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Buyers' Guide - Multi CD Stackers

AutoSpeed's guide to what's available in the current age of multi-disc in-car CD players. Here's 20 of 'em...

By Michael Knowling

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CD stackers have been around for about ten years and - in case you haven't noticed - they've now become dirt-cheap. It isn't unusual to walk into your local car audio supplier and see clearance specials offering good quality stacker systems (which might recently have been superceded) for around A$800. In comparison, just a single CD player might set you back more than half of this - so if you have the extra readies, it makes sense to look at the multi-players. Note that most of these units can be purchased minus the add-on CD shuttle - this can be bought later if you're tight for cash at the moment. (Just make sure the shuttle's not about to be superceded!)

The bonus of a multi-stacker is you can skip (not literally!) around to whatever CD and individual track you like at the mere touch of a button. There's no fumbling around in the glovebox for that disc that's always at the bottom of the pile. And you can even whack on a never-ending mix of you favourite CDs!

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Most stacker systems have a head unit that comprises a tuner and either a cassette player or single CD player - usually in the common DIN-size chassis. Plus then you have a remote CD changer that can be conveniently mounted under a front seat, in the boot or just about wherever you want. The size of the changer is generally around 250 x 70 x 165mm which makes it fairly easy to find enough room for - but this varies depending on the number of discs that it holds as some carry 4, 6, 10 or 12.

Here's a breakdown of what's on the market:

Single CD/Tuner/Stacker Units

Philips RC 948 RDS

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One of Philip's top-line CD stackers, the RC 948 RDS packs digital quality reception, a radio data system and traffic announcement, station auto store, 42 station presets, a CD player with title memory, full stacker control, as well as a detachable face and warning light. Plus there's switchable LCD colours, volume indication display, infra-red remote control, 4 x 35W output, 4 channel line outs, a loudness function, parking timer and (whoopy!) a clock. A RC 032 10 disc or a RC 026 6 disc stacker is available to suit.

Rockford Fosgate RFX8220

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RF's middle of the road stacker is the RFX8220. It gives you a detachable faceplate, a standard ISO DIN mounting with removable trim ring, negative image LCD display, infra red remote control, 12 AM and 18 FM presets and station preset scan. The player component has dual 1-bit D/A converters with 8 times over-sampling for optimum performance. Power delivery is rated at 25WRMS x 4 and there's a huge 6 pre-amp outputs (RCAs). This model interfaces with the company's RFX8810 8 disc changer.

Kenwood KDC-3012

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Here's Kenwood's middle ground in single CD/tuner stackers. It delivers a disabled system indicator, multi-colour display with white LEDs, green key illumination, remote control, CD text ready and 18 FM and 6 AM presets through a CR2 reception tuner with automatic memory entry and station name presets. It eases out 40W x 4 of maximum power and gives you two pre-outs.

A 6 or 10 stack changer is compatible.

Alpine 3DE-7887E

Here's a nifty one. This Alpine unit has not one but three CDs that can be fed into the head unit via a small cartridge - which negates the need for a remote stacker. It comes plump with a MaxTune tuner, 12 AM and 6 FM presets, station title memory, a DZ-11 CD mechanism, a regulated 1-bit DAC, 40W x 4 output and one pre-out. There is a button for loudness control, a detachable front panel, audio interrupt input and an optional wireless remote controller for those that like to listen from afar. No CD shuttle interface is available with this particular model because it's all up-front.

Sony CDX-3500

Representing Sony's single play CD middle-ground, this unit possesses D-bass capability, gives a 35W x 4 output, two 4V pre-outs, a rotary encoder, high quality SSIR-EX tuner with 18 FM and 6 AM presets and best tuning memory. Disc wise, there's 8 times over sampling, digital filtering, a 1-bit D/A converter, green key illumination and 60 degree installation capability. A choice of 10-disc changers is available.


JVC Australia offers this CD shuttle controller complete with a HS-11 Tuner with 18 FM and 6 AM presets, scan and seek, a stereo and mono switch, sound control memory, white LED back lighting, line outs, a rotary volume dial and a thin detachable front panel. Its disc player has a random/repeat function, direct track access, an in-built 1-bit DAC and also direct disc selection from the shuttle unit. Its power output is listed at 40W x 4, with separate bass and treble control, pre-amp fader control, loudness and a level meter. A big 12 disc stacker can be hooked up via a J-link.

