Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kenwood Excelon KDC-X991 car receiver review

When it comes time to look for a new CD receiver, there are a lot of models from which to choose and from a lot of different manufacturers. And you want to make sure you get what you need. After all, your receiver is the center of your car stereo system. For that, I look for a mix of quality, features, and reputation. After all, I expect good sound, need a lot of features, and expect my deck to stay out of the repair shop. With those criteria I tend to look towards Kenwood for my deck. The model I will be reviewing today is the KDC-X991.
The KDC-X991 has a plethora of features. Along with it being a competent CD player, it has a strong tuner that is HD Radio ready with RDS, has a 4096 color display that is customizable, is Satellite radio ready, Bluetooth ready, has multiple inputs with a USB input as well as an auxiliary input. The built-in amplifier is rated at 50x4, and can be turned off to help improve the sound quality if you are using external amplifiers. There are three 5v preouts for use of external amplifiers to give them a strong signal. It even has dual zone so you can have separate sources for front and rear. It also uses what is called ODD or Offset Dual Differential. This system uses dual D/A converters. With it, the digital signal processing is isolated and controlled separately for the front channel so the channel separation is greatly improved.
When it comes to sound control, you will be hard pressed to find another manufacturer that gives you more options to custom tailor your sound. Sound management on this deck is huge! There is a custom cabin setting where you tell your deck what size the cabin is (compact, full-size, wagon, minivan, SUV, etc), the locations of the speakers, the size of the speakers, and if they use a separate tweeter as well as the size of your subwoofer, and digital time alignment is also allowed where you put in the distance from you to the speakers. There is also a built in crossover network to control the high pass and slope separately for the fronts and the rears, as well as the phase for the sub. There is also a manual position setting where you can select where the focus is to be.
Kenwood also did not leave out equalization control, and again it is all customizable. For those who do not like to do a lot of tweaking, there are the presets for Natural, Rock, Pop, Easy. Top 40, Jazz, and User. For those who want more control, there is a separate 4 band equalizer for the front and rear channels, totally adjustable for the center frequency, q factor, and gain for each band. For example for band 1 you can choose from 60/80/100/120/160/200 Hz, q factor (height of the slope) of .25/.50/1.00/2.00, as well as the gain of the band of -9/-7/-5/-3/-2/-1/0/+1/+2/+3/+5/+7/+9. If that were not enough, there is also the SRS Wow HD. I really like the Focus effect. My front door speakers are down low in the doors, and the SRS Focus helped the speakers sound as if they were much higher in the doors.
The graphic display also has multiple options to choose how you want your display to look, as well as in what color. There are display types A through E, and some gives you more information than others. You can download different short little movie clips or wallpapers. I really like the spectrum analyzer. There is also the option for a G-Analyzer display for a stopwatch, horsepower analysis, and g-force. With the display type I chose, I get the spectrum analyzer as well as the song title info. The display has 4096 colors. Even though I have seen other decks with higher resolution, it does look good, is well lit, and the angle is adjustable if you need to.
While there are some features of the deck that I do not use, such as the G-Analyzer, or the external Kenwood amplifier control (since my external amps are not Kenwood’s), I do use the majority of the features and love them! The deck almost feels like my home theater receiver when I scroll through all the input options (Standby, HD Radio, CD, Internal Memory, USB, and Auxiliary). The CD transport works great. I love the RDS radio info (station name and song title). With the external tuner, HD Radio sounds awesome. The deck can also handle satellite radio, but with my HD Radio tuner (and HD Radio being free) I have not felt the need for it.
Hooking up my Samsung 2GB MP3 player to it thru the USB connector was very simple. Once connected, it started to read the info on my player. I was glad to see the deck was able to play the songs as well as show the ID Tag info with the song title. There did appear to be a small glitch which I am chalking up to a slight incompatibility issue with my Samsung MP3 player and the deck. While it would play songs and show the song info on the decks display, I could not fast forward and skip songs. I would have to listen to them in the order they are stored in my MP3 player. If I switch inputs to say my CD player, and then go back to the USB connection later, it plays the song we left off at.
One of the new features on this deck compared with last year’s KDC-X990 is the internal memory. It has 512MB of internal memory that you can transfer songs from either a cd or your mp3 player to. You can instantly have access to your favorite songs without needing the disk or having your mp3 player connected. You select the record quality (higher quality takes up more space), and type in the song title. Additional changes from last year’s KDC-X990 are the addition of SRS WOW HD (improved from last year’s SRS WOW), the USB input, and SP Supreme. And while it does not say it on the box, according to Kenwood it is also Bluetooth ready. As an audiophile, new models coming out is always concerning, especially when you have a great sounding unit like the KDC-X990 up to be replaced. New models are constantly replacing the old ones. And as an audiophile, I was concerned that changes would be made to the new model (such as eliminating the ODD) so the sound quality is not quite as good. When I pulled out the KDC-990 to make way for the KDC-X991, I was glad to hear that this was not the case. The sounds that I heard were just as they were intended. When I listened to Manheim Steamroller, it was very crisp and clean. Vocals were very natural sounding and smooth. I have heard some say a particular manufacturer will be a tad bright, or maybe a bit warm sounding. I thought the deck was rather neutral.
I have had decks from Alpine, Pioneer, and Kenwood. I started off with Alpine, went to a Kenwood, and then went to Pioneer and am now back to Kenwood. The KDC-X991 is my 4th Kenwood Excelon deck since I went back to Kenwood and I love them. I love the features, such as the add-on HD tuner, and the sound is amazing! And the built-in internal memory is something I have not heard any other manufacturer having. I LIKE IT! Well deserved kudos goes to Kenwood for an excellent sounding product. If you like a lot of features and the ability to customize your sound, I would highly recommend giving Kenwood a look. I for one have not been disappointed I did. The features and specs touched on here are just a few. For complete specs, feel free to check out Kenwood’s website at

