Luckily I had a few trick up my sleeves. A call to a bro of mine - Anthony Lim from The Star Audiophile and Motoring fame led me to the Blaupunkt Bremen MP74. Anthony's excellent review on the Bremen can be found on the Star Online's Audiophile section. A quick check around the various ICE shops in Penang led me to CT2 in Bayan Baru which gave me an excellent discount on the Bremen besides taking the effort to get a fellow customer and Bremen user to come to the shop to give me an audition. Also gave me a decent trade in for my stock Blaupunkt Sevilla HU as icing on the cake. Thanks guys. You rock!
Installation was a zilch as the Sentra already has the Blaupunkt's wiring harness. I elected not to use the 2nd antenna as that would run across the top of my windscreen. Being nearly 6 feet I find that quite obscurring. Besides I don't listen to radio that much and even with a single antenna I can say that the Bremen will outperform most other HUs radio reception wise. Picture below of the Bremen after installation
Close up of the Bremen. I really dig the looks as I like my HUs simple and elegant. Can't stand the flashy displays and what nots. The Bremen might look basic aesthetically but it's anything but. The faceplate is brushed aluminium. Might not appeal much to the Beng crowd.
So the million dollar question. How does it sound? For one thing I can tell you the Bremen's 27 channel EQ (108 band if you take into account the 4 separate channels) means it's very flexible to different in-car acoustic environments. The auto adjust feature with microphone is also fab and really cuts down the tuning time. The sound of the Bremen is pretty clean and has a tinge of smoothness and warmth without losing the details and clarity. If you're ICE educated on a diet of Alpine HUs the signature is very different from the classic Jap Hi-Fi sound. Personally I find the Bremen more natural compared to let's say a 9855. The soundstage's pretty decent too and the Sub-Out function includes the ability to adjust subwoofer phasing by 45 degree increments to suit how far back you want your bass to be. I did try going active recently via the Bremen's high and lowpass filters but didn't like the sound. While without doubt the Hi-Fi attributes (the imaging was even more precise) were still there I find the music lifeless, emotionless and cold. Going passive is still the way for me.
The downsides? Not much from my experience. I did have the first unit crap out on me after 3 weeks. Sometimes it will not have any sound after turn-on. A quick call to CT2 and they gave me a brand new replacement unit no questions asked. The second unit has been impeccable for the last 4+ months (touch wood). Also the Bremen has several quirks or should I say character. The Mute button is actually the Pause button when you're playing the CD. The display has nice big graphics but by golly the font size used for the track elapse time and clock is way too small. And it's not cheap. The retail is a massive RM4.888K but you should be able to get for a bit below 3K. The face plate also closes too fast. Real hassle if you're like me and like to dilly dally choosing what CDs to hear as by the time you decide the face plate would have closed and you have to press the open/eject button again. Also got the CD stuck once when the faceplate closed when the CD was halfway inserted. Had to yank the CD out causing scratches to it. Bummer!
In summary the Bremen's got all the bells and whistles sonically for it's class and price range. It will take a much much more expensive HU from the likes of Alpine F1, Pioneer P90 series, McIntosh, etc. to outperform it. Unless top of your priority list for your HUs are flashy multi-colour displays and Ipod compatibility I would strongly recommend the Bremen Sound Quality wise.