Car Audio Buying BasicsWhat to Know Before You Buy
2013 Car Audio Buying Guide
Not getting the most enjoyment from your car audio? Whether you
want to add to your existing car stereo system or completely
replace a factory-installed entertainment system, this guide will
help you determine which components you need for the crisp,
powerful sound you want
Giving you a better way to buy
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Head Units / Receivers
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The heart of your car audio system sits in your dashboard and is
commonly referred to as the head unit or audio receiver. It
connects all the different parts of your radio to the speakers, and
it provides power to all the components through your vehicle’s
electrical system. Your head unit may include a built-in CD player,
radio tuner or a controller for a multi-disc CD changer. To
accommodate more recent technology, many receivers have started
including interfaces for digital music players, connectors for HD
or satellite radio and connections for car video systems.
Head units are available with large touchscreen displays with
Bluetooth and GPS capabilities, more traditional push-button and
dial controls or a combination of the two! Make sure you know the
size of the opening in your vehicle before ordering to eliminate
the need for dash modifications.
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When shopping for a new car stereo, most people think in terms
of wanting more power. An amplifier takes a signal from a source
and makes it larger, which makes the sound louder. Amplifiers will
boost power to your speakers, ideally without adding any
distortion. Car amps can power one, two or four audio channels,
with the most common being two- and four-channel models. Before you
buy, there are a few specifications to note:
•Car amplifiers will list RMS power, which is the steady power
level the amp will produce, and peak power, which is the maximum
power your car amplifier can produce in short bursts. Match the
power rating on the amp to your car speakers to prevent damaging
•Low-pass filters provide better low-frequency bass sounds;
high-pass filters provide better high- and mid-range treble
•A pre-amp is a second amplifier hooked up in sequence to your
car stereo for an even bigger sound.
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One of the most important audio components for superior sound
quality is speakers. Auto manufacturers typically do not install
high-end car speakers, which can result in poor playback
(especially noticeable while driving). When purchasing after-market
speakers, you should be mindful of a few things. If using your
existing receiver, you’ll need to choose speakers that both fit
your car and closely match its RMS wattage output. Whether you
decide to work with your existing head unit or completely replace
your audio system, upgrading speakers is an excellent way to
improve your in-car listening experience.
PowerWhen selecting a head unit, it’s very important that you
match the receiver power to the speakers. Receivers and speakers
work best together when their RMS (sustained power) output wattages
match. Too much or too little power to the car speakers can damage
them or distort your sound quality. Before buying, you should also
consider the speakers’ sensitivity, which refers to the sound your
speakers produce based on the electricity they receive. Speakers
with high sensitivity work best with radios with lower power levels
and vice versa.
Features Speakers that have more features can produce fuller
sounds. A typical factory-installed car speaker is a two-way
speaker, which means that there are two separate drivers (also
known as speaker cones) in each speaker. One driver reproduces the
lower frequencies coming from the car’s audio receiver; the other
produces the higher frequencies. Three-way speakers go a step
further by having three separate drivers inside of each speaker,
with each driver handling a narrow range of frequencies. This
delivers sound that is clearer and more powerful across the entire
hearing spectrum. While listening to your favorite music you will
clearly hear background instruments and more subtle tones.
Size & Shape When choosing new speakers for your car audio
system, use your existing speakers to help gauge the correct size.
Many factory-installed speakers systems include either 5.5” or 6.5”
speakers in the front door panels and either 6.5” or 6”x9” speakers
in the rear speaker panels. For the fewest complications and
modifications, look for speakers that are the exact dimensions as
the ones you are replacing.
You’ll also want to check the depth and shape of your new
speakers to make sure they’ll fit in the current speaker
enclosures. If round speakers won’t work for your door panels, you
may find other shapes that fit in your current spaces.
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Whether you’re looking to turn your car into a performance
machine or simply boost the quality of your favorite tunes, car
subwoofers are the way to go. A subwoofer completes the aural
coverage of your car audio system by producing low bass sounds.
Even 6”x9” speakers can’t reproduce sounds as low as a
Subwoofers enhance bass quality by amplifying and feeding the
audio signal back through an enclosure of 8 to 21 inches in
diameter to produce a frequency of 20 to 200 Hz. The lower the
frequency, the higher the quality of sound will be — and the bigger
the beats. The subwoofer will also filter out other frequencies,
which allows for better quality and a clear, crisp sound.
It is unlikely that your car stereo alone would be able to power
a subwoofer. In this instance, you would want a powered subwoofer
or you can connect an amplifier to your audio system. You’ll want
to match the RMS wattage output of the amplifier with the RMS power
handling of the subwoofer and the ratings for the rest of your car
stereo components. Cone material and the subwoofer enclosure will
also affect the sound. You might have to adjust power levels from
your amplifier to help reduce excessive vibration in your
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If you’re ready to make the switch to satellite radio, and
revolutionize your car radio experience, you should do your
homework before you buy. Benefits of satellite radio include
genre-specific programming, digital audio signals, commercial-free
music and automatic display of song titles and artist names.
The technology uses powerful satellites that beam signals across
broader areas than traditional terrestrial transmitters (whose
reach is ultimately dependent on their height). And because
satellite radio broadcasts digital rather than analog audio
signals, any receiver that is capable of decoding a satellite-radio
signal can offer more channels than a traditional tuner and with
better quality, as there’s no static or channel interference. Song
titles and artist names are displayed while the music plays, so it
eliminates the need to wait for disc jockeys to identify the song
you are hearing.
Programming variety is another key benefit of satellite radio.