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

VUDU does HD. See their new release info

October 02, 2008
VUDU Launches HDX: New Benchmark in Picture Quality for On-Demand Content
HDX is a groundbreaking video format that for the first time enables the viewing of Internet-delivered movie content in full High Definition 1080p format that is optimized for 40 inch and larger HDTVs and Home Theaters. With HDX, you get:
• The highest quality available from any Internet, broadcast, cable, or satellite on-demand service • A true cinematic experience with a vividly detailed and virtually artifact free picture • Immersive, high-resolution sound • The ability to initiate a download via the Web
HDX movies are available starting today to all VUDU customers at the same price as standard HD titles – that’s right, superior HDX quality for not a penny extra. Getting started is easy: From the web, simply visit and select a movie. Sign in and initiate a download.
On your VUDU, visit Explore Catalog and pick an HDX movie.
For more information, visit

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New VideoStudio news release for you video editors

New Corel® VideoStudio® Pro X2 and Corel® Paint Shop Pro® Photo X2 Ultimate Edition Offer Improved Ease of Use, Expanded Format Support, and More Creative Options to ConsumersOTTAWA, Canada – September 9, 2008 – Corel Corporation (NASDAQ:CREL) (TSX:CRE), a leading developer of graphics, productivity and digital media software, today announced Corel® VideoStudio® Pro X2 and Corel® Paint Shop Pro® Photo X2 Ultimate. Corel's significant upgrade of VideoStudio® Pro X2 provides consumers with a complete HD solution for video editing and authoring. Corel's latest release of VideoStudio Pro X2 also includes the all-new Painting Creator to add creative flare to video projects, new sharing tools to upload videos directly to YouTube(TM) and mobile devices, as well as offering improved ease-of-use and performance enhancements. Featuring over $200 worth of free bonus items, Paint Shop Pro® Photo X2 Ultimate edition offers support for more than 250 raw camera formats and includes 150 new creative templates.Available separately or together as part of the new Photo & Video Bundle, VideoStudio Pro X2 and Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 Ultimate offer users the widest selection of video and photo editing features ranging from automatic tools for quick fixes to precision controls for fine-tuning. Family memory keepers, hobbyists, and video and photo enthusiasts can more quickly organize, personalize and share their home movies and digital photos with family and friends using the latest formats."Capturing, enhancing and sharing life's moments with family and friends has become increasingly important in today's global society,” said Denise MacDonell, Senior Director of Product Management, Digital Media at Corel. "With VideoStudio Pro X2 and Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 Ultimate, family memory keepers and technology enthusiasts can more easily personalize and share their digital stories with family and friends – across town or across continents. With the learning and sharing tools included with Corel software, it is easy for users to strengthen ties and stay connected using popular networking sites such as Facebook®, My Space® and YouTube as they share their most important moments in more exciting, fun and memorable ways.”New in VideoStudio Pro X2The Most Complete HD SolutionOffering the most complete HD solution, VideoStudio Pro X2 lets users capture, edit, author and output video in all of the leading HD formats, including HDV(TM) (High-Definition Video), AVCHD(TM) (Advanced Video Codec High Definition), JVC(TM) HD camcorder (TOD) and BDMV.• New Blu-ray Import and Output – VideoStudio Pro X2 is among the first video editing and authoring software products to offer support for Blu-ray Disc® Movie Video (BDMV) import and output. Users can now import BDMV files directly from Blu-ray camcorders, making it easier to transfer files and get started with video-editing projects. Users can author HD video with motion menus and burn the video to Blu-ray Disc in single- or dual-layer format. Because compliant video is not re-rendered, users can enjoy shorter encoding times and excellent picture quality.