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Review and Measurements of Sony RSX-GS9 Car Receiver

Krunok

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#21
This is a review and detailed measurements of Sony RSX-G9 high-end Car Media Receiver. It is on kind loan from a member. It retails for USD $1,499 so at the top of class when it comes to the category. In case you have not kept up, "Media Receiver" indicates the unit has no CD drive. So all media playback is through bluetooth and unusually so here, a host computer or phone using the RSX-G9 as a USB DAC.

Sony has done its part to make the unit look higher-end although there is so much you can do in a DIN configuration:


I am not a fan of the stiff volume control with no detents. The switches feel fine.

Sony's Media Controller works really well in managing the RSX-G9 remotely. Bluetooth pairing is made trivial by use of NFC which auto-pairs the unit. In the case of my Samsung S9 though I had to find the NFC spot to make this work. A down side of this pairing is that you need to do it every time the unit is powered on. At least this was the case with my last Sony head unit I tested.

Even though the RSX-G9 does not have any built-in amplification although oddly comes with the standard wiring harness with speaker leads.

The owner had re-wired the front panel USB socket to a USB-A lead coming out the back which made connection to PC and testing more tidy.

I remember seeing this unit at CES a couple of years ago and got a briefing from the Japanese Sony employee there. He emphasized DSD playback as the reason for the high cost. While I can't test DSD, let's see how she does with PCM.

Measurements
Since the unit can act like a USB DAC, I started my testing that way with the volume initially set to 2 volt output:
View attachment 19654

SINAD of 89 dB would place the RSX-GS9 in the fourth tier of our desktop DACs, so nothing to write home about. Indeed performance is inadequate for transparent playback of 16 bit CD music. In car environment though with high noise floor this is probably fine but it is disappointing to see Sony not target/deliver higher performance.

The owner wanted to know the maximum volume prior to clipping so I tested for that and the new is very good there:
View attachment 19655

We can go up to 4 volts without any penalty. This tells me the DAC is the limiting factor and not the pre-amp. Since higher output in car environment is very useful in reducing impact of noise and potentially long runs of RCA to power amplifier, this is "good news." As long as the power amp can handle it, I see no reason to not use full 4 volt output.

The owner wanted to know if the USB flash drive input does better so here is that results:
View attachment 19656

Performance remains the same. Slight improvement is due to truncation to 16 bits that is occurring due to use of ASIO over the Windows driver in USB mode. "Fortunately" DAC performance is so limiting that it makes almost no difference.

Dynamic range follows the same story:

View attachment 19657

So nothing to write home about but again, in the context of where the unit is used, this is fine.

IMD results show the much higher noise floor than desktop DACs:

View attachment 19658

Green represents max volume and hence shows the clipping toward the end. Setting the level to 48 avoids that. Not shown is the level at 44 which produced identical results to level = 48.

Jitter spectrum is high in USB DAC mode due to revealing the 250 Hz pulses in J-test signal used here (should be invisible normally):

View attachment 19659

USB thumb drive playing the same file shows total absence of jitter (likely masked by higher noise floor than desktop products).

The unit has Toslink digital optical output but oddly only allows you to select 48 and 96 kHz sample rates? Why on earth are these the two choices when vast majority of content is at 44.1 kHz??? Playing J-test signal and measuring jitter over TOSLINK shows pretty high levels of jitter:

View attachment 19660

Usually these measurements are in picoseconds, not nanoseconds. The culprit is that one peak around 100 kHz. A bit of instrumentation and circuit modifications would have eliminated that and result in much better performance. The second peak at 12 kHz is related to the main tone in J-test signal used for measurement. Changing that to a pure sine tone at 44.1 kHz makes it go away.

For grins, I connected a Topping D50 to the Toslink output and ran the dashboard measurement again:

View attachment 19661

Performance shoots up nearly 20 dB showing that the DAC inside the RSX-GS9 is the bottleneck to performance.

Conclusions
Sony aspires to build a high-end head unit here but sadly fails in performance department. Better attention to detail could have easily garnered better performance. For its intended application of being used in a car environment, higher performance would likely be lost when it comes to audibility. Still, if one is paying so much, one deserves better measured performance.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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New Pink Panther seems the only thing worth mentioning here. :)
 
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#23
From the other two posts with this panther, and this post itself, it seems like this panther means "Yeah... Nothing to write home about here folks"
 

Jorj

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#24
I haven't had a car in the last 15 years that didn't have a proprietary head unit with integrated HVAC controls/navigation and fitting this type of devices is basically impossible. What type of cars these things can be installed in these days? A 2000 Toyota Corolla?
This is exactly the reason I basically gave up on car audio after years of being WAY into it. I helped a friend put a head-unit in a newer Volvo S80 and it literally bricked the whole damn car! Had to put it on a flatbed and ship it to the dealership in Minneapolis to get it reset. Basically, all the cars I wanted to drive were way too complicated to mess with, and then they started offering decent sound systems from the factory, so I bailed.
 