You’ll have access to channels from all over the country that are
dedicated to specific genres (rock, country, jazz and more) and
subgenres (such as indie, hip-hop, rap and dance), music organized
by decades, news and sports programming and call-in radio
In order to reap the benefits of satellite radio, you need a
satellite radio and a subscription with SiriusXM. You can listen to
satellite radio in your vehicle or on your computer or
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GPS navigation systems are standard in many luxury vehicles, and
are readily available as options on other more mainstream vehicles.
GPS stands for Global Positioning System, a constellation of nearly
30 satellites orbiting Earth which can provide your precise
location anywhere, any time and under any atmospheric condition.
Not only can navigation systems help you stay on course when
traveling, but they can also help you save time by avoiding traffic
and help you find restaurants or other points of interest.
While some cars feature built-in navigation systems, many others
do not. You can purchase a portable GPS that moves from car-to-car
with ease. Before you buy, there are quite a few factors you should
Screen AppearanceConsider the following in regards to the
screen: How big is the screen? Is it in color? Does it have glare
protection? What type of resolution does it offer? Can it be read
in direct sunlight? Is it clearly readable from both the driver and
Space/Size Considerations If your GPS is built-in, you don’t
have much input as to the location or amount of space that the unit
occupies. However, if you are purchasing an independent unit, you
should consider its overall size and how you will position it
within your car. Many GPS systems can be attached to the windshield
with a suction-cup arm, or you could have the unit installed within
When you place the GPS, you want to make sure that it does not
distract you from the road or interfere with your ability to see
out of the windshield. The primary objective is that you are able
to keep your eyes on the road... where they belong!
Type of Operation Touchscreen operation is the most common and
seems to be the most straightforward and easy-to-use; however, some
people find joysticks and dials to be faster to manipulate.
DVD or HDD-Based At least 80% of today’s navigation systems are
DVD-based. More and more automakers are moving to mapping software
on a hard-disc drive (HDD), which provides faster map-access speeds
and often share space with music files.
Updating Mapping Information Major highways rarely change, but
local roads quite often get rerouted or renamed. How easy will it
be for you to update your GPS with the latest maps? How often you
make updates is more of a preference, based on your GPS usage
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AACAlso known as m4a files, AAC are Apple format files used in
CD ripping. AAC offers excellent sound quality in a smaller file
size than MP3 or WMA.
ACDrive (Advance Codec Drive) Music manager software included
with many Kenwood Excelon and Kenwood model receivers. The
software, called PhatNoise Music Manager, allows users to edit and
rip files from a CD and manage a large list of music files. ACDrive
lets you audibly search files by Genre, Playlist, Album Name or
Artist and hear and see song files with text-to-speech
A.M.S. Amplifier Management System Amplifier Management System -
A.M.S. is an extremely sophisticated system that provides extensive
control over an amplifier’s bass and treble EQ, bass extension and
volume offset. It also lets you control and monitor key amp
performance criteria (source voltage, current consumption, internal
temperature, fan speed, protection status).
All Channels-Driven Surround Power The ability of a
multi-channel receiver to deliver its rated power output in all of
its channels simultaneously. All Channels-Driven Power is a
realistic indication of how the receiver will be able to deliver
power while playing multi-channel music formats like DVD Audio,
while conventional power ratings indicate how the receiver will
perform with 2-channel music sources.
Amplifier Classes There are three most common amplifier classes:
A, A/B and D.
Class A amplifiers produce better sound than A/B amplifiers, but
are rare in car audio because of their high power drain and low
Class A/B amplifiers are more efficient than the class A design
and are the most common type of amplifier in the car audio
Class D amplifiers are typically reserved for use with high
power subwoofer amplifiers and can reach efficiencies above 80%.
Class D amps are more compact, use less current, and produce less
heat than the other classes.
AppRadio by Pioneer Smartphone-based car multimedia receiver
with Capacitive Touchscreen. Compatible with iPhone, touch and
select Android devices.
Attenuator with Smooth Volume Return Drops the volume by a
preset level. Smooth Volume Return gradually increases the volume
to the original level when the ATT button is pressed a second time,
eliminating a jarring change in volume.
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Audio DSP Listening Modes DSP (Digital Signal Processing)
recreates different sonic ‘environments’, simulating the acoustics
of places like Arenas, Churches or Clubs. Playing music through a
DSP mode can create a more vivid, life-like listening
Auto Power On/Off Automatically turns the power on when a signal
is received; automatically puts the speaker in standby if no signal
is received for several minutes.
Automatic Memory Entry Automatically programs 1 memory band (6
stations) in a given area, making it especially easy to find
stations during long-distance travel.
B.M.S. (Bass Management System) A high Q-value bass enhancement
circuit featuring variable center frequency (50Hz - 100Hz) and
selectable 6dB or 12dB of enhancement. The high Q-value narrows the
frequency range, allowing strong bass enhancement while minimizing
negative effects on the midrange.
Bass Management Lets the user set up the system so that deep
bass is sent only to those speakers designed to handle it, reducing
distortion and increasing dynamic range. Full Digital Bass
Management is performed digitally, allowing greater precision and
Best Selection File Lets the user program up to 32 tracks from
any discs in the player for playback as a group by pushing one
Built-In Volume Control A control unit on the cord allows for
volume adjustment without having to reach for the volume control on
Butyl Rubber Surround Butyl rubber has greater internal loss
than standard urethane, preventing harmonic distortion at higher
frequencies. It more efficiently absorbs edge reflections that can
cause audible distortion, resulting in clearer bass
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Camera Angle Function When used with compatible DVDs, allows a
single scene to be viewed from more than one camera angle.
