Clarion DVC920 and DVH940 digital processor combo
It seems like there has been a question about the viability of Clarion's DVC920 and DVH940 controller/digital processor in our car PC application.
After reading about the various (read: few) options available for an all digital (and no head unit) connection to the stereo's amplifiers I decided to give this Clarion stuff a try.
In case you're wondering just what is this combo...
It's basically a little controller device attached to a box that does Dolby Digital and DTS decoding of whatver goes into its 2 digital inputs.
Go to Clarion's website to read more about it. What you need to know is that it facilitates connecting your PC's SPDIF optical (not COAX) output to a preamp like device (the DVH940) and then send the 6 channels via RCA cables to your amplifier(s).
Alpine offers a similar setup but it needs an Head unit or outboard controller (much like the DVC920 is an outboard controller). The difference is that the Alpine is major $$ -- $300 gets you just the controller. I think the processor itself is another 5 bills or such. However, for complete tunability, you can't beat the Alpine. The Clarion has 3 band parametric EQ and some "effects" but that's about it. The big deal -- just $300 total for the Clarion setup. So, if you just want a clean connection (no ground loops or other noise injection) to your amp, this is the way to go.
Now, the trick to getting this thing to work is the included optical cable (I think it came with the DVH940, not the 920 "controller"). I found this link while using everyone's favorite google...
It's a pdf, apparently from someone at Clarion EU, that says cut off the gray connector of the included optical cable and then take care to file down the glass and put a standard TOSLINK connector on there. Not having a standard toslink end lying around, I first disassembled the grey end of the plug to see what was in there (a tinny PCB and little optocoupler). I cut the end off a TOSLINK cable I had lying around and attached this grey thing -- no go. I'm of the opinon that the cable is actually unidirectional. This is further substantiated by the fact that taking the bare end of the clarion cable (that still had the black connector on the other end) and sticking it into my PC's SPDIF (optical) output made the whole thing work. Now I just have to wait form my TOSLINK cable end to arrive and I'll be set.
That's all I have. Not sure what more there is to say, but as RED_GTi_VR6 ha pointed out wherever possible, the Clarion doesn't have as many tweakable settings as the Alpine it's always compared against. No doubt -- it's less than half the cost.
And yes, this setup does have an "outboard" control unit. I'm not sure how you could get around that since you need a way to tell it what settings to use. I suppose, since the unit is no thicker than a tin of altoids, you could just set it and throw it in the glove box. (I can confirm that it doesn't work without the controller plugged in.)
Good luck all.
Oh, and here are pics of the wonky cable ends...