• Enhanced Smart Proxy Editing – With Smart Proxy editing, users can edit HD content as easily as they edit standard definition – even on midrange PCs. By using lower-resolution files for editing and previewing a HD project, VideoStudio Pro X2 requires fewer system resources, which results in faster, smoother editing of HD video. In addition, the final output retains the full resolution of the original HD content. With a 300 percent speed increase, users can now render videos over lunch, rather than overnight.• New Custom H.264 HD Encoding – VideoStudio Pro X2 uses the H.264 codec, which provides rapid encoding with superior quality. Both 1440 × 1080 and 1920 × 1080 output frame sizes are supported.More Options for Creativity and Sharing• New Painting Creator – With the all-new Painting Creator, users can paint, draw and write on their videos while recording their movements, providing users with new opportunities to personalize their video projects and showcase their creativity.• New Creative Content – VideoStudio Pro X2 includes new overlay objects, frames, Flash animations, and HD-quality menu templates to enhance every video production. The HD templates are designed to match the quality of any HD video.• New NewBlue® Film Effects – Users can now apply the distinctive look of film from the silent movie era. Included in VideoStudio Pro X2, this dynamic collection of five filters provides 81 presets that recreate the nostalgic effects produced by hand-cranked cameras, dirty projectors, and dusty film vaults.• New Mobile Device Support – VideoStudio Pro X2 users can now import video from and output video to the Apple® iPhone(TM) and iPod® Touch, making it easier for users to capture and share video projects on the latest mobile devices.• Enhanced Upload to YouTube – With the new, streamlined uploader, users can more quickly and easily upload video directly to YouTube. VideoStudio Pro X2 also offers several settings, such as the WMV, H.264, and FLV formats to ensure the best possible encoding quality.Improved Performance Supports Enhanced User Experience• New Optimization for Intel® Quad-Core Technology – VideoStudio Pro X2 now supports Intel® quad-core technology, enhanced for both dual-core and quad-core CPUs. For users, this means faster response times and less time spent waiting for encoding which is especially useful when working with HD video.• New Resizable Interface – VideoStudio now enables users to resize any of the panels within the interface according to their preference, placing the focus exactly where the user wants it.• New Automatic Video Transition and Audio Crossfade – Users can now simply drag video clips so they overlap on the timeline, automatically creating a video transition and audio crossfade for the duration of the overlap. Users can also easily apply transitions in overlay tracks to create sophisticated picture-in-picture and montage effects.• New Auto Pan & Zoom Feature – Auto Pan & Zoom is now available to automatically detect the faces of subjects or objects in photos, eliminating the need to manually apply Pan & Zoom effects.• New Single Clip Trim Dialog Box – The new Single Clip Trim dialog box makes it easy to frame and accurately trim single clips. Users can access the dialog box by double clicking any clip in the Library, making it easier than ever to quickly trim clips.• Faster Rendering Times – While rendering a video production, users can now disable the preview window to maximize rendering resources and render the video more quickly.• Faster Encoding Performance for Transitions and MPEG-2 Files – VideoStudio Pro X2 ensures the fastest encoding at the highest possible quality. The MPEG Optimizer analyzes the bit rates of all clips on the timeline and suggests MPEG encoding settings that ensure the least re-rendering and re-encoding while maintaining the highest quality for a video project.Users can also select a target size before encoding MPEGs. This feature is especially helpful to users who share their videos on Web sites that set limits on file size. In addition, when burning MPEGs to DVD, users can easily adjust the size setting to ensure that their files will fit on the DVD.New in Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 UltimateMore Creative Options Supported by the Latest Technology• Enhanced Camera Raw Support – Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 Ultimate now supports more than 250 raw camera formats, making it easier for users to edit photos taken with the most popular camera models.