CD Text Displays text from encoded CDs on the unit’s display.
Text can include disc/song title and artist information, as well as
disc genre (for example, ‘Jazz’, ‘Classical’, etc.).
CD Track Title Display When used with compatible changers, the
remote downloads the track titles of the active disc and shows them
on its display.
Cinema EQ Enhances bass response for films and smoothes the
blend between front speakers and subwoofer.
Component Speakers Combine separate midbass, tweeters and
crossovers in a system that offers better power handling and
performance than most two- or even three-way integrated speakers.
Component systems allow you to mount your tweeters in different
positions to improve the overall stereo imaging. These speakers are
the best way to get high-quality sound in your vehicles and are the
perfect choice for the real music aficionado.
Component Video Inputs Video connections that transmit the black
& white and color difference portions of a video signal on 3
individual sets of wires. Offers superior color and detail
reproduction over S-Video connections.
D MASK Motorized Faceplate The user presses a button to rotate
the faceplate forward and down, revealing the tape or disc loading
slot located behind the faceplate. This allows a larger display
containing more information that’s easier to read. The faceplate
can be removed while in the flip-down position, or the user can
push the faceplate the rest of the way over, locking it with its
blank rear panel exposed. The blank panel disguises the presence of
the unit and eliminates the chance of losing a removable
D MASK+ Self-Hiding Motorized Removable Faceplate with Carrying
Case Improved version of Kenwood’s exclusive MASK technology. When
the power is turned off, the unit’s faceplate automatically
revolves away from the unit and stops, allowing the user to remove
the faceplate. If the faceplate isn’t removed after a
user-determined amount of time, it continues to revolve the rest
the way over until it locks with its blank rear panel exposed. The
blank panel disguises the presence of the unit and eliminates the
chance of losing a removable faceplate. The CD loading slot is
behind the faceplate, allowing a larger LCD display containing more
information that’s easier to read.
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D’Appolito Configuration Speaker driver arrangement that places
two woofers one on either side of the other speaker elements. This
narrows the speaker’s vertical dispersion, reducing unwanted sound
reflections, while widening its horizontal dispersion, allowing
more people to hear it properly.
Dialog Language Function When used with compatible DVDs, plays a
film’s dialog track in different languages.
Digital Anti-Skip A circuit that reads musical data from the
disc, stores it in memory, then plays it back from the memory
buffer, which results in less skipping caused by bumping or
vibration. The more seconds of storage time in the buffer, the more
protection against skipping.
Digital Filter Circuit that removes unwanted digital artifacts
from the signal while it is still in the digital domain, allowing
the use of more gently-sloped, better-sounding analog filters.
Digital Optimum Servo Control Circuitry that enables the CD
player to determine each disc’s reflection rate and the modulation
rate of its pits, enabling the player to set the ideal servo gain
for each disc. DOSC also adjusts servo gain and balance when it
encounters vibration, scratches, dust, or fingerprints, reducing
mistracking and skipping.
Digital Signal Format Auto Detection/Auto Switching Detects the
format of the incoming digital data stream, automatically
activating the proper surround decoding mode (or allowing PCM
digital signals to pass un-decoded). Listeners don’t have to
manually switch between different surround modes when changing
digital sources or software formats.
Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) Circuit that converts digital
data into an analog music signal.
Digital Signal Processing (DSP) DSP recreates different sonic
‘environments’, simulating the acoustics of places like arenas,
churches, or clubs.
Digital Video Enhancer Provides both horizontal and vertical DVD
digital image enhancement, improving small details, color accuracy,
and depth perception without introducing video artifacts or
distorting the image.
DIN (Deutsches Institut für Normung ) DIN is an acronym that was
adopted after the Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN) and the
International Standards Organization (ISO) defined it as a standard
car stereo measurement. The size of car stereo head units is deemed
either DIN or double DIN. DIN units measure 2” x 7”, while double
DIN units measure 4” x 7”. Double DIN was adopted by some car
manufacturers to fit larger radios.
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Direct Component Control Allows the remote to operate a
component even if it is not the selected source, simplifying
operation. For example, a user can use the remote to put a VCR in
rewind while a CD is playing.
Direct Input Source Selection Input sources can be selected
directly, without having to scroll through each one, making it
easier to use and more compatible with system macro operations.
Disc Naming Lets the user program a title for each disc. The
disc player reads the disc data and shows the name on its
Disc Sensing Automatically detects which disc positions are
occupied when the access door or tray is closed.
DivXDivX® is an advanced digital media format that lets you
play, create and share digital video by turning bulky videos into
manageable DivX files. The DivX® codec (short for
compressor/decompressor) can compress video to a convenient size
without losing any noticeable quality and play those videos back on
almost any device.
Dolby 3 Stereo Circuit that decodes 2-channel Dolby
Surround-encoded soundtracks into 3 discrete channels (left,
center, right), allowing more accurate placement of sounds across
the front than conventional 2-channel stereo.
Dolby Digital Digital multi-channel sound delivery system that
uses proprietary data compression (AC-3) to deliver up to 6
independent soundtrack channels. More dynamic, involving, and
realistic surround-sound experience than Dolby Pro Logic, with more
realistic sound movement between channels. Available on laser
discs, DVDs, DSS pay-per-view programming and HDTV.
Dolby Pro Logic Circuit that decodes 2-channel Dolby
Surround-encoded analog soundtracks into 4 discrete channels (left,
center, right, surround), creating a movie theater-like
surround-sound experience in the home. Available on satellite,
broadcast and cable TV, laser discs, and VHS tapes.