Clarion DRX5575

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This is Clarion's middle-of-the-range single CD/tuner/stacker model. It's a simple to use device, featuring 18 FM and 6 AM presets, Magi-Tune tuner, fast muting, infra-red remote control, Z-Enhancer EQ Selector and a detachable face. It connects up with 4 channel RCA line level output and delivers 40W x 4 of music power. Six or twelve disc stackers can be mated up to this model.

Cassette/Tuner/Stacker Units

Coustic RX783

Coustic market the RX783 AM/FM cassette receiver/ CD stacker controller at a bargain price. It's equipped with a detachable faceplate, is rated at 30W x 4, has a 1.8V pre-amp output and comes with an auxiliary input. Plus there's 18 FM and 12 AM presets, tuner scan, a digital clock, separate bass and treble control, metal tape equalisation, auto reverse with locking fast forward and rewind, and - of course - the capability to link up to a Coustic 6 stacker. A good entry level stacker, if you ask us.

Philips RC 338

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Philip's entry-level CD stacker is the RC 338. This model features best quality reception (BQR), tuner auto store, 36 station presets and an auto reverse tape deck. It's looked after by a detachable faceplate and warning light, and scores display colour flips (which alter the colour of the display). It produces 4 x 30W, and gives 2 channel line outs and CD stacker control. A wired remote control called "Le Mouse" is optional. A RC 032 10 disc or a RC 026 6 disc stacker is available to suit.


One of JVC's most tasty source units, the KS-FX940R delivers a flip-down detachable face, full logic cassette control with auto reverse, music scan, blank skip, repeat and Dolby B noise reduction. It lights up all pretty with white LED backlighting with a sophisticated multi-colour display. A quality HS-11 tuner with 18 FM and 6 AM presets is fitted and offers seek and a stereo and mono function. A separate bass and treble control gives you the "right" sound, and the display tells you the listening levels that you're enduring. It pushes sounds out through a 4V line output, two pairs of gold plated line outputs and is rated at 40W x 4. And for those that are really lazy, it's also remote control. It's J linked to a 12 disc changer which gives you random and repeat play.

Becker Mexico 2340 Avantgarde

The well-respected Becker name gives unto thee this AM/FM/Cassette/Shortwave-Longwave/CD stacker head unit with a 70 channel memory, auto store, Dolby B and C noise reduction, music search, phone mute, a 15 colour multi-user display and audio settings. On the output side of things, it gives 25W x 4 (MAX) as well as 4 channel pre-amp outs. It comes with a two year warranty and is protected by a removable front panel. Just wire it up to a Becker 6 or 10 disc stacker and you'll have a quality source unit.

Sony XR-C8220

This detachable face head unit features DSP control, rotary commander/wireless remote commander, switchable key illumination colours, voice guide, MD/CD control with custom file, CD text, auto tuner activation. The cassette part has an auto music sensor, auto metal selector, Dolby B noise reduction, while the SSIR-EXA tuner has station memo, best tuning memory, 20 FM and 10 AM presets. It leads out into one subwoofer output, 45W x 4 speaker outputs and two 4V pre-amp outs. A compact 10 disc changer is the XR-C8220's partner.

Kenwood KRC-287

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This in Kenwood's lowest spec model which is capable of controlling a CD changer. It gives you green key illumination, a red triangle power indicator, max power of 35W x 4, one pre-out, separate bass and treble controls and source tone memory. In addition, there is CD/MD changer control, tuner call, auto-reverse, 12 FM and 6 AM presets, CR-2 advanced clear reception tuner, automatic memory entry and a disabled system indicator. A choice of 6 or 10 disc stackers is available.

Alpine TDA-7563E

This grey/back stacker controller has a MaxTune tuner, 12 FM and 6 AM presets, tuner recall, station title memory, full logic cassette mechanism with a SCC-11 tape head, Dolby B NR, music sensor, repeat, blank skip and an auto metal sensor. It has the facility for multi CD shuttle control, while giving disc title memory, MIX (random play), and gives out 40W x 4 through speaker outputs, with another two pre-outs and a switchable non-fading pre-out. Throw in a loudness function, a detachable front face and wireless remote control and that about does it. Six or ten disc Alpine changers can be hooked up.

