The Alpine CDE-W265BT has been around for years, and its staying power is a testament to its quality. This double-din car stereo earned high grades in our tests, despite having fewer EQ bands than other models. It's also very easy to use, though the display isn't going to win you any style points.
The CDE-W265BT received an A- grade for its audio performance in our tests. This stereo, only lost points for its imbalanced low-end frequencies. Its bass was emphasized more than that of any other stereo, even on a flat EQ setting. That said, it doesn't hinder the audio performance very much, and some people will prefer it.
There are nine EQ bands, which you use to adjust the mix by minimizing or emphasizing certain frequencies. The CDE-W265BT gives you a good amount of control over the balance of the mix in your car, though not as much as the very best stereos.
One of the Alpine CDE-W265BT minor drawbacks is its lack of lossless format compatibility – it can't play WAV or FLAC audio files, whether burned to a CD or stored on a USB drive. These formats aren't compressed like MP3s or WMAs, and they are preferred by audiophiles because they have better audio quality. However, if you're not picky about audio formats, this isn't an issue. Most people who purchase this stereo are content with streaming Pandora via Bluetooth or playing MP3s through the USB and AUX ports.
The CDE-W265BT’s interface received an A+ for ease of use. I grade the stereos’ interfaces by gauging how easy it was to perform common functions without looking. As you drive, you can’t afford to take your eyes off the road to skip a song or answer a call. On this Alpine stereo, all the important buttons are big, illuminated and easy to find. You can like or dislike songs on Pandora and switch audio sources quickly.
Unfortunately, the display is about as boring as it gets. Sure, you can choose between 30 colors (thousands less than most stereos) to match the display to your car’s interior, but it doesn’t look much different from the digital alarm clock on your nightstand. The digital clock text isn't easy to read, especially when compared against pixelized displays, which feature readable fonts and sometimes even album art.
The Alpine CDE-W265BT’s power handling is mostly average. Just like the Pioneer AVH-501EX and the JVC KW-R935BTS, it's rated for 50 watts per channel, which is fairly standard for car stereos. It also features three 4-volt pre-outs, which is excellent if you have an amplifier.
The Alpine CDE-W265BT has been one of the best car stereos for years because it provides consistently good audio and has a very intuitive interface. It lacks lossless compatibility and the display could be updated, but it's otherwise a solid choice for a double-din stereo.