We don’t do much car audio in PC World, but the BT2500 head unit from Sony caught our attention with its Bluetooth connectivity – the thought of wirelessly streaming MP3s through a car stereo system was just too enticing to ignore. In addition to this sexy wireless music streaming, the head unit also doubles as a hands-free kit for your Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone. Of course, the BT2500 will also play MP3 and WMA files directly off a CD, and old-school types will be pleased to hear it also plays regular audio CDs and features an AM/FM tuner. But really, it’s the Bluetooth functionality we all want to see. To test the BT2500’s abilities, we borrowed NZ Autocar magazine’s current project vehicle, a bright yellow and rather racy Suzuki Swift Sport with the head unit already installed and wedded to a set of Sony speakers.
Connecting to the BT2500 is simple and all three Bluetooth devices I used (Samsung’s P2 MP3 player, and Treo 650 and Sony Ericsson W950i mobile phones) synched effortlessly to the car stereo. It’s as easy as pressing a button on the BT2500, switching on your Bluetooth device and entering the four digit pass code. In fact, the Treo didn’t even require the pass code to be entered. From here, playing audio is as simple as using your MP3 player as per usual and adjusting the volume control to suit. Audio quality was excellent – not as good as an audio CD but every bit as good as an MP3 played off a disc. When streaming, I detected some low level radio interference but only when the car wasn’t actually running (the road noise drowned it out), or when there was a quiet patch in the music (between tracks for instance).
Using the head unit as a hands-free kit is similarly easy and both the Sony and Treo mobile phones worked well with the BT2500. Incoming calls will ring through your car’s speaker system and you can take calls by pressing the answer button on either your phone or the head unit. Naturally, audio quality for phone calls is superb and makes taking calls on the road a much nicer (not to mention safer) experience. Outgoing calls can also be made through the head unit but you’ll need to use your phone to do so, although you can redial the last number called via the head unit and bypass your phone altogether.Range was about four metres before the signal dropped out, meaning the BT2500 will easily detect Bluetooth devices used anywhere inside the vehicle. At $399 I reckon this is a great buy if you’re thinking of replacing your car stereo, it’s just so wonderfully geeky.