Thursday, 24 January 2013

Pioneer DEH-1400UB

CD RDS Tuner with WMA/MP3 Playback and Front USB

Update: Halfords upgraded my dodgy Pioneer to a superior - and 40% more expensive - Sony, free of charge! Nice customer service.

To: The Manager

Dear Sir or Madam,

Last November my wife purchased a Pioneer car stereo, model number DEH-1400UB, from Halfords as a birthday present for me. It was later fitted, by Halfords personnel.

Fitting took a full two hours instead of one. One reason given for this was that the mechanic did not have the necessary tools to hand. When the job was eventually completed, my new car stereo appeared to work, electrically speaking; however, it seemed mechanically to be quite loosely fitted, as the right side of the unit did not appear to be fixed to the dashboard, but just flexed in and out quite freely.

The earliest opportunity we had to get this apparent fault inspected and fixed was during the Christmas holiday break, when another mechanic showed us that one of the two fixing bolts had apparently been cross-threaded and stripped - in fact he found the missing bolt within the dashboard cavity. He told us that we would have to go to our Honda dealer and order a replacement part for this. My new car stereo unit, its mounting hole having apparently been similarly stripped during the original fitting attempt, would also have to be replaced.

The replacement part arrived and we collected it from Hamilton. Still in December (I think) we returned to Halfords, brand new Honda mounting bolt in hand, to have the replacement stereo unit fitted. This time, after the requisite hour, the unit seemed to be firmly and correctly mounted.


We immediately noticed that the unit was prone to skipping and jumping when playing CDs. It would also cut out entirely while the car was not even moving, e.g., while parked or stopped at traffic lights. Then in January, while driving smoothly along a main road at about 10mph, i.e. no bumps, quite suddenly three of the speakers went silent, while the fourth (offside rear) jumped up in volume and became distorted. Also, the unit’s firmware appeared to have “crashed”, as none of the controls - volume up/down, band/channel change, signal source - had any effect. Fortunately the OFF function still worked.

Upon telephoning Halfords that afternoon, we were instructed to bring the car back on Monday at 2pm, to have the unit looked at.

Meanwhile, we continued to run the unit as a radio tuner with its volume turned down to zero, so that we could at least get the functionality of a dashboard clock out of it. Then on the morning of Sunday 20th I decided, while parked, to very cautiously turn up the volume. I discovered that all four speakers were working once again. However after only a few minutes of operation at this low volume, three of them packed in again, leaving only the offside rear working, with distortion, as before. This time however the unit’s firmware did not crash, and volume up/down etc. appeared still to work.

When we telephoned again at 1pm on the Monday to confirm our upcoming visit at 2pm, we were told that the shop was “fully booked” and that we would have to pick another day. The next day (Tuesday) unfortunately being unsuitable to us, we were forced to agree on 3pm, Thursday - one full week after reporting these latest faults.


On Tuesday, while parked and listening to the FM radio, I noticed the station signal fade then disappear, leaving only a little faint radio noise. I nudged the frequency up then back down exactly one single notch, using the </> buttons, which caused the unit to retune correctly. This happened several times.

On Wednesday, again while parked and listening to music from my phone using the AUX input, I noticed the volume in the right side fall to zero, then return after a minute or so. This also happened at least three times.

This purchase is now two months old, and still we have been unable to get a single day of fault-free operation out of it. In fact while driving we have been forced to continue to keep its volume at zero, in case it decides spontaneously to jump up and distort again, a terrifying prospect which could easily cause a serious accident.

Having encountered such a bewildering array of faults, I am almost at a total loss to explain them - and I have a university degree in electronics! Perhaps the unit has a secret remote control, and someone is hiding in our rear seat pressing buttons at random? And I mean every single button. That might explain it...

I say “almost” because I do have a serious theory, namely: sloppy firmware programming, combined with poor power line noise suppression. But my theories are neither here nor there, and I guess you do have many other customers happily using this same model.

Just to Recap

Recent faults have included:
  • CD jumping (brand new shrinkwrapped CD, vehicle stationary)
  • Spontaneous power down (while playing brand new CD)
  • Triple speaker failure
  • Single speaker distortion
  • Complete loss of control of all functions (except power OFF)
  • Tuner jumping to a random frequency (vehicle stationary)
  • Right speakers fading (vehicle stationary)
We have completely lost all confidence in this particular manufacturer and model of car stereo.

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