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Listening

With a radio like this, there are so many features and different adjustments and settings it can be difficult to get focused on simply listening to it, because you’re always tempted to Kenwood KDC-HD942U GRA_optplay with all the controls and adjustments. Suffice to say, the Kenwood KDC-HD942U provides extensive sound tuning and control functionality, to the point where I should caution you again, if you aren’t an experienced tuner, you should probably get professional help to get the most out of the unit. But for most of my listening evaluation, I simply bypassed all the adjustments and toys and concentrated on the sonics. And I have to say, the Kenwood is a very good sounding unit, regardless of the source you choose. The tuner pulled in all my favorite stations easily, as well as the available HD channels, and displayed the info on the LCD clearly.

Thanks at least in part to the 24 Bit D/A converter / convertor onboard, when listening to a standard CD, the sound was very natural and uncolored, with no audible noise. Bass response was full, deep and powerful, while details in the highest frequencies were distinct and easily identified, but not at all harsh or hard sounding. Listening to the Cowboy Junkies “Trinity Sessions” and Robbie Robertson’s self titled album, I thought there was a very good sense of space, the vocals were clear and natural sounding, and noted the stereo separation was excellent as well. Switching to my iPod and some high resolution MP3’s, the results were pretty much the same as the CD section. The Kenwood’s sonics were top notch, and I found absolutely nothing to gripe about. iPod control of track search and selection was reasonably fast using the rotary knob, and you can also search quickly by letter. For those of you with passengers who want to play DJ, the KDC-HD942U can also allow the iPod to be used as the controller. The right hand control “wobble knob” has up/down, left/right, rotary, and center press functions, and while it works fine, it did take a bit of practice to get the center press function to work without accidentally getting one of the other directions.

Another nice feature worth mentioning is the subwoofer level control. One press of the volume button, and you’re there, and all you have to do is turn the knob. No multi-level menus, no need to press more than one button, just easy and logical. When a control is used as frequently as this is, I’ll never understand why some head units make you go through several steps to get there. Other brands could take a real lesson from the Kenwood here.

On the Bench

With my listening completed, I moved into the lab and went through the usual battery of tests and measurements. What I found basically supported my earlier impressions, the Kenwood unit is a good performing product, in pretty much all aspects. I measured 3.9 volts of actual usable output, and the frequency response measured nice and flat as well. Interestingly, the response curve was slightly flatter when the DSP was bypassed, but the differences were minor and would be almost impossible to hear. Signal to noise of the pre-outs was a quiet -87.6dBA at full output. The only spec that could have been a bit better was the output impedance, which measured average at 250 ohms. But all in all, the Kenwood is a very good performer, and would be an excellent choice for any high end system.

f it seems like head unit advancements and the continuous progress of technology is passing you by, you’re not alone. These days we can have so much capability in the radios of our cars it can be almost dizzying at times. With the likes of iPod connectivity, hands-free, bluetooth, voice activated controls, choices of HD and satellite radio formats, voice guided GPS navigation, internet connectivity, multiple audio zones, even full video and Dolby surround, it can be really difficult to know what to look for when it comes time to choose a new head unit. For some of us, only the most expensive and fully featured products will do, but for many others, all we really need is a good performing product, and a few of the more useful conveniences. If what you need is simply a new high quality head unit to take you into the technology of the 21st century, the folks at Kenwood may have just what you’re looking for

Conclusion

I really like the Kenwood KDC-HD942U. Once I got used to finding things in the menus, and especially after the initial setup and adjustments are completed, the unit is quite intuitive and easy to use, particularly when it comes to the most commonly accessed functions. At around 300 bucks, I thought it could have included the Bluetooth adapter, but after considering how much DSP tuning power is built in, I can understand the trade off involved. The good news is that you can have it all, and when you do, you’ll have a thoroughly modern high performance unit with all the technology you’d expect in the 21st century.