Dolby Pro Logic II Advanced version of Dolby Pro Logic (see
above) designed for use with stereo music programs as well as Dolby
Surround-encoded film soundtracks. Improvements over original Dolby
Pro Logic include wideband stereo surround channels, smoother sound
movement between channels, fewer side-effects, and a dedicated
music listening mode that derives a 5.1-channel surround sound
field from standard stereo sources.
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Dolby Pro Logic IIx State-of-the-art matrix decoding technology
that expands native two- and 5.1-channel source audio for 6.1- or
7.1-channel playback (Left/Center/Right/Left surround/Left
Back/Right surround/Right Back/Low-Frequency Effects), resulting in
a seamless, wraparound sound field.
Dolby Headphone A signal processing technology that delivers
5.1-channel surround sound over any pair of headphones for a
richer, more spacious and less fatiguing listening experience. Look
for Dolby Headphone on several Kenwood receivers and
DTS Digital Surround Digital multi-channel sound delivery system
that uses scalable data compression to deliver up to 6 independent
channels of multi-channel film soundtrack or multi- channel music
reproduction. The scalable compression rate allows performance to
be maximized for any software delivery platform. Available on laser
discs, CDs, and DVDs.
DTS-ES® Extended Surround A 6.1-channel Surround format,
expanding upon 5.1 surround by adding a dedicated center surround
channel to the existing left & right surround channels. This
center surround information can be carried as either a separate
channel (DTS-ES Discrete), or it can be combined with the existing
surround channels via a matrix (DTS-ES Matrix). All DTS-ES discs
are fully compatible with 6.1 Matrix decoders, and 5.1 Digital
Surround. There is also a dedicated 6.1-channel music listening
mode (DTS-ES Neo6).
DTS 96/24 A multi-channel sound delivery system that offers an a
high level of audio quality for multi-channel sound on DVD-Video.
DTS 96/24 is fully backward-compatible with all DTS decoders. “96”
refers to a 96kHz sampling rate (compared to typical 48kHz sampling
rate.) “24” refers to 24-bit word length.
Dual-Room/Dual-Source Operation Allows users to play an
audio/video source in one room, and a completely different
audio/video source in a second zone. All surround and video formats
are available in the main zone, while the second zone receives a
stereo analog audio signal that is Dolby Pro Logic-compatible and a
Composite video signal.
Dual-Side Play Plays both sides of dual-sided DVDs without the
disc being removed from the player.
Dual-Zone Control When used with an appropriate adapter or CD
changer, the head unit can send its internal sound sources (tuner
and CD) to the front speakers and preout while simultaneously
sending an external sound source (connected via the adapter or
changer) to the rear speakers and preout, with independent volume
control for each zone.
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DVD Audio Advanced audio format that offers significant
improvements over CDs in both audio performance and flexibility. A
DVD Audio disc can contain a 2-channel music program recorded with
24-bit resolution at 192kHz sampling, which is substantially better
performance than the conventional CD standard of 16-bit/44kHz.
Alternately, a DVD Audio disc could contain multi-channel music (up
to 5.1 channels) at the conventional CD standard, providing a true
surround sound music experience. Additional features can include
video graphics, interactive menus, text, and in some cases,
Dynamic Control (Automatic Level and Separation Control)
Automatically controls the level and separation of the FM modulator
output to better match the FM radio’s input. Reduces noise and
distortion when playing CDs.
Front/Rear Fader Controls both the speaker level (power) and
preamp level (front and rear RCA preouts) levels at the same time
with a single control. This makes it easy to change the system’s
front/rear balance even if it has external amplifiers.
Full Bandwidth Power (less than 1% THD) Unlike other brands,
Kenwood head units are rated at full bandwidth power (from very low
to very high frequencies) with less than 1% THD. This more
accurately shows how the unit will perform when playing music.
Fully Automatic Analog and Digital Signal Format Detection and
Selection Automatically senses if the incoming signal is in digital
or analog format and activates the proper input. Digital surround
signals automatically activate the proper surround decoding mode.
PCM digital and analog signals automatically activate the last
sound mode used for that input. Listeners don’t have to manually
activate the input type or change the sound mode when changing any
source or software format.
Graphic Motion Analyzer (GMA) An exclusive Kenwood technology
that lets users see the performance of their vehicle on the
receiver’s display. GMA offers five different types of displays:
G-Graphic, G-Meter, G-Counter, Stop Watch and Horsepower
Ground Isolation Circuit A circuit that cancels noise from the
input of the negative side of the RCA cable, preventing vehicle
electrical noise from interfering with the music.
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HD Radio A high definition radio uses digital broadcasting
instead of conventional analog broadcast for improved sound
quality. HD-ready radios can also display text that tells about the
song that’s playing, or about the person who’s being
High-Speed Multi-path Control (CRSC) with ANRC A circuit that
controls multipath distortion by reducing stereo separation. As
stereo separation is reduced, multipath has less effect on the
radio signal, improving reception in areas with tall buildings or
IC2-IV New head unit integrated circuit that performs all audio
functions (except for System E’s+). Dual L/R power supplies give
IC2-IV improved dynamic range, channel separation, crosstalk and
Integrated Quad 1-Bit Digital-to-Analog Converter Four
digital-to-analog converters, 2 for each channel, improve playback
sound quality, including musical detail and resolution. Using 2
converters for each channel reduces distortion by half.
Intro Scan Plays the first 10 seconds of the track or disc,
making it easy to find a particular song or disc.
iPod-Ready A car deck that is equipped to connect to your iPod
and play its music files through the deck. Typically an iPod-ready
car stereo includes its own cable for easily connecting it to an
iPod. Once connected, many decks give you total control of your
iPod through your car’s audio system, including easy access to
playlists, artists, albums and more. Choose a song using the
controls on the stereo deck, or the remote control. No need to
fumble with the clickwheel and display on your iPod. Then safely
store the actual iPod unit in the glove box or console.
