Sony XAV-AX205DB full review

Sony is one of the biggest names in car hi-fi, so it’s sure to be one of your go-to brands when replacing your existing car stereo. The AX205DB is the successor to the AX200 and has one extra feature: a DAB+ tuner.

In virtually every other respect, including its design and screen, it is identical. That means you get both Apple Car Play and Android Auto as well as a slot-loading DVD player.

Sony XAV-AX205DB: Price & availability

The XAV-AX205DB costs £539 from Sony, £70 more than the AX200. It’s expensive compared to the cheapest Car Play units available, but the extra cash gets you the DAB radio and the optical drive: many head units omit the CD/DVD drive.

You don’t get everything you need in the box, partly because your car might already have components such as a digital antenna ready to plug in. If not, you’ll have to source, buy and fit your own.

Steering wheel controls are supported but it’s unlikely your car’s connector will be compatible so you’ll have to get an adaptor if you want them to work. Some cars may require more effort than others on this score.

Unless your car uses standard DIN connectors for the speakers and power, you’ll need adapter cables. Finally, if your car doesn’t have a double-DIN space ready accept a new head unit, you’ll need a facia adapter.

Sony XAV-AX205DB review

Worryingly, the supplied metal cage was a few millimetres too tall for our existing (and standard) double-DIN adapter that we’d been using for Parrot’s Asteroid Smart, so wouldn’t fit without modification.

Sony XAV-AX205DB: Design & Build

Starting with the stuff that’s hidden, the back of the AX205DB isn’t as tall as the front section, so there’s room to bundle up cables. Depending on how much space there is, you might find the cables and connectors stick out a bit too far and the wires will have to be flattened as much as possible.

Sony XAV-AX205DB review

The unit requires a connection to your handbrake, or a ground at the very least. If you have a reversing camera, you’ll also need to attach a feed from the reversing lights in order to trigger the camera when you put the car into reverse gear.

There’s a wired mic that needs to be routed up to the headliner or sun visor, and if you have a subwoofer, you’ll need to connect its power trigger wire to the power antenna wire.

Disappointingly there’s no aux in and only one USB port. The latter means you have to choose between a phone or a USB stick full of music. But given you’re probably buying this for Car Play or Android Auto, you’re likely to have your phone connected when driving. It just means you’ll have to store all the music you want to listen to on your phone or keep a load of CDs to hand.

The front panel is identical to the AX200 and AX100, so there’s the same 6.4in 800x480 screen and – usefully – a physical dial which makes it simple to adjust volume. Some head units force you to use the touchscreen, which is far from ideal. There are also physical track skip buttons, which means there’s less of a need for steering wheel controls.

Sony XAV-AX205DB review

At this price, screen resolution is a little low and we don’t like the way the screen depresses slightly when you touch it. However, unlike a traditional glass screen cover, this one isn’t nearly as reflective so it’s easier to see in bright light.

Bear in mind that some rivals have a 7in display, which doesn’t sound much larger, but really does look it.

Sony XAV-AX205DB: Features and interface

The Sony interface is pleasant to use, but it’s likely you’ll spend most of your time using CarPlay or Android Auto. We’re not going to cover those in depth here because they’re identical on any head unit which supports them.

Sony XAV-AX205DB review

It is worth stating that both require your phone to be hooked up with its USB cable: we’re not yet at the wireless stage, despite the high price.

A nice touch is that you can customise the button colours to match your vehicle’s for a more OEM look. This is done with red, green and blue sliders so you’re not limited to pre-set colours.

Sony XAV-AX205DB review

Another handy setting is the ability to adjust the Bluetooth input level so the volume isn’t vastly different to what you’ll hear from a CD or the in-built radio.

A quick push of the volume dial brings up an option menu with shortcuts to select the source, adjust the EQ and – usefully – an Extra Bass control. This makes it quick to increase or decrease bass as needed.

If you hook up a reversing camera, you’ll see the video feed when you select reverse . There are three analogue camera inputs in total, so you’re not limited to just a single reversing camera.

Sony XAV-AX205DB review

For the reverse camera, you get three lines which show the safe distance you can back up, but these can’t be turned off even if your camera displays its own lines.

To use Siri or the Google assistant you can push the volume dial and hold it for a second. Alternatively, for hands-free operation you can just say “Hey Siri” and the AX205DB’s microphone will pick up your voice and Siri will spring into action.

Audio quality

As you’d expect from Sony, audio quality is excellent. There are also plenty of settings to tweak to make the sound to your liking.

There’s a 10-band EQ, but the Dynamic Stage Organiser is arguably the best tool for creating a clear stereo soundstage even if your speakers aren’t positioned optimally. There are three levels of processing to choose between – in our Ford Focus we found DSO Level 1 to the best.

Sony XAV-AX205DB: Specs

  • Dimensions 178 x 102 x 168mm
  • Power output: 4x55W
  • Pre-outs: 3x @ 4V
  • Aux input: No
  • USB: 1x rear
  • Built-in navigation: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Screen: 6.4in, 800x480, 400 nits / 600:1 contrast ratio
  • Audio support: MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, PCM (extensions: WAV, MP3, WMA, M4A, FLAC)
  • Video support: MP4, H.264 AVC, WMV, FLV, MKV, XviD (extensions: MP4, WMV, FLV, MKV)
  • Dimensions 178 x 102 x 168mm
  • Power output: 4x55W
  • Pre-outs: 3x @ 4V
  • Aux input: No
  • USB: 1x rear
  • Built-in navigation: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Screen: 6.4in, 800x480, 400 nits / 600:1 contrast ratio
  • Audio support: MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, PCM (extensions: WAV, MP3, WMA, M4A, FLAC)
  • Video support: MP4, H.264 AVC, WMV, FLV, MKV, XviD (extensions: MP4, WMV, FLV, MKV)