Sony MEX-BT3800U Bluetooth Head Unit Review

This is a brief review of my experience with the Sony MEX-BT3800U Bluetooth Head Unit which I've got set up in my Supra along with an external amp. I won't talk much about the audio quality here because that's going to depend mostly on the rest of your system/amp/speakers etc, but I've been more than pleased with the sound quality. This review talks about the features and connectivity of the head unit and might be of interest to you if you're thinking of buying a MEX-BT3800U or a similar Sony head unit.

Sony MEX-BT3800U Connectivity

This is a great head unit offering loads of connectivity options including mini-jack input on the front, USB input on the front (for flash drive/mass storage device/iPod), phono input on the back, bluetooth audio streaming and bluetooth phone connectivity, along with the usual radio and CD. The CD player will also play CDs containing MP3/AAC/WMA files. A microphone input is included on the back in case you have an external microphone for phone, but if not, there is a built-in mic on the front panel.

Sony head unit front panel

Bluetooth Audio Streaming

One of the main features that attracted me to the SONY MEX-BT3800U was its bluetooth audio streaming feature. It allows you to play music from your other bluetooth audio device (phone/mp3 player) via A2DP. (Check whether your bluetooth music player supports A2DP before your commit to buying one). I use bluetooth streaming from an HTC Desire Android phone. All you have to do to get it working is to pair up the head unit and the music player once, which is easy, then whenever your phone/music player is in range the head unit will connect to it. You can then simple select BT Audio as a source from the head unit and it will play through the system. The bluetooth audio is not as good quality as CD or MP3. You will notice some hiss and glitches, but generally it's fine for general listening. Oh, and one other quite annoying issue is when you start the engine and the head unit momentarily goes off, the bluetooth connection is lost and it has to connect up and be told to start playing again. But this problem isn't unique to this head unit, of course.

Bluetooth Phone Access

Once the head unit is paired with your phone, you can use it as a proper hands-free phone system. You have the option to plumb in an external microphone to the back if you feel like wiring up a mic, or you can use the built-in mic which works ok. When you receive a call, your music will be interrupted and the phone will ring through the car speakers. You can answer the call by pressing the volumn knob on the head unit itself. I have found the sound quality good and callers can generally hear me clearly enough, but describe the sound as "distant". One feature missing from this Sony head unit that you will find on some others is bluetooth phone book access, which downloads your phonebook to the headunit itself.

Wi-Fi Interference

I have found that the bluetooth audio streaming can sound choppy or glitchy. You can get a strange effect where the head unit temporarily speeds up the audio slightly after momentarily losing the bluetooth signal so the audio will "catch up" to where it was. You end up with a very odd "wow and flutter" effect. It seems that the phone searching for Wi-Fi signals interferes with the head unit's bluetooth reception. Switching Wi-Fi off in the phone's settings seems to alleviate the problem but it is quite annoying having to do this.

Forward/Back and pause work great from the head unit giving you complete control of audio from the phone. Annoyingly though, if you use some other software at the same time on your phone, such as sat-nav, these control fail to work, although the audio keeps playing fine. Voice commands from sat nav, or other audio coming from the phone gets mixed in with the music stream, which is a nice feature. Fast-forward and rewind is possible by holding the forward or back buttons down on the head unit but this seems a little unreliable and sometimes keeps fast forwarding for a while after you let go of the button.

Sony car stereo remote control

Remote Control

Exactly how many people will actually use a remote control with their car head unit is debatable, but the MEX-BT3800U comes with a full featured remote control of its own.

USB Access

The MEX-BT3800U has a USB socket on the front panel which allows you to plug in pretty much any music player or music storage device. When you first plug in your USB device, the head unit will scan for music and then using the search button you can browse through your albums quickly and easily. I've been really impressed with this, and you can even use the USB socket simply to charge your phone up.

To Conclude

I've been really impressed with the new Sony head unit. I reckon it's a great buy, especially at the bargain prices it can be had for on the Internet.

Sony MEX-BT3800U Technical Spec

Sony MEX-BT3800U Box
CD PlayerCD Audio, MP3, WMA, AAC Formats
Amplifier4 x 52 Watts
RemoteYes: RM-X304
Bluetooth HandsfreeYes
Bluetooth Music StreamingYes
Bluetooth Phonebook DownloadNo
FiltersAdjustable high-pass filter
Adjustable low-pass filter
Page Updated 14/06/10