Iso-Mount Capability for Japanese Vehicles Unit has mounting
holes designed to fit the factory brackets of many Japanese import
vehicles. Units with removable faceplates have a removable
faceplate trim ring for easy mounting.
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K-Glow Tweeter Protection Circuit Tweeter protection circuit
using an incandescent lamp to divert power from the tweeter at
excessive input levels. Because the lamp’s impedance increases with
heat, as the power to the tweeter increases the circuit absorbs
more power, continually protecting the tweeter from damage.
K-Ground Kenwood-developed grounding method that uses a single
ground point for all of the amplifier’s components. Eliminates
ground noise caused by current flow along the ground path,
improving sound quality.
K-STAT Discrete Audio Amplifier Exclusive Kenwood-developed
output circuitry incorporating a thermal compensation sensor inside
the power transistor housing. This eliminates any amplifier warm-up
period and allows the amplifier to instantaneously adjust to
temperature changes, greatly improving sound quality and
consistency at all volume levels. K-STAT is the world’s first
transistor designed specifically for audio amplification
KAM-1 Power Amplifier Circuitry Exclusive Kenwood modular
amplifier circuit that doubles electrical efficiency, producing
more power while generating less heat. KAM-1 offers improved sound
quality and reliability in less expensive products.
Kenwood CR-2 Advanced Tuner An advanced tuner featuring improved
rejection of multipath distortion (new CRSC). The CR-2 tuner
retains the ANRC circuit found in the CR-1 tuner (see CR-1 listing
Kenwood DRIVE Distortion Reduction Circuitry A Kenwood-developed
circuit that uses digital low-pass filters and extremely high-speed
digital switching to eliminate digital distortion, improving
musical clarity and detail. 32-Bit DRIVE III uses powerful DSP
processing to provide extremely accurate results.
Kenwood Music Keg Digital music system that makes it easy to
take an entire music collection (up to approx. 2,500 songs) on the
road. The Kenwood Music Keg consists of a trunk-mounted ‘Keg’ unit,
a portable 10GB DMS cartridge, a USB desktop cradle and Kenwood
Music Manager computer software. The software makes it easy to
collect digital music files (MP3, WMA, FLAC format) on a PC and
organize them into custom playlists. The desktop cradle allows the
files and playlists to be transferred to the DMS cartridge, which
inserts into the trunk-mounted ‘Keg’ . The ‘Keg’ connects and is
controlled like a conventional CD changer.
Kenwood Ultrasonic Response Amplifier Kenwood-developed power
amplifier circuitry specifically designed with its upper frequency
response limit extended out to 100kHz. Provides more accurate
reproduction of wide-bandwidth sources, like DVD Audio and
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Kenwood Universal Video HD Automatically upconverts Composite
video signals to S-Video and downconverts S-Video to Composite
video. In receivers with Component video, also upconverts Composite
and S-Video signals to Component video. Receivers with Universal
Video require only a single connection between the receiver and
video display, greatly simplifying system setup and operation when
components with different video connection types are used together.
Universal Video HD will pass HDTV signals without degradation.
Kenwood-Designed Superior Disc Transport A disc transport
mechanism that uses soft butyl rubber insulators for exceptional
shock resistance, along with ceramic-injected silicon oil that
absorbs jarring vibrations even at extreme temperatures, reducing
skipping and mistracking.
LAPT Audio Transistors High-speed output transistors that
operate over an extremely broad frequency range and produce minimal
distortion even when handling large amounts of current.
Last Sound Mode Memory Remembers the last user-selected sound
mode for each input and switches to that mode whenever the input is
Loudness Control Built-in EQ curve designed to compensate for
the human ear’s lack of sensitivity to low and high frequencies at
low volume levels, giving music a richer, fuller sound. It
automatically defeats when the volume is approximately 3/4 of the
Magnetically Shielded Allows speaker to be placed next to a TV
without interfering with the TV’s picture.
Manual Bias Fine-Tuning Lets the user fine-tune the bias by ear,
allowing personalization of the recording’s response.
Memory Calendar Scrolls a user-programmed message of up to
32-characters across the unit’s display whenever the unit’s power
is turned on. The user can program a different message to appear on
each day (up to 30 per month) for an entire year. Handy for
birthday and anniversary reminders.
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Midnight Theater Mode Circuitry that makes a Dolby Digital
soundtrack’s loud passages softer, allowing people to listen to a
film without disturbing others. Midnight Theater responds to
special encoding contained in the Dolby Digital soundtrack itself,
and only functions during very loud passages.
MP3A compressed audio format that uses MPEG-4 encoding.
MPEG 5.1 Surround Digital multi-channel sound delivery system
sometimes used as an optional digital surround sound format on
Multi-Channel Music Mode Plays 2-channel music sources through
the left & right front and left & right surround speakers
Multiple Component Crossover Network Crossover network utilizing
several electronic elements that more accurately divide the sound
between the different speaker units than the simple capacitors
found in less sophisticated designs.
Music Type File Lets the user group and play discs by music
type, such as Jazz, Classical, etc.
Natural Bass Narrow-band bass boost that is more precise than
conventional loudness controls. Increases the sound’s fullness at
low volumes without making it boomy.
Noise Shaping Digital circuitry that shifts digital noise
(created in the D/A conversion process) beyond the threshold of
human hearing, reducing distortion and improving dynamic range.
