’t as reliable as we would have liked. Firmware updates tamed most of those issues, so we were curious what the upgraded version, the Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX, would offer.
The Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX has an extensive feature set. Aesthetically, the large removable 6.94-inch touch screen display is bright and contrasty, with rich color saturation. Compared to the earlier AVH-4100NEX, the new AVH-W4500NEX In-Dash Multimedia Receiver with 6.94" WVGA Clear Resistive Touchscreen Display seems richer, sharper and easier to read, especially when using the back-up camera feature. One new feature is the addition of an adjustable set of parking frame lines. In the previous model, you had a choice of either no parking guide, or a generic one that wasn’t very useful.
With the newer model, users can calibrate the “Selectable Parking Assist Guidelines” to a specific vehicle. We did this by first parking in a spot that had clear painted lines, then we drew the guides on the unit's screen so that they perfectly accommodated our vehicle - the end result was a great set of parking guidelines. This is a significant and useful improvement over the older system. This assumes of course that your car has a back-up camera installed, which frankly should be first on your list when upgrading to a new system, such as the AVH-W4500NEX, as it offers a safety improvement we feel is essential for all drivers. It just might save the life of someone you love.
The row of physical buttons on the front panel includes, Volume (rocker switch), Mode, Multifunction, Display, Return & Microphone (rocker switch), Eject, and a semi-hidden CPU Reset. One new modification that took us some time to adjust to is that the Audio Mute Button is now onscreen, and not a discrete front panel button as on the 4100NEX.
To access the Mute option while the radio is playing, users must first hit the Volume Button, and then the mute is made active and visible on the screen. To be honest, we miss the old Mute Button on the older AVH-4100NEX, since you could touch it to mute or unmute, with no need to take your eyes off the road.
The screen pivots open, allowing access to the CD/DVD and SD card slots. When using the Eject button, there are onscreen options to adjust the screen into a favored position, access the CD/DVD slot, or position the faceplate display for removal, leaving just a screenless black head unit for times when security is an issue.
When we wrote our review of the 4100NEX, we thought that removing the faceplate when the vehicle was parked was a sensible idea to combat vandalism. However, during discussions with Pioneer, they advised against it. Why? If you lose or damage the screen, it’s expensive to replace, and removal doesn't guarantee a thief won't break into the vehicle anyway, assuming the screen is likely hidden somewhere inside. We also chose not to utilize the security code option, and left the screen in the vehicle more often than not. Your mileage may vary.
The AVH-W4500NEX can receive both analog and HD radio, starting first with analog, but if the unit detects a digital signal, it will switch to digital within a few seconds. And … what a switch it is! FM stations that sounded pretty good suddenly snap into sharp, pristine sound, with CD-quality separation and tonal range. When the HD signal locks on, it’s almost like you had been wearing hearing protection and took it off – the difference is that audible. Another benefit of digital radio is that many stations have more than one broadcast, not unlike TV where a station will have the primary, and then additional content.
This unit is designed from the ground up to interface with your smartphone, and has a long list of features, including wireless and wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; WebLink for in-dash control of select apps, including YouTube and Yelp (Apple only; Android compatibility coming soon); Siri Eyes Free control with compatible iOS devices; Wi-Fi Certified Miracast™ for wireless screen-mirroring of select Android devices; and Pandora control through iPhone and Android.
The audio/video features include the ability to play CDs, DVDs, and USB drives. It has an easy to program 13-band graphic EQ with Easy EQ preset equalizer, Auto EQ with Time Alignment (optional microphone required), low- and high-pass filters with adjustable crossover points, advanced Sound Retriever to enhance compressed digital files, and dual-zone A/V output.
In the mood for expandability? The AVH-W4500NEX works with the SiriusXM SXV300 tuner, and supports Tune Mix, Traffic & Weather Now, and Sports Flash. It’s compatible with the Pioneer AVIC-U280 add-on navigation module ($380). We hope to try that option out in the future as it adds GPS to the receiver, although we assume that most owners will simply use Google Maps for GPS use, and/or Siri Eyes Free, Google VR voice control, and Web Link and Miracast to get even more out of your phone's capabilities.
It has a variety of inputs, including a HDMI input; dual rear USB inputs; 2 rear A/V inputs; and two camera inputs. Output options allow for some serious horsepower to the vehicle, via 6-channel preamp outputs (4-volt front, rear, subwoofer); and composite video output. We utilized the subwoofer output for the Pioneer TS-WX120A 150 watt Amplified Subwoofer System.
The built-in amplifier (14 watts RMS/50 watts peak x 4 channels) pushed the SPL levels, without strain or grain. It’s compatible with the iDatalink Maestro module and retains factory features in a wide selection of vehicles, including displaying engine performance and other vehicle data. With the proper adapter, it works with steering wheel audio controls, plus it comes with a one-year warranty.
The addition of an SD Card slot and USB port means that you can load up a card or flash drive with a set of high-resolution (up to 192kHz/24-bit) FLAC files. We tried it with Keith Richards’ solo album, Crosseyed Heart, supplied by HD Tracks, as 96khz 24bit FLAQ files. The system read our Kingston SD card instantly, and moments later high-resolution Keith Richards poured from the speakers.
If your data plan supports it, you can also give Qobuz or Tidal a spin. We found that using the Qobuz app on Android, allowed us to download a favorite album in high res, while we were connected to a wi-fi network, then play it from the downloaded file (normally a cached version), tied to the Qobuz app for playback. So, just like that, you have high res audio without the streaming data usage. Nifty, huh?
Because the Odyssey's original speakers were stock, we chose to replace them with Pioneer Co-Axials in the rear, and two-way systems in the front, with a speaker to fit in the door panel, as well as a crossover-fed tweeter for the empty tweeter grills under the windshield. The speaker replacements fit nicely into the stock speaker mounts in the vehicle, so to the naked eye, they were invisible, which was the goal.
If you want to update your vehicle with the latest and greatest tech, with onscreen navigation courtesy of Apple Car/Play and Android Auto capability, and more options and features one could ever use, consider the AVH-W4500NEX. It sounds great, won’t break your budget, and has enough amplifier oomph to provide a powerfully musical environment. The bright and beautiful screen makes it easy to navigate and use. The Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX 7-Inch AV Receiver with CarPlay & Android Auto In-Dash Receiver comes highly recommended.
Harris Fogel and Nancy Burlan, posted 5/30/2019
For more information on the Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX in-dash receiver visit: www.pioneerelectronics.com
For more information on HD Tracks High Resolution Audio Downloads visit: https://www.hdtracks.com
For more information on Qobuz visit: https://www.qobuz.com/us-en/discover