Friday, February 24, 2017

Metra T-Spec Car Stereo Installation Components Review


Spring will soon be upon us. And that is when many of us will start working on our cars. And that includes our car stereos. Car stereo manufacturers are continually coming out with better models. If you are looking to upgrade your radio, you will probably need a dash kit. And Metra makes some of the best, which is what they have been known for, for many years. But Metra does much more than that. Now you can turn to Metra for all of your car stereo installation needs.

Metra has multiple brands under their corporate umbrella to provide you the products you need. Their quality levels are easy to follow. Such as their T-Spec brand for speaker, ground, and power wire, as well as RCA cables, fuse holders, and distribution blocks. They start at V8, goes to V10, and finishes with V12. To test their quality, they sent multiple different install products, with some from different levels. What was provided was V8 in-line fuse holders, V12 distribution blocks, power and ground wire, and V12 RCA cables. And to protect your gear, these are the kinds of products you need.  After all, you don't want to create a potential fire hazard for using the wrong size wire for your amp.

Features and specs:

Fuse Holder:

·         > Lok-Nut style fasteners

·         > Solid brass construction

·         > Water resistant

Distribution blocks:

·         > Universal Screw Design works with many tools

·         > Mounting Options with screws or wire ties

·         > Small Footprint with compact brass design

·         > Solid brass construction for maximum conductivity

·         > Compact design for simpler installation

·         > Impact resistant polycarbonate cover

·         > Flat black finish

RCA Cables:

·         > Mini Metal RCA ends

·         > Full oxygen free copper

·         > Twisted pair construction for noise reduction

·         > Soft touch super flex-able jacket

·         > Packaged in High-End Retail Box

Power and Ground Wire:

·         > Exceeds CEA and ANSI specification for wire gauge

·         > Full virgin copper construction

·         > High strand count for maximum flexibility

·         > Ultra-flexible PVC blended jacket

·         > BC-5W2 marine compliant


Let’s start with the V8 in-line fuse holder. It’s a much needed part of your install to protect your amps. It had a clear plastic cover so that you can see the state of the fuse. Quality was good. The internal connections for the wire and fuse was also of good solid quality.

The V12 distribution blocks were even nicer. The internal blocks were a smoked solid brass. The connections have a tight fit. And there is a plastic cover that easily comes off to check the state of your fuses. It was put together very well, with a solid feel. Quality of materials is also very good.

Next up are the V12 RCA cables. They feature a twisted pair wire to guard against noise. The connectors are metal with a quad cut tip for a good signal connection. The metal connector also unscrews so you can see the quality of the solder. They appeared to be well made. I’d prefer to see a cloth cover on the cable, but that’s just personal taste.

Last but not least is the V12 I/O gauge power and ground wire. Not all wire is created equal. I’ve seen lower quality manufactures make what they may call a 4 gauge wire. It looks like the thickness of that size wire, when compared to the gauge wire of other high quality manufacturers. But when you cut off a piece of the jacket to use it, you see that the jacket is much thicker than usual, and the actual wire is much thinner then that size gauge wire. It was no surprise when comparing the I/O gauge V12 T-Spec to another high quality manufacturers wire, that I was able to see that T-Spec wasn’t skimping on the actual wire. You get what you are told you get. The wire also has a high strand count of pure oxygen free copper as well as a flexible jacket. This provides not only a strong current flow of your power, it also makes for a flexible wire for an easy installation.

Each Metra product I get is a good product. They are not the best in quality, but it's also not the most expensive.  The quality is still very good, especially for their price. They provide a very good bang for your buck. Based on what I have seen of their products, I would not hesitate to purchase any Metra Product. Based on their design, features, quality and performance, they have earned our Highly Recommended Award. For more info and specs, visit their website at www.metraonline.com.


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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Creative iRoar Go Review

Creative has been known for providing a high bang for the buck in their products. Their line of iRoar wireless speaker systems has also followed this trend. Now they have a new model added to the line and the iRoar Go. Now there is no need to worry about braving the elements, as it is water resistant!
 
