Sunday, August 11, 2013

Kenwood Excelon DNN990HD Connected Navigation Entertainment Receiver Review

When it comes to the top of the line car stereo receivers, the bar continually gets raised. They have gotten more features, larger in size and better display and interface. The Kenwood Excelon DNN990HD Connected Navigation Entertainment Receiver is the epitome of this. Not only is it loaded with features, but it has raised the bar again for others to follow, now with Wi-Fi enabled.

Features and specs:
-  3D Landmarks
-  Lane Assist
-  Junction Guide
-  EcoRoute
-  Navteq Traffic Services
-  Voice Guidance
-  Text to Speech
-  Points of Interest
Over 6 Million
-  Programmable Waypoints
-  Graphical Resolution
-  Navigation Firmware Updates
by USB
-  Map Updates
by SD Card
-  Size
6.95" WVGA
-  Resolution
1,152,000 Pixels
-  Touch Panel
-  Mechanism
Reverse Tilt
-  Variable Color Illumination
Display/Key Illumination (256 Colors)
-  Dynamic Luminance Control
-  Slide Touch
-  Multi-Lingual Display
-  Picture-In-Picture
-  Display Skins
x 3
-  Customizable Favorite Sources
x 3
-  Customizable Background
by USB
-  Powered By Parrot
-  Hands-Free Support
-  Auto Phonebook Download
-  Siri Eyes Free
-  Voice Dialing
Yes (Compatible Phones Only)
-  A2DP
-  Pandora Link Support
Yes (For Compatible BlackBerry/Android Devices)
-  Bluetooth Firmware Updates
by USB
-  Made For iPhone
Yes (Requires KCA-iP202)
-  Made for iPod
Yes (Requires KCA-iP202)
-  Audio/Video Playback
Yes (Requires KCA-iP202 with iPhone 4 or 4S)
-  Album Art Search
Yes (Requires KCA-iP202)
-  Alphabet Search
Yes (Requires KCA-iP202)
-  Pandora App Control
Yes (Requires iPhone with Pandora App)
-  App Mode
Yes (Requires Compatible iPhone/iPod App)
-  Twin iPod Control
-  iPod Control by Hand
Aha Radio
-  Aha Radio for iPhone
-  Aha Radio for Android
HD Radio
-  Digital and Analog FM Tuner
Yes (USA only)
-  Digital and Analog AM Tuner
Yes (USA only)
-  iTunes Tagging
Yes (USA only)
-  Album Cover Artwork
Yes (USA only)
-  Song And Title Information
Yes (USA only)
Dual Rear USB Inputs
-  Audio Formats
-  Mass Storage Class
Yes (FAT16/FAT32)
-  USB Video File - MPEG
MPEG 1, 2 & 4
-  USB Video File - Other
H.264 & WMV
-  Dolby Digital/DTS Decoding
-  DIVX Decoding
-  Disc Type (DVD)
-  Disc Type (VCD)
-  Disc Type (CD)
-  Advanced Speech Recognition
-  2-Zone
-  Digital Time Alignment
-  EQ System
-  Crossover System
High Pass & Low Pass Filters
-  Preouts
x3 (F/R/SW) @ 5V
-  Preout Level(V)
5.0 Volts
-  Audio Firmware Updates
by USB
-  D/A Converter
24 Bit
-  Full Bandwidth Power
Audio/Video Inputs/Outputs
-  USB Inputs
x 2 (Rear)
-  Rear Camera Input
x 2 (Front and Rear)
-  Rear View Camera Touch Control
Yes (CMOS-310/300)
-  A/V Inputs
x 2
-  A/V Outputs
x 1
-  External Relay Switches
x 2
Optional Accessories
-  ecoRoute HD
-  Steering Wheel Control Interface
-  Remote Control
-  iPhone/iPod Cable
-  iDatalink
-  SiriusXM
Requires Optional SXV200 Tuner
-  Sirius Satellite
-  Reverse Camera
-  Bluetooth Hands-Free
-  iDatalink Maestro Compatible
Yes (Requires Optional ADS Maestro RR Module and cables)

