JVC KD-BT1 review:


Roadshow Editors' Rating

7.2 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 10
  • Performance 7

The Good The JVC KD-BT1 comes with a wealth of Bluetooth communications and audio capabilities, in addition to a good range of digital audio-playback support. Its text-reading function and USB connectivity are particular favorites.

The Bad The KD-BT1's small buttons, complex menus, and relatively dull screen impede its usability while on the road.

The Bottom Line The JVC KD-BT-1 offers a hatful of features for its price. However, it can be tricky to master all the controls, and you'll need a seriously tricked-out phone to make the most of it.

The JVC KD-BT1 is as much a communications device as a car stereo. Using a built-in Bluetooth receiver, the single-DIN sized system can be used for hands-free calling, and includes some advanced phone syncing features, including text message notification and automatic phonebook transfer. In addition to its support for a wide variety of digital audio sources (including MP3 and WMA discs, and audio files from USB drives), the KD-BT1 also supports audio streamed wirelessly via Bluetooth, which can be controlled using buttons on the faceplate.

The JVC KD-BT1 features a basic single-DIN design with a mechanical fold-down faceplate and a backlit monochrome dot-matrix LCD display, which can be set to one of 1,728 colors. However, the LCD screen is not very bright, and in direct sunlight it can be difficult to see the digits and readouts especially when the text color is set to one of the darker shades (such as apple, grape, or rose). The KD BT-1 takes customization to a new level, as users can set separate colors for each source (CD, satellite radio, Bluetooth phone, Bluetooth audio, for example). Different disc-based media such as MP3 and WMA CDs can be given their own colors, and for those who can't decide, the screen can be set to scroll through every color in its memory.

The color scheme of the JVC-KD1's faceplate can be customized in thousands of ways.

The simple faceplate masks a very complex series of menus beneath the surface, most of which are accessed via the M button the right of the dial. The menu interface on the KD-BT1 is not our favorite. Making a selection involves using four separate controls: calling up the menu screen with the M button; scrolling to the submenu category desired using the search buttons to the right of the presets, scrolling through the various options in the submenu once the desired category is reached; and finally pressing the 1 button to make a selection. This is the price of having so many features and such a small number of control interfaces.

Audio sources
Despite its broad range of Bluetooth functions (denoted by the "BT" in its name), the KD-BT1 is categorized as a CD receiver and a push of the eject button on the top right-hand side of the unit flips the faceplate open to reveal a single CD slot, which can handle regular CDs (including CD/R and CD/RW) as well as MP3-, WMA-, and AAC-encoded discs.

When playing compressed audio formats such as MP3, the screen displays the folder number, track number, and track time, and two lines of text showing the album/artist and the current track name. The display shows only 16 digits, but then scrolls the names of tracks/artists that are longer. When a USB mass storage device is connected, the KD BT-1 automatically finds the music files on the drive and starts to play them while displaying ID3 tag information in the same format as that for MP3 discs.

The LCD screen shows tag information for compressed digital audio files.

Playing audio via Bluetooth from our Sony-Ericsson K790a was also relatively straightforward (after we figured out we needed the phone to be set to "car" profile to be able to stream). The KD-BT1 supports both the A2DP audio streaming profile and the more sophisticated AVRCP profile, which enables control of the streamed audio from the receiver device. With a Bluetooth audio phone paired to the stereo, tracks can be played and stopped using the 1 and 3 preset buttons respectively, and skipped using regular skip buttons on the right hand side of the presets.

The BT-1 offers a good number of audio customization options: drivers who want to assign their own label to their favorite FM and AM radio stations can do so, and external components can also be given names of up to eight characters. For those who wish for more audio sources, the KD-BT1 can be hooked up to an iPod using an optional KS-PD100 adapter, which transfers control of the iPod and playback to the stereo faceplate. Separate adapters are also available for XM and Sirius satellite radio.

All audio sources play via a 24-bit Burr-Brown digital-to-analog converter and a built-in MOS-FET amp producing output of 50W x 4 channels. The system also features a dedicated subwoofer output.

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