26 2013 Car Audio Buying Guide Stay connected:
OELOrganic Electroluminescent (OEL) is a type of display that
offers crystal clear color capability and high resolution graphics.
OEL displays are efficient, self-emitting devices that have uniform
brightness across the entire display.
Offset Dual differential (O.D.D.) This technology creates high
quality sound by eliminating the digital distortion/noise in the
digital-analog converter. O.D.D. uses two sets of 24 bit D to A
converters with one set slightly offset. When these signals are
recombined, the digital noise is greatly reduced, making this one
of the best sounding Digital to Analog converters on the
OHMVery low frequency sound.
One-Touch CD Recording (CCRS) Scans the CD, determines its
dynamic range, sets the optimum recording level, then activates the
recording process with the touch of a single button.
Parental Control Allows parents to restrict viewing of certain
discs or chapters containing content they deem inappropriate
PC Link NetNamer Automatic Title Downloading When connected to a
PC, uses an Internet connection to automatically download disc
titles (and in some players, track titles) from the CDDB on-line
database site into the CD changer’s memory. Discs and tracks can
then be selected directly by title.
Pearl Mica Injection-Molded Polypropylene Cone Polypropylene is
used for speaker cones because of its resilience, fast response,
and natural resistance to moisture. Our pearl mica crystals are
uniform, and form an overlapping structure that lends strength and
heat resistance to the polypropylene. The injection-molding process
results in uniform thickness and density in the cone wall. The
results are tighter, clearer sound, reduced distortion, and
PEI Film Dome Tweeter PEI (Poly-Ether Imide) is a polymer film
that has ideal sound propagation speed characteristics for use as a
tweeter (in 2-way speakers) and as a midrange (in 3-way
272013 Car Audio Buying Guide Stay connected:
Perfect Macro Capability When used with an optional TV on/off
sensor, Perfect Macro ensures that the TV is in the proper mode
whenever a macro is executed. For example, if the TV is already on
when a macro is executed, Perfect Macro will leave it on; if the TV
is off, Perfect Macro will turn it on.
Plus/Minus Power Source Generates higher supply voltages to
audio circuits, enabling higher output levels with less noise and
distortion. Additionally, the plus/minus power supply isolates the
audio ground from the vehicle’s chassis ground, eliminating ground
loops and interference.
PointLess Remote Technology Uses RF (radio frequency)
communication between the remote and the receiver, eliminating the
need to aim the remote. PointLess technology also allows the remote
to communicate with the receiver from another room, through
PowerTouch Graphical User Interface Exclusive Kenwood remote
control that presents controls for an entire home theater system as
graphical icons on an LCD touch screen. Users can navigate and make
selections by touching the screen directly. In addition to being
pre-programmed to control most brands of audio/video source
components and TVs, PowerTouch also has 133-key learning and button
renaming capability, allowing it to be customized for any
Programmable Security Code System A user-activated code system
that prevents the unit from turning on after being disconnected
from the battery unless a user-selected 4-digit code number is
entered. The unit cannot be operated by anyone who removes it from
the car and doesn’t know the code.
Progressive Scan Deinterlacer Converts standard interlaced
displays all of the scanning lines of the entire video picture in a
single pass, which makes the lines less visible and creates a
Pure Audio Mode Shuts-off video circuitry in DVD Audio/Video
players during DVD Audio playback, effectively blocking pathways
for noise and interference that could reduce audio resolution.
Quiet Turn-On Allows the amplifier to power up over a period of
several milliseconds instead of instantaneously, protecting
speakers from thumps and other sounds that could be damaging.
28 2013 Car Audio Buying Guide Stay connected:
Radio Data System (RDS) Receives and displays text information
broadcast along with program material by participating radio
stations. This allows stations to be searched-for by genre, and
provides traffic and weather bulletins, which can help drivers
avoid delays caused by traffic or weather conditions.
ReadRight Electronically Pivoting LCD Display A display that
automatically pivots electronically when the unit’s orientation is
changed from horizontal to vertical (and visa-versa) so that it is
Rental Zone Provides storage and play for discs in addition to
those stored inside the changer, allowing rented discs to be easily
played without removing discs from the changer.
Rigid Construction Receiver chassis designed to minimize
internal vibrations, reducing noise in electronic circuits. Metal
panels with increased mass form a more complete enclosure than
conventional chassis construction.
System Q Five factory pre-set equalization curves (Rock, Top 40,
Pop, Jazz and Easy, plus a flat setting) that give the user extreme
flexibility over the sound’s tonal character. The preset curves can
be combined with the unit’s bass and treble controls allowing users
to personalize the sound to their particular taste.
S-Video Connections Video connections that transmit the black
& white and color portions of a video signal on 2 individual
sets of wires. Offers superior color and detail reproduction over
conventional Composite video connections.
Scene Memory Stores a scene in memory so playback can be started
from that point later on.
Selectable Screen Viewing Modes Lets users select the format
that best matches the video program they are watching. Normal Mode
displays 16:9 widescreen format pictures that fill the entire
screen width, and 4:3 (conventional TV) pictures display with black
bars on either side; Full Mode expands 4:3 pictures horizontally to
fill the entire width of the screen, distorting the picture
slightly but retaining full image height; Just Mode expands 4:3
pictures horizontally only at the edges; Zoom Mode expands 4:3
pictures both horizontally and vertically, filling the screen
without distorting the picture, but cutting off the top and bottom
292013 Car Audio Buying Guide Stay connected:
SHARC® 32-bit DSP An advanced processing technology developed by
Analog Devices that is based on a 32-bit super Harvard
architecture. Several Kenwood A/V receivers incorporate Sharc
32-bit processing which combines a high-performance signal
processing core with sophisticated memory and I/O processing
Sirius Satellite Radio Sirius Satellite Radio is a subscription
satellite radio service that provides over 120 commercial-free
channels including 65 music channels and over 55 news and
information channels. Three high-altitude satellites provide
coast-to-coast coverage without interruption, 24/7.
