Saturday, August 9, 2008

Kenwood Excelon XR-S17P Component System Review

Listen up all Honda owners, or any other owner of a car that requires shallow speakers. Kenwood has come out with some real ear candy for you. It is called the Excelon XR-S17P. It is a 6.5 inch component speaker system that can really sing. The design is quite innovative. It almost looks like a coaxial speaker with no magnet at the back. It has a magnet, but what may be mistaken at first glance as the coaxial tweeter is actually the magnet. Their new design took the magnet from the back and put it in the front. I have a Honda that requires shallow mount speakers, and generally manufacturers do this using a smaller magnet at the back and a thinner basket which in turn makes the woofer almost flat. Here Kenwood was able to move the magnet to the front, and retain a basket of typical depth so you still have good excursion for good midbass response. I must say I was very impressed with the design, and you can see it in the photo.
So far I was impressed with the design, but I was skeptical about how good they would sound. Let me premise this with the fact that I am used to good sounding gear. As a musician I can be particular when it comes to good sound. I have a Honda Del Sol, so I need something that can handle a lot of power and play loud when I have the top off. I have been a lifelong Rockford Fosgate fan, and my system comprises of two Rockford amps. One of them runs about 250 watts to my single 12 inch sub, and the other puts out about 100 watts times 4 to each of my four cabin speakers. They comprise of old school Rockford Fanatic series 6.5 inch coaxial in the rear (shallow mounts), and the 6.5 inch Rockford FNQ’s (with the aluminum cones) and hard dome tweets. Those Rockford fans out there know which ones I am talking about, but enough of Rockford Fosgate. This is about the Kenwood component system. I am not ignorant of Kenwood’s gear, having owned around a half dozen of their Excelon Head units. When I saw this new shallow mount design component system from Kenwood, I just had to check them out. So out came my Rockford Fosgate FNQ’s and in went the Kenwood Excelon XR-S17P’s.
To give you a few specs on them, they use a carbon polypropylene hybrid cone, a 1 inch soft dome tweeter, can handle 100 watts RMS (300 watts peak), and have a mounting depth of only 1 9/16 inches. I have to admit I was a little skeptical when I was taking out my Fosgates. My FNQ’s have more robust crossovers with optical tweeter protection, and I like their aluminum cones. But I was still so intrigued I went forward with the install, and I figured I could put the FNQ’s back when I was done. My first impression was astonishment. At this point I knew I had a contender, and it was time to pull out the heavy artillery. I am a bit unique in the fact that I like a lot of different types of music ranging from rap to Bach. I threw a lot of difficult music at it from Fresh Aire/Mannheim Steamroller, to Bachbusters, The Eagles, Boys to Men, and even Metallica.
Everything that I threw at it sounded great! Fresh Aire sounded very clean, crisp, and lots of resolution. Toccata from Fresh Aire III sounded great, and Harvest Dance from the Halloween album showed off its midbass capabilities. Black Velveteen from Lenny Kravitz is also one that I like to punish midbasses with, and the Kenwood’s did better than my Fosgates FNQ’s. Bachbusters also sounded very clean and musical. There were a few parts in the Eagles where the acoustic guitar sounded a little harsh on my Fosgate hard dome tweets. Not so with the Kenwood soft domes. I love the silk soft domes! The Boys to Men vocals sounded very natural and smooth. As a Star Wars fan, I love listening to the Throne Room on the original Star Wars Soundtrack. The horns sounded amazing and not too brassy. I could not help cranking it up, and it just gave me goose bumps! I also like the guitar in the first minute of Nothing Else Really Matters on the Metallica Black album. It is very crisp and clean. Old school big band also sounded amazing. Whatever I through at them, the excelon XR-S17P’s handled it with applause. I am pleasantly surprised, so much so that my FNQ’s are not going back in. Sorry Rockford Fosgate. I am a bit disappointed however in one thing: that I do not have a second pair for my rears. For more info and complete specs, check out Kenwood’s website at:

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

This is for those of you who are looking for a good universal remote, but not just your normal universal remote. For those of you looking for something that is just…..more, Logitech has one that you should give some serious consideration. It is the Harmony One. It is one remote to control them all (well up to 15 devices that is). And its color touch screen interface makes it fun.
Typical universal remotes will allow you to learn the codes of other remotes, and some of the buttons on the remote need to be manually learned. This means that you have the two remotes face each other, press a series of buttons for one remote to send and one remote to receive or learn, hence programming the buttons that you want. Well Logitech has taken away the confusion and headache of having to learn from one remote to another. The Harmony One comes with some powerful software and has a USB interface. You simply install the software on your computer, and then attach the remote to the computer using the supplied USB cable. There is a simple tutorial that takes you through all the steps to set up your remote with the gear that you have. They have an extensive library of thousands of different devices. Even my Levitron remote dimmer for my theater room was on there. What I like is the fact that it includes all the buttons on my original remote. The remote for my Yamaha surround receiver has a lot of buttons. The Harmony One has its share of standard hard buttons, but whatever button is not there is programmed in as custom buttons in multiple pages of buttons on its touch screen display. I like it!

Once you have all the gear selected and the codes are downloaded to your remote, Logitech takes it a step further and lets you program macros for a set of function buttons on the color touch screen. You make them up for what you want. You can have a button that says “Watch TV.” Pressing that button can send out a series of commands such as turning on the TV and turning on your cable box. And you can have one for “Watch DVD,” that will turn on your TV, turn on your surround sound receiver, and turn on your DVD player, and press play on the DVD player.

Harmony also spent many hours of research in design for what feels good in your hand, and I think it works great. It also comes with a docking station that you plug into the wall to charge itself, so no more need to worry about replacing those AA’s or AAA remote batteries. I can honestly tell you that I found my one remote to control them all. I would highly suggest you check out the Harmony One for yourself. For more info and complete specs, please check out Logitech’s website at,en

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D-Link’s DHP-301 Powerline HD Network Starter Kit Review

If you do not want to go through the expense of having a traditional secure wired home network and do not want to deal with a wireless home network, there is now a new option. You can go wired, but without the high cost. Introducing D-Link’s DHP-301 Powerline HD Network Starter Kit. It is an Ethernet adapter set that runs signals from one adapter to the other using your homes electrical wiring. It is very simple to set up with the included software.

The main unit plugs to your router and then into an electrical outlet. The 2nd unit just plugs into the wall outlet and then whatever else you want it to plug into. They are rated at up to 200mbps throughput for HD content over your home network, and you can use them to allow your game consoles such as the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, or the Wii game systems connect to the internet.

Having put them to the test, I can tell you they work great. When I initially set them up, it took about an hour for them to make the connection between each other. Once they did, the internet on my 2nd computer was up and running. You always leave them plugged in to keep the connection between the two adapters. Having put them through an extended trial of over a month, I can tell you that the adapters can get quite hot. There was also a time when I lost the connection between them. I was not quite sure what happened. I discovered the adapters were hot so I just unplugged them for a while to let them cool off. Once they were cool I plugged them back into the wall and gave the adapters some time to re-establish their connection which they did. I was again back and running. With that said, they are not perfect. But they are also an electronic device, and they work. For those of you looking for a way to connect a computer or other device to the internet or create a home network, I would suggest giving them some attention. I was not disappointed. Good job D-Link. For more detailed specs and info, feel free to check them out at D-Link’s website at

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