Features and specs:
Features:
·         5 speaker design
·         bi-amplification
·         water resistant
·         Dual Orientation
·         Superwide Technology
·         Roar, TaraBass, and Equalizer
·         Speakerphone
·         FLAC/MP3 player
·         Voice Recorder
·         PA System
·         Dual purpose battery
Specs:
System Configuration
One-piece
Dimensions (H x W x D)
54 x 192 x 97 mm, USB Cable Length: Approx 0.7m
Weight
810g (28.5oz)
Bluetooth® Version
Bluetooth 4.2
Bluetooth Profile
A2DP (Wireless Stereo Bluetooth), AVRCP (Bluetooth Remote Control), HFP (Hands-free Profile)
Supported Codecs
AAC, SBC
Connector Type
Bluetooth, AUX-in, USB
Color
Black
Near Field Communication (NFC)
Supports NFC
Design
Bi-amplified Design
Battery Type
Built-in Li-ion, 5200mAh
Battery Life
12 hours

The Creative iRoar Go came in a nice looking printed box with photos of the speaker, as well as it’s feature and specs. Opening the box revealed a well protected speaker. It had a great heft to it, and felt very well made. The buttons also worked well with good feedback. Also included was power adapter, micro USB cable, 3.5mm microphone adapter, and user manual.

The Creative iRoar line of speaker systems have proved to be a great performing line. They are made well, well designed, and the high quality sound is a confirmation of their excellent design. Now, with the iRoar Go, there is now a model that is water resistant. So it is safe to bring it outdoors. I’m hoping that it lives up to the high quality sound definition that the other models in the line had. Let’s see for ourselves.

Linking to my HTC One M9 smartphone was very simple.  And unlike many Bluetooth devices, I was able to pair the two together on the 1st try.  So it has a very good quality Bluetooth radio.  And to really put the radio quality to the test, I went all around our large 3700 square foot location.  All around the 1st floor where it was set up, and all around up the stairs, with at times up to 6 walls between my HTC One M9 smartphone and the iRoar Go.  Only a couple times was there a hickup in sound for a split second.  And in testing the distance, I was glad to see no problems at 25 feet, so I kept going.  At 50 feet I was even more impressed.  And I didn't lose connection until I was around 70 feet away. ..quit impressive!  I also love the fact that there are other connection options for listening to your music on the iRoar Go, such as microSD card, and flash drives.  No it's finally time to listen to how it sounds.

AC/DC Back in Black had very good dynamics in the percussion. Kick drum had very good impact and depth for the small subwoofer. Vocals had texture that was very natural. Earth, Wind and Fire had nice authority in the kickdrum, as well as good pitch definition in the midbass. Vocals had very good resolution and harmonics. The brass was smooth without being overly warm and brassy. Kansas, Carry on Wayward Son, had better than expected resolution and detail in the vocals that had very crisp and clean vocals. Kickdrum had again good impact and authority for the subwoofer size. Cymbals were crisp and dynamic, with definition to be able to hear the impact of the stick on the cymbal. The guitar was nice and raw.  I went thru multiple other songs as well from multiple different genre, and was pleased to hear the same quality sound.  Highs were crisp and clean, mids were smooth, and bass should not sound this good from such a small package.  For such a small device, the iRoar Go did throw a nice sized soundstage, and the imaging wasn't bad either.  They say nice things come in small packages, and this small iRoar Go gives some really nice sound!


The Creative iRoarGo proved to have the sound that the iRoar series has come to be known for. I was very pleased to see that same things didn’t charge. The iRoar series continues to go strong. Based on the design, features, quality, and performance, the iRoarGo has earned our Highly Recommended award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.us.creative.com.
 


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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Snugs Custom IEM Moldings

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like music. When listening to music, we all want to get the best sound we can. With in-ear-monitors, this means getting the best fit we can. The better the seal, the better the sound. The best seal and fit comes from custom made in-ear monitors. Snugs has come up with a way to do that for us, and a lot more economically.

The way Snugs does this is partly like all other custom in-ear headphone manufacturers. They start off with a digital scan of your ear, and use this to make custom molding. But this is where the similarities stop. Snugs after all, only provides the custom moldings. They are not custom in-ear monitors where the monitor is a single piece. Instead, Snugs creates a custom molded tie, that is then attached to your in-ear monitor. They have a fairly good sized list of manufacturers and models that they can manufacture the tips for.  You will just need to check the list on their website.

Features and Specs:
·         Perfect fit– Snugs are modelled on the exact shape of your ear canal
·         Product Quality – Supremely comfortable, the best materials for durability
·         Maximum Isolation – Reduced external noise improves earphone performance
·         Made from soft silicone
·         Multiple colors to chose from

The process was very simple. First you get scanned by a local audiologist. Then the scan is sent to the manufacturer. You select the make and model of your IEM from their list. They then make the moldings and ship them to you.

They came shipped in a nice paper box. Opening the box revealed a hard zipper case, owners manual, business card and sticker. Unzipping the case revealed the custom-made tips. They were a very soft plastic, which made for a very comfortable fit. And they were a perfect fit. Attaching them to my IEM was very easy and simple. So for a cheaper price, I was able to have some custom fit IEM.

With an MSRP of only 179 pounds, they are a bargain. That is right, it is in British pounds.  They are not yet in the USA, but you can send them your impressions, and they will have them mailed to you. The quality was very good. The same can be said for the custom fit. If you are on a tight budget, but want a custom fit for your IEM, Snugs are for you. Based on their design, features, quality, and performance, the Snugs has earned our Highly Recommended Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at https://snugsearphones.co.uk/.
 


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Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Stereowise Plus Editor's Choice Awards



2016 is about to end.  It has been a great year for products.  Many of them are award winners.  But the best of the ones that have come across my desk have been give our highest award: the Editor's Choice Award.  Below is a list of this year's Editor's Choice Award recipients, and a link to their reviews.  Check them out.

Audiofly AF180 In-Ear Monitor


Audio-Technica ATH-A1000Z Art Monitor Closed-Back Dynamic Headphones


Ballistic Competition Sound Dampening Kit


Beyerdynamic DT  1990 Pro Headphones


Blue Lola Headphones


Creative Labs SoundBlaster iRoar Wireless Speaker System


Creative Labs SoundBlaster R3 YouTube Audio Starter Kit


Eton FRX5 All Purpose Quad Power Charging Radio


Harman Kardon Omni 20 Wireless Speaker System


Image Dynamics IDMAX 10" Car Subwoofer


JBL Everest Elite 700 Wireless ANC Headphones


JBL Xtreme Portable Bluetooth Speaker


Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S GPS Navigation System


Klipsch X20i In-Ear Monitor


Massive Audio Summo 10" Car Subwoofer


Magellan MiVue 420 Dashcam


Monster Elements Black Slate Wireless Over The Ear headphones


Re Audio SXX 10" Car Subwoofer


Sigma Buster LED Bicycle Light


T-Spec V10 Series 4 Gauge Wire


Westone Am Pro 30 In-Ear Monitor


We at Stereowise Plus would also like to thank these manufacturers, as well as all of the other manufacturers that allowed us to be part of their 2016.  As well as all of our readers being part of our 2016.  It truly has been a great year.  And we look forward to what 2017 has in store!


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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S GPS Navigation System Review


We all work hard for our money. So when you are in the market to purchase an item, you want to get the biggest bang for your buck. When it comes to car stereos, Kenwood has a great reputation for providing a huge bang for your buck. Their products provide a lot of features, but it’s more than that. The features work well, and they are built to last. If you want the best that’s available, it’s the Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S GPS Navigation System that should be at the top of your list.

Features and specs:

6.95 inch Wide VGA Color LCD Display with LED Backlight
Glossy & Capacitive Touch Panel
Motorized Reverse Tilt & 6 Step Tilt Angle Adjust
Touch Panel Control, Variable Key Illumination
Background Customize (JPEG x1), Display Customize (Color Coordinate)
Picture in Picture (Visual Source in Navi)
Multi-Language Menu & Tag (21 Languages (English, Spanish, French and others))

Maximum Output Power : 50W x 4 (MOSFET Power IC)
3 Preouts (5V)
HDMI / MHL Connection with Optional Cable *1
1 Rear AV Input (Mini-jack, Swithcable), 1 Rear AV Output (RCA: Video / Mini-jack: Audio)
1 RCA Video Input for Front Camera / 1 RCA Video Input for Rear View Camera
Sound Excellence DSP (13 Band Graphic EQ / Digital Time Alignment / Space Enhancer
Sound Realizer / STAGE EQ / Bass Boost / Loudness / Drive EQ+)
Installer & Backup Memory (Store & Backup Audio/Video Settings) 

*1: KCA-HD100 for HDMI, KCA-MH100 for MHL

Built-in Garmin Navigation
Photo Real Junction View, Lane Assist, Multiple Route Preview, ecoRoute, My Trend
SD Card Slot (for Map Update)
Parking Guide Line

DVD Video±R/RW Playback, MPEG 1/2/4, H.264 Video Playback
VCD Compatible, MP3 / WMA / AAC / WAV / FLAC / CD-R / -RW Playback
CD Text Ready, Repeat / Random Play
24 Bit D/A Converter

Built-in HD Radio
Sirius XM Ready
FM / AM 24 Station Presets (FM x 18, AM x 6)
RBDS with Radio Text Plus
AME (Automatic Memory Entry), Up/Down Seek Tuning

USB Interface x 2 (Rear, Detachable)
MP3 / WMA / AAC / WAV / FLAC Playback, MPEG 1/2/4 Video / H.264 / JPEG Playback
iPhone/iPod USB Direct Connection with Optional Cable *2
iPhone App Mode
Android Rapid Charge
Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
Hi-Resolution Audio Capacity 
*2: KCA-IP102 / KCA-IP103 (1 Wire) for iPod Music, KCA-IP202 (2 Wire) for iPod Music & Video

Built-in Bluetooth
(Hands-Free Profile / Audio Profile (A2DP) / AVRCP1.5 / SPP)
Bluetooth Auto Pairing (iPhone/Android)
Voice Control with iPhone using Siri
Dual Phone Connection
Wireless Music Browsing
OEM Remote Control Interface
iDataLink 

The Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S came in a great looking color printed box with photos of the receiver and it’s specs. Opening the box revealed a very well protected receiver held in custom fit Styrofoam. Materials used in construction were mostly metal, with some plastic. Quality of materials used was very good. The fit and finish was excellent. The Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S was very well made and felt so in hand. Also included in the box were the bevels for installation, mounting screws, keys, GPS antenna, microphone for voice controls, dual USB doggle, wiring harness, and owner’s manual.

Getting the Kenwood Excelon DNX-8935 installed was fairly straight forward. Once installed, I was a bit taken back. There are so many features, where do I start? It was like being a kid in a candy store with a pocket full of money. Having the Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S is a lot like that.

I think the first place to start is the basics. The Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S is a double-din GPS Navigation System. It starts with a 50x4 mosfet internal amplifier. There are three 5V preouts for a clean powerful signal, as well as multiple other inputs and outputs. The Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S gives you a lot of options. Additional optional accessories are HDMI cable, front and rear cameras, and remote control. The display is a 6.95” LED backlit touch screen. It’s tuner has 24 station presets, with RBDS. The transport is a DVD/CD player.  Additional media control features include Bluetooth and dual USB inputs, as well as an SD card slot for audio/video playback as well as GPS map updates.

The Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S also includes many advanced features such as advanced panel, new GUI and premium audio. There are advanced navigation features with Garmin Navigation, parking guidelines, and INRIX, with either the USB or Bluetooth connections you can access your phones features through Apple Carplay, Android Auto, Wireless Music Browsing, including Dual Phone Connection. Another optional feature is the idatalink Maestro. With newer vehicles it will tap into its system to view it’s info , such as gauges, climate, and vehicle info.

I love the look of the new GUI interface. The colors are vivid with high contrast. Texts are crystal clear. Navigating the set-up, and the various pages for accessing it’s features, was very simple. Once the power button is pressed, the system was up in 14 seconds, which was about as expected. Navigating the screens was fast and responsive, thanks to its new dual-core processor for running its Linux based OS. The Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S is redesigned inside and out, and it shows. Not only is it quick and responsive, the new interface looks simply sexy. And I love the ability to have a graphic EQ spectrum analyzer on the display.

The advanced audio features are also excellent! At it's core, the Kenwood DNX-893S is an Excelon.  This means it was designed for the audiophile in mind, with higher quality and standards in mind, like the 5V pre-outs, and 13 bands of EQ.  These advanced features include Sound Excellence DSP, 13 Band Graphic EQ, digital time alignment, space enhancer, sound realize, Stage EQ, bass boost, loudness and drive all of this lets you totally customize your sound the way you like it. And with its extensive sound tweaking abilities, customizing your sound is very easy to do. Not only will your CD’s and MP3’s sound great, it also can handle High Resolution Audio up to 192 kHz/24it! So it’s ready for your music now and in the future.  It's enough to get any audiophile drooling!

The Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S also does an excellent job in getting you to your destination, and doing so safely. With front and rear cameras connected, you will have parking guidelines, to help you get in those tight spaces. INRIX gives you traffic info, parking locations, as well as gas prices, even weather info for your commuting needs.  2 years of the INRIX service is included. And of course the Garmin Navigation does an amazing job of getting you from point A to point B. Garmin’s built-in lane guidance and Photo Real Junction View helps to ensure you are on the right path, and keep you there.  Of course if you miss your turn, no need to fret.  You'll get re-directed.  And you can also updated your preferences such as shortest distances, or quickest drive times.  Don't like toll roads?  You can choose to avoid those as well, thanks to it's well thought out preferred travel settings.

Last but not least among the great features is the ability to more conveniently and safely use your smartphone’s features. No matter if you use iPhone or Android, the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto features have you covered. The features you are used to using on your phone, such as sending or receiving texts, making or receiving calls, listening to your music, or using Voice/Siri, and now be done through the Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S. All of these features can be conveniently seen on the receiver's display. The Dual Phone Connection features will allow you to use two separate smartphones. Switching phones for making and receiving calls is as simple as a press of a button. You can also with Wireless Music Browsing go through your music selection on your phone through Bluetooth.

The Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S GPS Navigation System turned out to be a very solid performer!  The built-in amp put out plenty of power (for a receiver).  Located in rural Arizona, radio channels are not easy to pull in, but the Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S did a very good job in pulling in those channels.  And I loved the built-in HD Radio.  The music was cleaner in the FM, as well as the AM.  I also liked the sub channels for extra content, as well as the music info being displayed such as artist and song. 

The DVD/CD transport also provided a smooth well functioning operation.  With a push of a button the screen slid down to allow insertion of the CD/DVD, or the eject of a disc.  CD sound quality was excellent as was the tracking of the songs on the disc.  The same was also true for DVD movies.  I would expect nothing less from any receiver, and the Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S performed just as expected.

This is the 10 year anniversary of Kenwood's partnership with Garmin in their GPS enabled receivers.  In that time, thanks to Garmin's experience, Kenwood has had a lineup of well functioning GPS navigation receivers.  The Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S's navigation function has met my high expectations.  I was easily able to see my location, and route to my destination.  The spoken turn by turn directions were also easy to follow.  The unit has yet to not get me to my desired destination.  Of course being able to see the POI's along the route was also very helpful!  So if you need some gas, or just a bite to eat, the Garmin navigation features have you covered as well.

The extra features, such as Android Auto was also easy to use.  I enjoyed being able to use my phones features, such as making and receiving calls as wells as texts.  And of course I also can't forget being able to access my Spotify and Pandora tunes!  Unfortunately I had a compatibility issue with my HTC One M9 smartphone, so I was not able to use the mirroring function.  But a simple software update can potentially fix that.  Having an SD car slot also proved extremely handy!  The SD card slot is used to updated the navigation maps.  But it can also be used to play music and videos.  Given the size of your music collection, you can potentially put all of your collection on a single SD card, and have all your music with you on the go!  I know many of us have transitioned our entire music collection from our old iPod to an SD card, or even microSD card, so you can have it all with you on your phone.  Now you can take your card with you in your Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S!

Kenwood has done it again.  For the many years I have had the privilege to review Kenwood products, their reputation has given me high expectations for their products.  And again I am pleasantly unsurprised at Kenwood's ability to deliver a product that meets my high expectations.  One of their standard single DIN receivers provide a lot of features.  But if you want top of the line features, the Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S GPS Navigation System should be on the top of your list to check out.  It truly is loaded in features, and it also performs extremely well!  It's build quality also appears good enough to give years of service.  Based on its design, features, quality, and performance, the Kenwood Excelon DNX-893S GPS Navigation System as earned our Editor's Choice Award.  Kudos to Kenwood on such an excellent product.  For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.kenwoodusa.com. Components of reference system used in the review: German Maestro MS 654010 Active component system, Alpine SPX13-REF component system, Image Dynamics IDMAX10 subwoofer,  JL Audio XD600/6 Class D amp, Vibe Audio LiteBox Stereo 4 Class GH amp,  Vibe Audio Black Death Bass 1 Class GH sub amp, Audio Control DQXS electronic crossover and equalizer, Kicker Front Row DSP/Crossover.



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