Clarion ARX3371

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Here's Clarion's base model head unit that can control a CD stacker. It comes equipped with a hard Permalloy tape head, auto reverse, single direction azimuth adjustment, 18 FM and 6 AM presets, audio muting (on CD), loudness control and extensive noise suppression circuitry. Also included is a protective case, two channel RCA line level outputs, 30W x 4 speaker output, a digital quartz clock, power antenna control and an amplifier turn-on trigger. For safety's sake, a detachable face panel deters thieves. Hook it up to either a 6 or 12 disc shuttle unit and you're pumpin'.

Coustic CD-328

The fairly basic Coustic CD-328 features FM optimiser VI circuitry, 18 FM and 12 AM tuner presets, preset station scan, loudness control, bass and treble control, fader control, one touch muting, a digital clock and a detachable face plate. The in-built CD system boasts 3 second anti-shock buffer memory, a digital output, highly accurate 3 beam laser pick-up, a single bit D/A converter and an auxiliary input. Outward goods are put down a 5V pre-amp output and it pushes out a maximum of 35W x4. Optional is a wireless remote control. The multi-stack CD component is taken care of by a tightly packaged 6 disc shuffler.

Cassette/single CD/Tuner/Stacker Units

Pioneer FH-P750

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In Australia, the FH-P750 is Pioneer's double-DIN sized flagship. Covering twice the frontal area of a normal head unit, this monster has 6,12 and 50 discs changer capability (using P-bus technology), disc title memory for 100 discs, random play, instant track selection and repeat play. Its cassette section features full logic controls, Dolby B noise reduction, blank skip, music search, auto metal/chrome switching, auto tape slack cancelling and a real-time tape counter. The tuner uses Super Tuner 3 technology with best station memory, auto seek, pulse noise suppression, and a frequency level expander. FH-P750's audio section has a total 40W x 4 output, dual RCA out puts, subwoofer output control, a cellular phone mute interface, dual amp balancing, wireless remote control and voice control. Phew!

Kenwood DPX-550

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Here's another double-DIN sized killer to eat up all of your dashboard space. This remote control unit 20 step panel angle adjust and a FL dot matrix multi-colour wide display. It gives CD/MD changer control, CD text ready (with both CD changer and single disc), disc name preset and a full logic cassette mechanism with Dolby B/C noise reduction. Its audio list brags versatile listening variety, 11 DSP modes, 5 preset equaliser patterns, a spectrum analyser and makes 40W x 4 max power with two additional pre-outs. A 6 or 10 stack CD shuttle can be run also.

Alpine CDA-W550E

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Like all units combining a cassette, single play CD, tuner and a shuttle capability, the Alpine CDA-W550E is built to double DIN measurements. Radio signals are received by a MaxTune tuner with 12 FM and 6 AM preset stations and station title memory, the cassette system is taken care of by a GR-S full logic mechanism, a SCC-11 head and the famous Dolby B noise reduction.

The single CD player performs with CD text, a regulated 1-bit DAC, zero data detect mute, Ai-Talk display, disc title memory and MIX (random play). It gives an output of 40W x4, three pre-outs, subwoofer level control, gold plated pin jacks, an audio interrupt input and a wireless remote controller. You can fit either a 6 or a 12 disc stacker to run with this high-level model.

Clarion ADX5555

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This easy to use double-DINer features 18 FM and 6 AM station presets, Magi-Tune tuner and station title memory. The cassette section gives full logic control, auto reverse, Dolby B and monitor mode during FF/REW. The CD system has dual 1-bit D/A converters, 8 times over sampling digital filter, a mute circuit and disc title memory. Its changer control system is capable of controlling 6 or 12 stack CD or MD shuttles. It has an output of 40W x 4, a Z-Enhancer EQ selector, rotary volume control, separate bass/treble controls, 4 channel line level outputs, 4 volt line level output and 4 way balance controls. It even has a multi-colour display, new cosmetics and an infra red remote control.

There! Out of that lot there must be a unit to suit your needs and budget - so go on and get well stacked!

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