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: