Review of the Nakamichi NA250BTR CD receiver
Fun and functional
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It’s not typical of us to do this, but let’s start this off with the bad news. If you’re looking for a stereo with built-in iPod® audio controls, this is not the stereo for you. The Nakamichi NA250BTR CD receiver has a lot going for it — including a front USB input and built-in Bluetooth® connectivity for calls and streaming audio — but direct iPod controls aren’t available. In fact, you won’t even be able to charge your Apple device through the USB input. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about what this stereo can do.
The Nakamichi brand name might not be immediately familiar to those born in or after the ‘80s, but back in the day it was considered a benchmark for high-quality audio products, especially home tape decks. The brand seems to have been resurrected recently, and one thing that is still fairly old-school about the NA250BTR is its looks. It doesn’t look old or outdated, per se, but it does have a throwback feel to it that makes it seem a lot more intuitive than some of the newer, more flashy receivers that offer strange button placement and sci-fi lighting.
The NA250BTR’s detachable faceplate offers a large power/mute button on the left-hand side, with several controls behind it. The single-line display is not especially large, but it is easy to read, except in exceptionally bright sunlight. On the right-hand side of the face are the USB and auxiliary inputs. The aux in is not illuminated, which is not a dealbreaker, but it’s a nice thing when it’s there. There’s even an SD card input behind the detachable face, which is a nice option for digital music lovers.
There are a dozen preset color choices for the display illumination, plus a user-created option. The stereo’s demo mode cycles through all the color combinations if you’re looking for a rainbow to accompany your travels.
I have three minor complaints about the faceplate/display: One is that the mute button doesn’t “pause” anything I’m listening to, whether it’s a CD or music I’m streaming via Bluetooth. The pause button is under the display panel, first among six tiny station preset buttons.
Another issue is that the screen doesn’t show song titles or artist names when playing CDs. It works great when playing songs from a USB drive, and I wouldn’t typically expect it for Bluetooth audio, but it would be great to see song info when playing from CDs, so I don’t have to refer to the case.
That said, it does show RDS information from area radio stations that provide it. There's an area radio station that calls itself "The Corner," and here's what the screen shows when I tune to it (alternating with the station's FM number):
One final minor quibble is that the Bluetooth streaming audio occasionally experiences static interference. I'm not sure if it's because of the age of my iPhone® 3G (that I now use exclusively as an iPod in the car), or some other external reason I can't explain, but it would happen every few days for about ten seconds at a time. Not a huge deal, but worth noting.
Noticeable sound improvement
I drive a 2004 Nissan Sentra with factory speakers. One thing I noticed as soon as I installed the NA250BTR was how much cleaner everything sounded. The receiver has 20 watts of RMS power, so it instantly improved my music’s loudness and clarity without making the speakers (10 years old at this point!) sound distorted.
The stereo only offers three adustable EQ bands (treble, middle, and bass), but it does allow for center frequency selection within those three bands. It also has a separate subwoofer level adjustment and a low-pass filter for sending those bass notes directly to my powered subwoofer.
The Nakamichi offers a dynamic bass boost function (DBSS), plus an Xbass booster, a couple of minor plusses for further tweaking the sound. I didn't notice a huge difference when using them, but I don't listen to a ton of bass-heavy music either.
Nakamichi included a remote with the NA250BTR but I haven't gotten around to using it yet.
All in all, this is a fine receiver for anyone who doesn't need built-in iPod controls. I use a mix of sources, between CD, USB thumb drive, and iPhone 3G through Bluetooth audio or the auxiliary input, and they all seem to work pretty well. I've only used the hands-free calling a couple of times, and it seems to work just fine, even with the stereo's built-in microphone. I like the receiver's simplicity and ease of use, but some may want something a little flashier for their dollars.