JJB70

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#25
I think that car factory fitted audio upgrades must be a very profitable option for the car makers and a major revenue stream for the various hi-fi manufacturers who license their names to these systems. I haven't had a car for many years which had a traditional head unit but in every case the cars have had an optional stereo upgrade. A couple of times I have had test drives with the upgraded stereo (a Meridian set up in a Jaguar and a B&O set up in an Audi) and neither seemed to offer an improvement in any way commensurate with the upgrade cost.
 

Sal1950

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#26
Never got into car audio. First my rides always had an exhaust that made more rumble than I could appreciate a nice system over. Later when I was parked, with Smokey Robinson playing softly while trying to seduce some cutey, the qaulity didn't make much differece in my success either. :p
 
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#27
My question is, pragmatically speaking, since you are going to hear the car system while driving, given other noises, how good does this have to be ?
 

amirm

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#28
I don't think it needs to be better than this. The question though is what your $1,500 bought then. I have offers of testing other units and we can get a baseline of what is available at other price points.
 
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#29
Nice resource I found for noise levels inside cars.
http://www.auto-decibel-db.com/
Seems 60-70 is what we should expect. That's quite a bit.
Yeah, the 1500$ on a car audio system seems practically stupid. I would rather buy a decent system for home listening and put just above a basic baseline in my car.
 

Jimster480

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#30
I don't think it needs to be better than this. The question though is what your $1,500 bought then. I have offers of testing other units and we can get a baseline of what is available at other price points.
I have a simple JVC unit that sounds just fine.
I bet that the performance is somewhere around the ballpark of this unit for $80.
 
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#31
The Lexus LS line is the quietest car available on the market. I've tested numerous generations with acoustic and dual pane glass. If you don't already have a car of this class, your wasting your money trying to get there.
 
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#32
I've delve into the science on NVH heavily with measurements and scientific papers. Your never get a car quiet enough to see a difference. You will always have road noise, wind noise, or engine noise. I have the holy Grail for car audio driver's, Dynaudio esotar 2s. I'd bet it beats 99% of people's home systems in measurements alone. The second you start driving, diminishing quality.
 

Jimster480

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#33
The Lexus LS line is the quietest car available on the market. I've tested numerous generations with acoustic and dual pane glass. If you don't already have a car of this class, your wasting your money trying to get there.
The problem is the price vs performance.
Those cars are insanely overpriced, have poor performance and poor resale values.
Their reliability is just "ok"
 
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#34
There price is pretty low in the used market. The best model being the 2001-2006 can be had with less than 100k miles for 10k. Reliability wise they easily go 200k plus with basic maintenance. One example which is the original 1990 LS have reached 1 million miles. 300-500k isn't uncommon, it's a Toyota.
 

Jimster480

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#35
There price is pretty low in the used market. The best model being the 2001-2006 can be had with less than 100k miles for 10k. Reliability wise they easily go 200k plus with basic maintenance. One example which is the original 1990 LS have reached 1 million miles. 300-500k isn't uncommon, it's a Toyota.
Please for one second to not think that Toyota quality today is anything like it was 28 years ago.
2001-2006 for 10k isn't "low" at all compared to what is available in that price range without miles or headache.

I'm talking about buying a new one and the value being around half a year later.
 

cjfrbw

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#36
I'm surprised my Nissan Juke Nismo is quieter than a lot of luxury models, and that the electric cars aren't as quiet as you might expect. Bottom line, they are all noisy and anything higher than 'good' sound is a waste of $$.
 
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#37
Electric cars aren't quite because they don't use materials luxury cars use inside. Such as acoustic glass, double pane glass, sound proofing and nvh engineering. Buyers of luxury cars expect the absolute best materials, smoothness,and quietness. Not so much electric car buyers.
 

Jimster480

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#38
Electric cars aren't quite because they don't use materials luxury cars use inside. Such as acoustic glass, double pane glass, sound proofing and nvh engineering. Buyers of luxury cars expect the absolute best materials, smoothness,and quietness. Not so much electric car buyers.
I think this depends on what you like.
For me speed and power are great factors along with gas mileage and space.
I care little for "how quiet it is" unless its obscenely loud.

"materials" vary so wildly today that even 90k vehicles don't contain materials that are as nice as what was available for ~30k around 20 years ago.
 

bigx5murf

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#39
I put in a cheap pioneer head unit into my work truck myself. It was like $300 give or take. I mostly use BT with it, but the other day I tried a CD for the first time, and it sounded so much better than BT.
 

Jimster480

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#40
I put in a cheap pioneer head unit into my work truck myself. It was like $300 give or take. I mostly use BT with it, but the other day I tried a CD for the first time, and it sounded so much better than BT.
BT just doesn't compare to other methods of playback.
I used to use AUX all the time with my head unit.

Now my Chevy SS sedan has no AUX, only a USB that takes iPod input.
So I have an iPod touch 6G that I use to play music in my vehicles.
My QX80 also has no AUX, it has an RCA input but its kinda complicated to use it since its built for video input.
So I just use the iPod in there aswell.... sounds much better than bluetooth from any phone we have. APTX or not.
 
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