SL16 Synchro Record When used with a compatible Kenwood CD
player, recording begins at the moment the CD is put into the play
Sleep Timer Lets the user listen to music for a preset amount of
time before the unit goes into the Standby mode.
Source Direct Listening Mode Bypasses all digital processing and
tone controls, yielding the purest sound possible for analog
Source Tone Memory Remembers and recalls the most recent tone
settings for each source (cassette, tuner, CD), eliminating the
need for readjustments.
SpeakersSpeakers are available in three sizes.
Two-way (or coaxial) speakers contain a large main speaker
called a woofer for low- and mid-range frequencies, and a tweeter
mounted within the woofer to deliver high frequencies. Two-way
speakers reproduce your music frequency range accurately, whereas
factory speakers may sound a bit muddy and muffled.
Three-way (or triaxial) speakers typically include the separate
woofer and tweeter like two-way speakers, plus a mid-range driver
for added warmth and texture. They offer that extra crispness and
detail that factory speakers may lack.
Four-way speakers combine a woofer, mid-range, tweeter and a
“super-tweeter” for very high frequencies and even more crispness
30 2013 Car Audio Buying Guide Stay connected:
SRS Circle Surround II Circle Surround II (‘CS II’) (patented by
SRS Labs) is a powerful and versatile multi-channel decoder capable
of delivering up to 6.1 channels of audio from any mono, stereo,
matrix encoded or Circle Surround encoded material. It incorporates
superior steering of surround information and remarkable center
channel placement, while maintaining full-range bandwidth in each
speaker. CS encoded material can be fully experienced using a CSII,
CS, Dolby Pro Logic, or Dolby Pro Logic II decoder and a multimedia
speaker system. Otherwise, it is played back as rich, vibrant
SRS Circle Surround® 5.1-channel encode/decode process (patented
by SRS Labs) that is backwards-compatible with any stereo or
matrix-encoded material to provide a 5.1 channel surround sound
experience even with 2-channel programs. Circle Surround provides
stereo, full-bandwidth surround channels, even from Dolby Surround
programs that have been encoded with a single, bandwidth-limited
surround channel, and retains a spacious stereo presentation even
on material that has strong center channel information.
SRS WOW A function of DSP, Digital SRS WOW offers 10 adjustment
levels and enhanced adjustments for TruBass, with separate front
and rear settings. Having separate front and rear TruBass settings
is great for systems with a subwoofer because it can be used on
just the front speakers, creating a directional cue in the bass.
This will make the bass sound more like itâ€™s coming from the
front of the car, which integrates the bass better with the rest of
Station Name Preset Play Lets the user find and select a preset
radio station by its name.
Station Naming Lets the user program a name for each preset
Steering Wheel Controls To maintain original steering wheel
controls, an adapter or steering wheel interface kit will be
required. These accessories will let you keep full functionality
and convenience of your original steering wheel controls.
312013 Car Audio Buying Guide Stay connected:
SubwooferSpeaker dedicated to reproducing low frequencies
sounds. Subwoofers can be wired with either single- or dual-voice
coils. The coil wiring in the subwoofer works with current sent
from the amplifier to produce sound.
Single-voice coils provide one set of negative and positive
terminals. These terminals are used to connect audio equipment to
the subwoofer. There is a single coil wrapped around the speaker
cylinder. Single-voice coil subwoofers can only be wired for the
ohm (the amount of current the speaker will draw) specified.
Dual-voice coils have two sets of negative and positive
terminals. Two coils are wrapped around the speaker cylinder in a
dual-voice coil. The prominent difference between single- and
dual-voice coil subwoofers is the wiring options. Dual-voice wiring
options are: parallel, series and independent. Parallel wiring
produces the top output; series wiring uses one amplifier with a
number of subwoofers; independent wiring uses one coil per
SupremeSupreme is an exclusive Kenwood technology (2006 and
above head units) that helps restore critical high-frequency
information lost during the compression process. With the Supreme
function turned on, lower bit-rate (96 kbps) MP3, WMA and AAC files
will approach the resolution of higher bit-rate recordings.
System E’s+ Crossover System A single IC that allows the user to
select from 8 different high-pass filter crossover frequencies plus
pass-through, with independent selection for front and rear
outputs. This makes it easy to optimize the performance of all amps
and speakers in a car audio system without needing an external
electronic crossover. System E’s+ also incorporates a phase switch
and low-pass filter for the non-fading output. The low-pass filter
has selectable cutoff frequencies of 50Hz, 80Hz, 120Hz and
System Q EX Sound Control Five factory pre-set equalization
curves (Rock, Top 40, Pop, Jazz and Easy, plus a flat setting) and
three speaker matching curves (OEM, 6x9, 5/4 plus a flat setting)
that can be combined to give the user extreme flexibility over the
sound’s tonal character. The preset curves include midrange
contouring, giving music more clarity and presence. System Q EX
allows the user to modify the preset curves by changing the
amplitude of the bass, midrange and treble compensation, and the Q
of the bass and midrange compensation. The new curves can then be
saved as presets for future recall.
