Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.
Kenwood DT-7000S (Sirius)
Sirius home satellite radio receiver; space-age design; optical digital output delivers improved sound quality; supersize, easy-to-read display; nifty remote.
Lightweight feel; display is too bright at night.
The Bottom Line
This striking-looking, Sirius home satellite radio receiver sounds better than previous portables.
Review summary The Kenwood DT-7000S is the company's first Sirius satellite radio receiver designed strictly for use at home, as opposed to shuttling back and forth between the car and a home base station. So no, you can't take it with you, and you'll have to pay an additional subscription fee for this unit even if you already have Sirius in the car. But the car-based units won't have the DT-7000S's stunning good looks. Our friends oohed and aahed over the design, and they all thought this Kenwood looked a lot more expensive than its $300 suggested retail price. If you want the variety of Sirius satellite radio's 61 commercial-free music streams (channels) and 40-something news, sports, and talk streams as a permanent part of your entertainment system, the DT-7000S delivers.
The DT-7000S's slick style doesn't hamper its functionality. The mirrored front panel continuously displays channel name, artist name, and song title. The display is flanked by 10 station preset buttons on the left (you can store up to 80 stations in four banks), with various control and display buttons on the right. Topside on the outside main body of the unit, you'll find two jog wheels. The left one selects from a group of Sirius categories--Rock, Pop, Country, Hip-Hop, News, Entertainment, and so on--and the right one selects streams within the categories. We found most of the controls intuitive and easy to use, but even fully dimmed, the display was too bright at night. A tiny but well-organized remote duplicates most of the main unit's controls.
Despite its cool metallic look, the DT-7000S's feel is decidedly plastic. The tuner is almost a full-size component--it measures 2.5 inches high, 13.5 inches wide, and 11 inches deep--yet it weighs just 4 pounds. This is Kenwood's first dedicated home Sirius tuner; the original Go2Anywhere car audio models require a docking station for home use.
In case you were wondering: no, you can't use the DT-7000S, or any Sirius satellite tuner, to receive streams from the other satellite system, XM Radio. Sirius's subscription rate is $12.95 per month, plus an activation fee. If you already have a Sirius subscription for your car, it won't cover this Kenwood; Sirius tacks on another $6.95 per month for each additional tuner.
During our first week with the DT-7000S, we noted the display would occasionally freeze and not read the artist and song titles. We eventually determined the glitch was caused by coiling up most of the 50-foot extension cable we used to run the antenna to a window. Uncoiling the wire eliminated the problem. The DT-7000S's back panel offers two types of outputs, stereo analog and an optical digital connector. You can use either to hook the DT-7000S to a receiver or HTIB. There's also a special Sirius satellite radio antenna jack and an RS-232S port intended for use with automated system controllers. Kenwood is currently including the $49.95 CX-SRH30 Sirius Antenna with the DT-7000S at no extra cost.
If you're musically adventurous, Sirius will turn you on to new music. And if you just want to hear more mainstream, all-hits-all-the-time programming, you'll also be well served by Sirius. And you'll never have to wait for the DJ to back-announce the song you loved 25 minutes ago; the display continuously shows the artist names and song titles. We were always discovering new music.
The DT-7000S has a versatile timer and some sleep/alarm options. Before we could hear anything, we had to experiment to find the best spot for the small (2.5-by-3-inch) antenna. Optimum reception and antenna orientation varies with geographical location. For our Brooklyn, New York, listening room, we used a westward-facing window. Reception is a go/no-go event, and once you've got it, you'll never experience the noise or multipath distortion that so often plays havoc with FM radio reception. That said, we frequently experienced 1- or 2-second dropouts a few times an hour, but that might be a problem just in our immediate area.
Sound quality seems much improved over the Kenwood KTC-H2A1 unit we tested last year. That model sounded somewhat harsh and mushy. Audio quality still varies from stream to stream, and when we compared the sound of Sirius's NPR talk streams to the same program via a clean FM signal, we much preferred FM sound; it was clearer and less fuzzy.
We also compared the better-sounding music streams via the DT-7000S's optical digital and stereo analog outputs and judged the digital connection to offer slightly cleaner treble response and significantly higher-definition bass. A bunch of streams were playing the heck out of Norah Jones's new Feels Like Home CD, and the sound was closer to CD quality than we've heard from satellite radio. The sound was still not as good as CD, but more than acceptable for most listeners.