-- PCD-7100 PIREP -- 10/13/2001
We just had PS Engineering's PCD-7100 installed in our Warrior, and love it! Here is my two-part PIREP, on both the unit itself, and on the installation shop we chose to use.
-- The Avionics Shop --
Tony and Nate at Tim McCandless Aviation (Waterloo, IA) did a very professional-looking installation, although it took them about 50% longer than estimated. (This was at least partially due to Nate's relative
inexperience with installations; he's usually a "bench" tech. They are short-handed.) Despite the added time, the price charged (~$1450.00) was the price estimated.
This, combined with the fact that Tony faxed me a written estimate for their work within an hour of our telephone conversation last week, and got me into their schedule when I requested, allows me to recommend this avionics shop -- with just a couple of reservations.
My first concern was Tony's reaction when we arrived at the shop. His first words were "Oh -- I forgot to call you...” These are usually VERY bad words, and they were. Turned out the unit had not yet arrived from PS
Engineering, even though he (and I) had been assured that it was "in stock and shipping the same day" a week earlier.
He was visibly embarrassed, and I was visibly annoyed. Our only hope was that it would arrive with the 10:30 AM UPS shipment -- so we went to breakfast. (At the very good on-airport restaurant, called Benders" – but that's another post...) Luckily, for all concerned, it WAS in that shipment, and work began.
Tony and his guys first did a very thorough check of the aircraft, inside and out, and completed a report not unlike the "walk-around inspection" forms you sometimes see at rental car places. This is done for their
protection, so you can't come back later and say: "My Com 2 doesn't work now!", or something similar.
He discovered a couple of things Mary and I hadn't noticed; first, none of the internal lights work on our older avionics! Because we rarely fly at night -- and because our new com and old Loran are digital, and thus integrally lit -- we never noticed that before. (I didn't even realize that my audio panel had internal lighting...) He also noted that our transponder switch was not spring-loaded, and would thus allow the unit to stick in "Test" mode. Since we never turn it off, again, we had never noticed that.
Promising to "have a look" at those minor problems, we moved on to other issues.
Because the last available slot we had was on the bottom of the co-pilots radio stack, we realized we might have a problem inserting CDs. (The yoke could interfere.) We therefore asked Nate to put the CD player at the top of the stack, and relocate our ADF and Loran accordingly. At first this didn't appear possible because of the extra depth of the CD player, but he eventually did a little trimming and "swedging" -- and he got it in the way we wanted it.
One final hang-up turned out to be our new rear headphone jacks. Just three years ago we had "The Avionics Place" (in Rockford, IL) expand our existing Sigtronics intercom from two to four-place. Because it was done so recently, we had hopes that they would have wired the new jacks for stereo reception, just as a matter of course. I mean, how hard could it be to thread one extra wire back then, and save us ripping the plane apart in the future? (Tony says that's exactly what they do now.)
Well, no dice. The new jacks were "mono" -- so they had to be replaced.
Tony originally said the work would be completed in one day, but that I should "allow for two days, just in case..." Well, after one day, they had not gotten very far.
On the second day (after a nice stay at a GREAT B & B in Waterloo called "the Wellington"), we showed up at the appointed 3:00 PM pickup time. The plane was still in pieces, and it was not done until 5:00 PM -- right at their quitting time. In addition, they never DID get a chance to look at the problem with the avionics lighting...but oh well. We will get that fixed someday...
-- The Unit --
What a great looking unit! It matches our existing avionics nicely (I.E. It does not stand out like a sore thumb, like some car stereos do.), and seems to be quite sturdy. The buttons and knobs have a quality feel, and it doesn't look "out of place" in our stack.
The intercom has three settings: All, Crew, and Isolate. The "Crew" setting lets you communicate only with your co-pilot; the "Isolate" setting lets you only talk to ATC.
There is ample power to allow you to set the volume up as high as necessary. This was the main reason we wanted to get rid of the Sigtronics unit – we could not set it loud enough to be heard without yelling! It's a real pleasure to talk in a normal tone of voice, and be heard clearly over both ATC and the music.
One unique feature is the squelch controls -- there are none! PS Engineering has perfected an automatic squelch, and it seems to really work. On the ground before engine start, the intercom DID cut out our words a bit -- but the added background noise of the engine made everything work as advertised.
The CD Player works well, with great sound and plenty of power. I can turn it up loud enough to hurt my poor old mid-range diminished ears, so you can be certain to hear the tunes over even the loudest engine. Best of all, it doesn't sound "tinny" like our portable CD player did when we plugged it in to our old intercom. (Admittedly not in a very good way...)
There are two setting for the CD player. You can either have the music instantly mute whenever anyone talks, or you can set it to "Karaoke" mode, where the music is always on. It's easy to toggle back and forth between the two modes with a push-button, and we found that the "instant mute" setting was best in the airport environment, while the "Karaoke mode" was least annoying and best for cruise flight.
It also lets you sing along with your favorite tunes. This may or may not be an advantage to your passengers... :)
In this mode, you have to be careful to keep the volume down enough to hear ATC (or, conversely, you have to have the COM radio loud enough to be heard over the music).
The music quality with our LightSpeed headsets is stunning. The stereo separation is perfect, and clarity is what you would expect from any top-of-the-line CD player. We haven't flown in any turbulence, but it
hasn't skipped yet -- even when landing.
Another unique feature of this unit: The back seats have their own "Music In" jack, built into the starboard headphone jack. Thus, with the intercom set to the "Crew" setting, my kids will now be able to plug their portable CD player in, and hear their OWN music, while Mary and I listen to what we want to hear up front. This is a very cool feature, and will be used often by my pre-teen kids, believe me!
We're very happy with the way this unit looks and performs. Best of all, I think the price is very reasonable, especially when you consider what PS Engineering had to go through to get this unit certified.