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Kenwood KDC-X890 review: Kenwood KDC-X890

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The Good The Kenwood KDC X890 plays back all major digital audio formats, including AAC, WMA, and MP3 via CD and a USB connection. Its useful voice-index feature enables drivers to search their albums and playlists without taking their eyes from the road.

The Bad A clunky interface means that searching for files manually can be cumbersome. We're far from convinced of the value of the head unit's horsepower-measuring capabilities.

The Bottom Line The Kenwood KDC X890 is a capable head unit that supports a broad range of audio formats. Voice indexing helps counteract awkward manual file selection, although the system's claims that it measures car performance are dubious.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

Review Sections

The Kenwood KDC X890 is a single-DIN high-performance CD receiver with an impressive number of playback functions as well as some frivolous features for the dedicated boy racer.

A built-in MOSFET amplifier and a peak output of 50 watts per channel give the X890 a wide sound range, and granular EQ controls and sound settings make it easy to personalize your sound. As well as basic options for bass, middle, and treble, the KDC X890 offers detailed frequency adjustments within each level--for example, you can set bass center frequency anywhere between 40Hz and 150Hz. Another feature, called the Bass Management System, boosts the bass output by 6, 12, or 18 decibels. Six preset tone curves with a four-band parametric equalizer display the EQ settings. Additionally, the X890 includes a control for speaker settings that lets you customize the stereo's output to match your individual in-car arrangements.

As a standard AM/FM tuner, the KDC X890 is intuitive to use: radio frequencies are located using autoseek, manual selection, or six presets, and the unit is RDS- and PTY-enabled to give detailed information on station and music tracks as well as program genre. For CD playback, the X890's motorized faceplate folds down to reveal the single disc slot, where you can load CDs containing multiple audio formats, including MP3, WMA, and AAC. A dedicated USB port will also let you play tunes directly from a flash drive--a handy new feature.

To navigate your files, you'll turn to the faceplate's combination of buttons and jog-stick or use the remote control. We found the X890's 64-color fine-dot display bright but a little grainy, with some of the more ambitious graphic sequences reminding us of hand-held LCD games of the 1980's. The X890 makes you choose one of six song information formats, each with a single line of text giving ID3 tag information on a combination of title, artist, album, folder, and filename. Unfortunately, we found the head unit controls too complicated for making a selection while driving (press button 5 for folder or file selection, scroll through folders/files with the jog-stick, press button 1 to confirm selection).

ID3-tag information for folder, album, artist, track, and genre is displayed on the X890's fine dot display.

Thankfully, the X890's ACDrive media (the AC stands for Advanced Codec) function considerably simplifies the process using a text-to-voice technology that announces the name of the files aloud. You'll have to prepare your songs to work with the ACDrive function, however, so Kenwood includes a copy of Phat Noise media manager software with the head unit. Phat Noise lets you store, index, and organize audio files and--most importantly--encode the files with Voice Index information.

Having installed the Phat Noise software and given the files on our flash drive the Voice Index treatment, we found it much easier to select music. With ACDrive-enabled files, the X890 display adds an option called S.mode, which lets you use the jog-stick to scroll through media files according to artist, album, genre, playlist, or folder. In each mode, the system calls out the name of the album, artist, playlist, or folder. As the system relies on text-to-voice software to articulate the names of song titles and artists, the pronunciation is a little Stephen Hawking-esque, but in most cases clearly comprehensible. S.mode also lets you search for tracks, artists, and folders by first letter.

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