• New Creative Content Pack – The Creative Content Pack includes 150 brand-new, custom-made photo frames, patterns and Picture Tubes(TM) that enable scrapbookers and other creative users to express their creativity by personalizing their projects.• New Background Remover – An unwanted background image can ruin what would otherwise be a perfect photo. In three simple steps, the Background Remover isolates part of a background in an image and removes it, allowing the user to replace it with a complementary image. With the Background Remover, users can preserve image details that were once impossible to mask precisely by preserving fine, semi-transparent details such as strands of hair and wisps of smoke, as well as the detail that is found between larger objects, such as the sky seen between tree branches.• New Certified for Windows Vista® – Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 Ultimate is now fully certified for Windows Vista, the highest certification of support for that operating system, meeting compatibility standards for ease-of-use, better performance, and enhanced security.Bonus Items• New Corel® Painter(TM) Photo Essentials 4 – Using the unique Auto-Painting palette, scrapbookers, family memory keepers and photo enthusiasts can now quickly and easily convert their favorite photos into digital paintings and drawings in as little as three clicks.• New PHOTORECOVERY® for Digital Media – Users can enjoy enhanced peace of mind knowing that they can recover images, movies and sound files from memory cards that have been reformatted in error. PHOTORECOVERY® LE is compatible with virtually all media card formats, including SD(TM), miniSD(TM), microSD(TM), CompactFlash® I and II, Memory Stick(TM), MMC, xD, SmartMedia® and Microdrive®.• New Flash Drive – A 2 GB USB Flash Drive makes it easier for users to backup and transfer photos, videos and other files from a PC. Includes plug-and-play compatibility with any PC.Pricing and AvailabilityCorel's VideoStudio Pro X2, Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 Ultimate and the Photo and Video Bundle are available starting today through and in the coming weeks through Corel's global channel partners.VideoStudio Pro X2 and Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 Ultimate are available separately for $99.99 SRP (US and Canada) each. The Photo & Video Bundle that includes both products is available for $149.99 SRP (US and Canada), a savings of $49.99.Corel VideoStudio Pro X2 is available starting today in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and additional languages at later dates. Upgrades from VideoStudio 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 Standard and Plus versions to VideoStudio Pro X2 are available for $59.99 SRP (US and Canada).Corel also offers VideoStudio X2 to import, edit and output AVCHD and standard-definition video. VideoStudio X2 is priced at $69.99 SRP (US and Canada).Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 Ultimate is available starting today in English, German, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, and in additional languages at later dates. Registered users of Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 may purchase the Special Upgrade from Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 for $29.99 SRP (US and Canada).To learn more about Corel's digital media portfolio or to download free, fully-functional trial versions of Corel VideoStudio Pro X2 or Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 Ultimate, please visit CorelCorel is one of the world's top software companies with more than 100 million active users in over 75 countries. We develop software that helps people express their ideas and share their stories in more exciting, creative and persuasive ways. Through the years we've built a reputation for delivering innovative, trusted products that are easy to learn and use, helping people achieve new levels of productivity. The industry has responded with hundreds of awards for software innovation, design and value.Our award-winning product portfolio includes some of the world's most widely recognized and popular software brands, including CorelDRAW® Graphics Suite, Corel® Painter(TM), Corel DESIGNER® Technical Suite, Corel® Paint Shop Pro® Photo, VideoStudio®, WinDVD®, Corel® WordPerfect® Office and WinZip®. Our global headquarters are in Ottawa, Canada, with major offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, China, Taiwan and Japan.

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