Pioneer AVH-P4400BH DVD Receiver Review
When you’re a car audio enthusiast, you often want to have the most-up-to-date and coolest car stereo. Now we will admit, there isn’t always a very good reason to upgrade; just because a car stereo “looks” better doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy it, this would be a waste of money. However, the new AVH-P4400BH, besides looking even more aesthetically-pleasing, comes with a host of new standard features that really represent an evolution over the previous model (the AVH-P4300).
The AVH-P4400BH is the lowest priced model in their current DVD receiver lineup to feature a 7" touchscreen — that means bigger video displays and a more driver-friendly menu.
The deck looks elegant and clean in the dash, complimenting any vehicle.
The newly updated and innovative user interface eliminates complicated layered selection displays, so access to desired functions is smoother and simpler than ever. The touchscreen is very responsive, and you don't have to keep hitting things twice or put up with annoying delays (you can even drag your finger to scroll through menus). Icons and text are sufficiently large that it makes for easy reading and touching while driving. You can also customize the background images, choose from five display colors, and 112 key panel illumination options to make it look like the rest of your car’s interior.
We like the "Favorites" menu that allows you to group all of your favorite menu items onto one customizable menu which is then accessible from any screen.
While the previous model (AVH-P4300) had Bluetooth as an $200 option (which may be understandably out of the range of most people’s budget), this one has built-in Bluetooth 3.0, with audio streaming enabled.
While other headunits (such as Alpine) would take 3-5 minutes to sync your address book EVERY TIME they paired, this car stereo syncs very quickly with iPhones, almost instantly (though it doesn't "store" the phonebook in its memory.)
The AVH-P4400BH comes with an external microphone for talking on your cell phone through Bluetooth, and it works without a hitch. There’s nothing we hate more than when you’re talking to someone and they sound like they’re far, far away. But here, you actually sound very clear, as if you were talking directly into the phone. For better effect, you can mount the microphone on the top of your steering column, just in the back of the steering wheel, and angle it towards your head.
You will also be able to stream all types of audio files through Bluetooth. No need to use an awkward cable anymore. For those of you who want to use both a cable and Bluetooth at the same time: to ensure seamless operation of music/iPod and Pandora audio playback through the dock connection cable, we recommend allowing the Bluetooth connection to complete the pairing process BEFORE you connect your phone to the Pioneer iPod cable. This allows the Pioneer Receiver to completely control switching between sources without any additional iPhone settings changes needed by the user.
If you want to switch back and forth between the Bluetooth connection and the dock connection, you need to choose the audio source from the Music/iPod screen on the iPhone.
Music and video controls
iPod controls are great, super easy to navigate, and you can even navigate by alphabet (just hit the ABC button and hit the letter you want). Like on you iPod, the receiver lets you navigate by artist, genre, and album, all easily and quickly. The receiver will show album art as well, which is nice.
The AVH-P4400BH will also show the full title of songs on XM radio, which is a nice surprise.
The DVD-viewing experience is also enhanced by the bigger 7” screen, with the picture being as close as it gets to HD quality. If you’ve ever had to wait for your wife at stores and banks, then you will understand how the ability to watch videos is certainly a plus.
There are a whole lot of other cool little things you can do with the AVH-P4400BH receiver. The app mode, for instance, is great for a number of things: you can use MotionX GPS with your iPhone and it will be displayed on screen. You can also watch Netflix movies.
If you’re in need of a rear view camera input for your truck, then this stereo also has one. Once your camera is hooked up, the feed will instantly be displayed on the screen every time you shift to reverse.
Another feature that may interest you but that is not advertised is the ability to slow down and speed up podcasts while listening to them.
Standard HD Radio
HD Radio (Hybrid Digital) is a digital radio signal that carries information and vastly improved sound quality. Over 2,000 stations broadcast in HD and it covers approximately 84% of the United States, according to iBiquity Digital corporation.
If you haven’t heard HD Radio yet, it’s as if you’re listening to an MP3 or podcast, but way better. Some people may find it a waste to include HD radio, but when you live in a big city, almost every radio station broadcasts in HD. Thanks to this feature, you will actually listen to radio again.
However, to get the best out of HD radio, avoid in-window antennas, they’re always a reception killer.