System Q Sound Control Five factory pre-set equalization curves
(Rock, Top 40, Pop, Jazz and Easy, plus a flat setting) and three
speaker matching curves (OEM, 6x9, 5/4 plus a flat setting) that
can be combined to give the user extreme flexibility over the
sound’s tonal character. The preset curves include midrange
contouring, giving music more clarity and presence. The preset
curves can also be combined with the unit’s bass, midrange and
treble controls allowing users to personalize the sound to their
32 2013 Car Audio Buying Guide Stay connected:
System QEX Sound control system that incorporates extremely
sophisticated user control of bass and treble compensation. The
user can select from several bass and treble center frequencies,
vary the compensation level in nearly 1dB increments, and select
from 3 different bass Q factors. There is also a Bass Expander with
a custom Q factor that is 25% wider below the center frequency,
providing deep bass enhancement without affecting the lower
midrange. Up to 6 different combinations of settings and
adjustments can be saved as User Presets.
THX® Adaptive Decorrelation Lucasfilm-developed circuitry that
alters the phase or pitch relationship between the left and right
surround speakers to produce a more enveloping surround sound field
when the surround channels are receiving a mono signal. When the
surround signal is stereo, Adaptive Decorrelation automatically
THX® Bass Peak-Level Manager Lets the user set the maximum
LFE-channel output level for their system, so as not to overload
and possibly damage subwoofers or bass drivers in full-range
THX® Front-Channel Re-Equalization Lucasfilm-developed circuitry
that reduces the high-frequency response of the front channels,
compensating for film soundtracks that can sound overly-bright when
played in living room-sized rooms.
THX® Loudspeaker Position Time Synchronization Compensates for
the different distances between the listening position and each
speaker in a home theater, creating a more cohesive, believable
surround sound experience.
THX® Select Certification Meets standards established by
Lucasfilm for audio performance, user interface, construction and
compatibility with other THX-certified products.
THX® Timbre-Matching Lucasfilm-developed circuitry that
equalizes the response of the surround channels, creating smoother
sound movement between channels.
THX® Ultra Certification Meets standards established by
Lucasfilm for audio performance, user interface, construction and
compatibility with other THX-certified products. THX Ultra
certified products have power and performance designed to reproduce
film soundtracks with very high accuracy in a wide range of
332013 Car Audio Buying Guide Stay connected:
TIL Voice Coil Bobbin TIL is a glass fiber-reinforced polyamide
film that is heat resistant, maintaining its shape even in the
larger coils used in high-power woofers. This increases the
speaker’s power handling and reliability.
Time Alignment A feature of DSP, Time Alignment allows the users
to adjust sound based on the distance between the listener and the
speakers. Sound can be adjusted from 0 to 20.3 feet.
Time and Source Color Modes Features of the ColorShock display.
Time Color Mode varies the display color every 6 hours: red at 6:
00 AM, yellow at noon, light blue at 6:00 PM and dark blue at
midnight. Source Color Mode lets the user assign a different
display color for each source.
Tonorex® Power Supply Capacitors Audio filter capacitors
designed to minimize sources of internal vibration, which reduces
distortion and improves sound quality. Tonorex capacitors also
feature improved efficiency and reduced current leakage.
Tornado Woofer Cone A pearl mica injection-molded polypropylene
cone that is formed with 3 raised circumferential ridges around the
cone. The width of the ridges is graduated, making a “tornado” like
appearance. The ridges make the Tornado Cone much more rigid than
conventional parabolic cones, with resonances that are more than an
octave higher. Additionally, the Tornado Cone’s resonances are of a
more random nature than those of conventional cones, which reduces
their intensity. Since these resonances are lower in amplitude and
far above the woofer’s useable frequency range, they are much less
audible, producing markedly clearer, more detailed bass sound.
Touch-Tone Buttons Produces an audible tone each time a function
key is pressed.
Touch-Tone Keys Produces an audible tone each time a function
key is pressed.
Track Naming Lets the user program a title for each track on
each disc. The disc player reads the disc data and displays the
name on its display.
TruBassTruBass is a patented SRS technology that enhances bass
performance utilizing proprietary psychoacoustic techniques. These
techniques restore the perception of fundamental low frequency
tones by dynamically augmenting harmonics, which are more easily
reproduced by contemporary loudspeakers. TruBass takes the low
frequency information contained within the original audio track and
helps speakers or headphones re-create it -- even if it is below
the devices low frequency limitations.
34 2013 Car Audio Buying Guide Stay connected:
Tuner Call during FF/REW Automatically switches to the
last-tuned radio station during tape fast-forward or rewind.
Tweeter A small, lightweight driver dedicated to reproducing the
highest musical frequencies, such as cymbals, violins or female
vocals. Cone tweeters are efficient and most affordable. Most home
speakers use dome or “edge-driven” tweeters as they disperse sound
for a smoother, more accurate reproduction. Semi-dome tweeters use
a combination cone and dome construction for excellent sound
Urethane Surround Surround material with very high internal
loss, which reduces speaker cone distortion.
Virtual Surround Uses sophisticated digital processing to create
a believable surround sound experience using just two left and
Voice Index on Tap Software included with ACDrive that allows
audible voice index browsing of playlist, artist, album, genre and
folder during playback in your car.
Wattage (W) Refers to the basic unit of power. Example: 50W x 4
means 50 watts peak power times 4 channels for a total of 200 watts
of peak power.
WAAS Used in Mobile Navigation (like Kenwood’s KNA-G510
navigation unit), Wide Area Augmentation System is a ground-based
sampling system that corrects errors in the GPS satellite signals
and provides greater positional accuracy.
WMA Window’s Media Audio is Microsoft’s version of compressed
audio format. The Windows Media Player creates WMA files that are
found on most Windows-based computers.