The KD-PDR30 features five preconfigured EQ settings (Rock, Pop, Jazz, Vocal, Hip-Hop) as well as user-adjustable settings for bass, midrange, and treble. There is also a Super Bass setting, which sets the stereo to maintain a full bass signal irrespective of audio volume. In Rock and Hip-Hop modes, Super Bass is activated automatically, leading to a very aggressive (and often overwhelming) bass tone.
JVC's attempt to create a stereo specifically for the iPod age is not a bad effort, but it could use some improvements. (An FYI to early adopters: the JVC KD-PDR30 will not work with iPhones: having plugged an iPhone into the standard 30-pin iPod connector, we were met the message that "this product was not designed to work with iPhone".)
When playing songs from a connected iPod, users are given many of the options they get from the iPod player itself, including: Shuffle (albums, songs, playlists, and so on) and Repeat. The D-pad controller is loosely based on the design of the iPod wheel itself, and, while it does take some time to get used to (there is no center button, for example), it generally succeeds in giving drivers a useful means of transferring control of the player to the stereo. Each of the four compass point buttons corresponds to a function on the iPod, with Up acting as the Menu button, and Down as the Play/ Pause and Select button.
One difference between the D-pad and the iPod wheel is the Menu structure: whereas pressing the Menu button on an iPod takes you back only one level, the Up button on the JVC D-pad takes you right back to the category select level (playlist/ artist/ track/ genre). This can be slightly annoying if you want to hear a different album by the same artist without going all the way back to the root level to make the selection.
Where the JVC KD-PDR30's iPod interface really falls down, however, is in its inability to enable drivers to quickly search large iPod libraries. The only way to get through a list of songs/ artists/ tracks is to press or hold down the forward and back Skip buttons; these actions allow the driver to skip one track or 10 tracks at a time, respectively. But this is still an inadequate means of getting through larger playlists that might be thousands of entries long. We would have liked a more sophisticated interface that enables drivers to search for tracks/ artist/albums by first letter, for example.
In terms of output and sound quality, the JVC KD-PDR30's built-in MOS-FET amp delivers 20w-per-channel's worth of decent output, although MP3 discs sounded a little too soft for our liking, especially at freeway speeds with the car windows or sunroof open when the full-volume output was in danger of being overwhelmed. Other sources including Red Book CDs and iPods sounded loud enough, however. For those wanting more volume, the JVC KD-PDR30 comes with two pairs of 2.5-volt preouts and a dedicated output for an external subwoofer which might be the means of getting the most out of the Super Bass and Rock and Hip-Hop EQ settings.
We wanted to like the JVC KD-PDR30: its plain, usable faceplate design and standard iPod compatibility are definite plus points in any modern car stereo. However, after pressing the forward Skip button a couple of dozen times to get to the bottom of our iPod library, we have to say we're disappointed in the search and navigation interface.