Sonic Center Control
The AVH-P4400BH includes a sound processor that changes the sound staging depending on your preference. It changes it between the driver, passenger or both. The AVH-P4300DVD did come with it, but it’s a lot more accurate in in this new model.
When you change it to the driver or passenger it sounds amazing for either occupant. This gives you the perception of the music coming from your head, or in front of you.
The receiver's built-in amp has the horsepower to keep up with the great looks, delivering crispy highs, articulate midrange, and chest thumping lows that you can tailor with the 8-band equalizer.
To get the perfect sound, use the auto-equalization feature to tune your system (this will require a CD-MC20 microphone, which connects to the receiver, allowing you to measure your vehicle's acoustics and create the optimum EQ settings). If you'll be building a more advanced audio system, the three sets of preamp outputs deliver a solid 4-volt signal to your external amps.
Between the 8-Band EQ, adjustable high-pass filters, subwoofer level control, subwoofer phase control, bass boost, Sonic Center Control, and Auto EQ the list goes on-and-on for adjustability and sound-shaping. This head unit sounds amazing – flat out. Thanks to the higher voltage RCAs (compared to the lower voltage of the AVH-P3400), the sound quality is better than previous models as well.
Only thing we wish it would do is when you listen through Sirius satellite radio, that it would show the artist, song and channel you are on. You can only choose one of the three to see (while for all the other inputs, you can see them all). But let’s not be picky here…
We found one more limitation with this head unit. After inquiring about the Sirius/XM subscriptions, we found out that the module you need for this unit (SCC-1) does NOT support the Sirius “A La Carte” subscription. That package lets you choose 50 channels for $7.99 a month. With this module (SCC-1), you are forced to get the at least the $14.99 a month package (which has 130 channels).
There is one aspect where Pioneers fails, though it has nothing to do with the head unit itself: the instructions manual is very bad. It makes you flip back and forth between several pages to learn about a single feature, and barely explains some options. It certainly doesn't help that it covers three different models as well, so you need to make sure you are reading about the correct one.
We therefore advise that you sit in the vehicle for a while and play around with the stereo; You'll figure it out. But do not count on being able to sit inside, read the instruction manual and come out with an understanding of how it works.
Another pain point users mentioned was the brightness of screen while driving at night. Well, though we had to play around a bit to solve that problem, rest assured that you can in fact dim this unit: Go into the settings for picture or video and you will see a setting for dimmer. This dimmer is actually for the whole display, not just for watching videos!
Pioneer AVH-P4400BH Video Bypass
We would suggest getting the parking brake bypass. There are a few things that don't work unless you have engaged the parking brake, disengaged and then reengaged (yes, on, off, on). Things like being able to watch DVDs while driving, or use the keypad dialing on the screen, you can't use unless you have done this on, off, on nonsense with the brake. Get the $10 bypass to avoid these small but annoying frustrations.
There is no programming required to do this parking brake bypass, which will make the installation a breeze! The installation for the "Video in Motion Activation" should take no longer then 1 min. This is all done on the back of the radio, which makes the process once set up completely automatic! How does that sound?
Is the AVH-P4400BH a truly worthy successor of the 2011 model AVH-4300DVD? YES! If you’re looking to replace an older Pioneer model, then the added features on this one are well worth the cost. The Pioneer AVH-P4400BH will fulfill all of your hopes and negate any concerns you may have with purchasing a higher end unit. No issues you have to concern yourself with on this unit. It will do a lot, and then some.
It still comes with all the goodies such as, Pandora Radio, 2-way iPod control, 7” screen, Sirius or XM ready, steering wheel remote ready, Navigation Ready, 8-band graphic equalizer and variable color illumination. You get Pioneer’s great build quality, reliability and the “new aesthetics” aren’t bad either. Actually they are way better. It’s like having your cake and eating it too.
Surprisingly, you would think a head unit like this one would cost an arm and a leg… The good news is that it can fit anyone's budget. When you first see this car stereo, it’s easy to assume that the price tag would be $500 to $600, but it's much less inexpensive and one of the most affordable units online. You can beat the price of $400 for the unmatched Pioneer AVH-P4400BH!
It’s an awesome alternative to the more costly units. It’s not perfection, but it is as close as you can get at that price point.