Sony CDX-GT590UI CD Tuner
Sony’s CDX-GT590UI is their most affordable CD tuner offering iPod control, and at $299, offers virtually everything most people will ever need from a quality source.
- Tuesday 5th October, 2010
2 Year warranty, excellent build quality, everything required from a basic iPod/iPhone controlling CD tuner, IR remote thrown in too.
Front USB can be an eye-sore when in use.
If I was to draw up a list of basic pre-requisites for a great all-round CD tuner at a price anyone could afford the spec sheet would look almost identical to that for Sony’s CDX-GT590UI. For $299 you really do get pretty much everything you could need – and none of the fluff that 99.9% of people will never, ever use.
First of all, the CDX-GT590UI is beautifully built, attractive in Sony’s classically understated way, and the button feel and overall layout is first rate. Logical button arrangement, clear labeling and a great display screen are often overlooked when people buy CD tuners (many opting for wow-factor gizmos instead) but when it comes to the daily grind of using a unit for the years ahead a smartly devised arrangement like this one will be much appreciated.
What also helps is to turn off all the default settings which are usually there to help sell the unit passively when mounted on a display board. Once the flashing lights, scrolling feature displays and other distracting annoyances are negated the CDX-GT590UI sits as a classy and simplistic looking unit that should look as good in a decade as it does today.
Using the CDX-GT590UI is equally as intuitive thanks to a large and heavily protruding volume knob and logically arranged buttons – though it does suffer the same ‘built for the USA’ left-side bias as most other sources on the market. Not much we can do about that one it seems. At $299 you don’t get any illumination options, so the stock blue colour will have to suffice. Luckily, that seems to be quite fine for most people. Sony has thrown in an infra-red remote though, which could come in handy.
Ins and outs
Let’s start with the outputs shall we? You get four powered channels rated at 52-watts maximum each, which equates to around 20WRMS x 4 of usable power thanks to the internal amplifier’s mosfet based design. Two pairs of RCA pre outs are provided and offer 2VRMS per channel, and the rear set can be switched between rear fade or subwoofer outputs.
This allows you to use the rear powered channels to drive your rear speakers, the front RCA outputs to feed a front amplifier, and the rear RCA outputs in subwoofer mode feeding a subwoofer amplifier. This way you retain full balance, fader and independent subwoofer level controls – which is ideal. And anyway, rear speakers only need a fraction of the power of front speakers in a system tuned for ideal front-biased listening purposes, so in this manner the CDX-GT590UI can make do without three full pairs of RCA pre outs quite happily.
On the input side the unit is obviously a CD tuner and can play back MP3, WMA or AAC encoded compressed files via CD/R discs. More importantly for us modern types are the 3.5mm auxiliary input and the USB port. Both are mounted on the front of the face plate, which works ideally for the input jack but I personally prefer rear mounted USB ports given that front mounted ones leave ugly and awkward cables or flash drives jutting from your nice, neat dashboard. Others prefer front mount so I guess it just comes down to your preference. Also of note is that while Sony is kind enough to throw in a simple 3.5mm to 3.5mm male auxiliary lead you’ll need to bring your own iPod cable, which will be white and stand out like dogs bollocks…
It’s ironic that the CDX-GT590UI offers what has to be one of the industry’s best iPod control systems when Sony was so resistive to the device for so many years. The CDX-GT590UI is like most brands on the market and uses a basic combination of the volume knob, forward/backwards buttons and a search button to apply music searching, but somehow the system used here seems simpler and quicker to me than that of other brands.
I also like the ALBUM +/- buttons that use pre set keys 5 & 6 to allow you to quickly move to the artist’s next recording without having to begin searching all over again. When I’m in the mood for an artist I like I often flick between albums and this is a great little feature I wish every unit offered. Well done Sony. As an additional plus, I can confirm that iPhone 4 is fully supported for both charging and playback.
The USB port can also connect to flash drives for compressed media playback, and searching is equally as simple if your folders are tagged properly. On the subject of searching, it’s also worth mentioning Sony’s “ZAPPIN” search function that does an audible intro playback of the songs on the current album to help you find a track. The length of the preview of each track can be set between 6-seconds and 30-seconds, and once you’ve found the track in question a simple button press resumes full playback.
Compressed music correction processing is a part of every MP3 compatible source unit these days, and Sony’s system is known as DM+ Advanced. According to Sony’s website DM+ “automatically adjusts the treble and bass, changes phases, and adds higher harmonics for better sounds. Digital audio tracks are also processed through one of four optimization modes depending on the compression ratio of the source for better results.” Now the unit’s display indeed shows the DM+ logo, though nowhere in the owner’s manual or by pressing buttons could I find out how to adjust or set this feature. Switching between original CD and MP3 sources of the same tracks in varying encoding levels I couldn’t discern any major differences other than the normal degradation I attribute to lower bit rate encoded tracks, so I can’t vouch for DM+’s benefits. I would like the option to be able to engage or disengage it manually.
For equalization you get Sony’s EQ3 3-band system with LO, MID and HI bands of undefined centre frequencies, with each providing 10dB of boost or cut. Alternatively you can opt for any of the six preset EQ curves, though these sound like they are adding more or different type of effects than that of the user set curves. For moderate listening levels and with a basic non-subwoofer system the EQ may come in handy, but often EQ is better left untouched.
A pretty decent 2-way electronic crossover is housed in the CDX-GT590UI as well. You can apply a 12dB per octave high pass filter to both front and rear channels with F3 filter points of 80/100/120/140/160Hz, and the high pass works on the powered channels when the rear RCA outputs are set to subwoofer mode. In this mode the subwoofer RCA outputs can be set for full range output or they can be low passed at the same 80/100/120/140/160Hz frequencies and 12dB per octave slope – though I think a lower spread of frequencies would be more handy. Still, your subwoofer amplifier will have a LP filter of its own in any case.
Installing the CDX-GT590UI is a cinch and the only aspect I can see to pose any dramas at all are Sony’s traditional fixed mounted RCA outputs that aren’t placed on flying leads. This could be a hurdle in shallow dashboards but you could get around this with simple right angle RCA leads. Aside from that this is a trouble-free proposition that even the most inexperienced of installers could easily tackle.
I have no reservations in recommending the Sony CDX-GT590UI to anyone who is looking for a well built, attractive and easy to use CD tuner that offers outstanding iPod and iPhone control. Throw in Sony’s awesome two year warranty, easy DIY installation and an IR remote and it makes this a fantastic purchase for anyone looking for an affordable entry level source.
Sony Car Audio products are distributed in Australia by:
44 Translink Drive,
Keilor Park. VIC 3042
Phone: (03) 8331 4800
Fax: (03) 8331 4850