 The Kenwood Excelon Connected Navigation Entertainment Receiver DNN990HD came shipped in the standard Kenwood styling color printed box, with pictures of the deck and its specs and features. Opening the box revealed a deck well protected in custom molded Styrofoam. Also included was the quick start manual, wiring harnesses, connection cables, bezels that would be used depending on your vehicle, and remote control.  Quality of materials used was very good, as was the build quality. Fit and finish was also very good. The Kenwood Excelon DNN990HD is their flagship model, and it shows!
Be prepared when you open the manuals.  Manuals not included but are available online are the Navigation, Owner's Manual, and Voice Commands.  With ALL of the features to cover, they are almost a book.  Some of them, like the 87 page Owner's Manual, could be a tad intimidating due to the size of it, but just read it.  You'll need it to get the most out of the receiver, such as to learn many of the advanced features like voice control and the Wi-Fi capabilities.
As a Kenwood user for almost 2 decades, I have seen the increase of features. And I am glad to see the choice to include many of these features as "core" features, for lack of a better term. They include features that have been carried over for years such as the system Q, crossovers, and 13 band equalizer, 24bit D/A convertor, and 5 volt outs, just to name a few, for the best in sound quality for those of you audiophiles.
As listed in the features and specs, the Kenwood Excelon Connected Navigation Entertainment Receiver 990HD has it all. Not only does it have the standard AM/FM tuner, it also does HD Radio. The transport does DVDs as well as CDs. Although with its increase in popularity, I am hoping that they will soon add blu-ray playback and HD screen to its list of features. Also included is built-in navigation with voice prompts. The interface also allowed split screen, so you can have both GPS and stereo controls up at the same time. Voice control is helpful in doing some control over the navigation.  Additionally included is dual zone functionality.
The new feature this year is the Wi-Fi functionality. Now you can access Wi-Fi to be able to check Facebook, tweets, as well as email. Being able to do all this from the dash of your car is really cool. You can even check your local weather, and surf online! The user interface is also more improved and fluid, and looks and flows great.
Through its embedded Wi-Fi ability, all you need to do is connect it to a hot spot, such as your cell phone. Once connected, you can access Facebook, Tweeter, your favorite RSS news feeds, email, and internet services sites like iHeart radio, Aupeo!, and YouTube.  A browser for just surfing online is included. There is even a calendar, so you can check your daily or weekly calendar items. It can access DropBox, so all of your video and audio content that you store online can also be viewed. Kenwood alloys up to 2Gb of free online storage for your content that you can have access to.  The 990HD does so much!
The navigation features are also loaded using Garmin’s top of the line interface. Using the combination of online content with the navigation capabilities, you can check for local restaurants, gas stations with their prices for the cheapest place close to you. You can even search for movie theaters, movies and show times. You can set up travel routes, check traffic, take photos, and track all of this online. You can even make custom routes online at home, and then access it in the car.
Just in case your head isn’t spinning yet with all of its functionality, there is also an optional accessory iDatalink Maestro for OBDII interface for newer cars. With this, you can access vehicle info on screen, such as your miles per gallon, voltage, rpm, and coolant temperature. You can even view climate control info and controls on screen. Vehicle info for diagnostics can also be viewed on screen, such as tire air pressure and engine codes when your check engine light comes on.
Anything you are used to having in your car stereo, the Kenwood Excelon DNN990HD has you covered. Nothing you are used to having, is missed. Not only a regular tuner, it has an HD Radio tuner. It has your satellite radio (with optional accessory). It plays your CD’s and can watch your DVD’s. It has inputs for your iPod, mp3 player, or USB flash drive, as well as a SD card reader. It has multiple video source inputs. It even has an A/V output. Dual Zone? You’re covered there too. The built-in GPS Navigation helps get you where you need to go. And the voice control provides safe hands free controls. The Kenwood DNN990HD does have it all, except for the kitchen sink.
Not only does it have it all, it is built well too. The layout works very well. I like the use of buttons. In the past they have used touch buttons under the screen. I prefer the use of standard buttons, and they work well on the DNN990HD. This all sounds good, but the question now is can it all come together and perform well?
Using the Kenwood Excelon DNN990HD was simple enough.  There are the initial set ups for the system, such as language, iPod connection, any AV inputs, etc.  Then there is the audio setup section where you will set up the internal crossover points (if you will be using them), your speaker sizes, digital time alignment, graphic equalizer settings, etc.  You will also want to program in your favorite radio channels.  And do not forget to go online and set up your account with Kenwood.  This is where you can store any media files thru Dropbox on Kenwood's media servers, and you can customize your travel routes here as well. 
The user interface is sexy!  While it is similar to what has been used in the past, such as using the swipe motion, it has improved.  The resolution of the icons, the is just more refined looking.  And the use of the multiple pages works well, such as the multiple online sources.  You can switch from news feeds to calendar, email, Facebook, etc.  And you can also swipe to the different pages for source options, whether it be disc, HD Radio, YouTube, Phone, Pandora, or iPod, just to name a few.  The speech to text takes a little getting used to, but it works.
The DNN990HD was a great performer.  The tuner was about on par with other receivers.  Living in a more rural area, I was able to put it to the test.  Some stations it struggled with, but that is common.  HD Radio had a better sound than regular radio, as expected.
The CD/DVD transport also worked flawlessly.  There were no playback issues with either disc type.  Play, pause, fast forward, rewind, and track searching worked well.  Video playback was great.  The screen colors were vibrant with good resolution, although were not HD. 

The built-in amp worked great as well.  Sound quality of the built-in amp was good and got my coaxials bumping with good bass output for their size, that was clean.  I don't expect a lot from built-in amps, but they did their job well.
The built-in Garmin based navigation was also stellar.  I loved the 3D image view and lane assist.  The traffic option and plethora of points of interests was also handy, as was the text to speech and speech to text.  Not once did it get me lost, which is probably the best compliment for a GPS.  Being able to search for the cheapest local gas station is helpful.  And I thought it was really cool the way you can go online and create and track your routes.
Using the Wi-Fi functions also worked fantastically.  Once you are connected to Wi-Fi, you get weather, web browser, YouTube, online radio such as iHeart radio and Aupeo! radio, as well as news feeds, your email, Facebook, and Twitter.  It proved rather easy to use Facebook, emails, and watching YouTube videos, Google searches, or anything I tried.  I really liked the 80's channel in Aupeo!  Sound quality was good, but not as good as HD Radio.  But it is still another music option.
Kenwood has really hit this one out of the park in terms of usability, and options for you to enjoy as much different kinds of content as possible.  CD, DVD, SD cards, iPod, multiple usb devices, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, they are all there.  They even provided an AV output!  Why an AV output you may ask?  It is just another option for you to enjoy.  But for you football fans, imagine this:  run a line connected to the AV output to the back of your vehicle, and hook it up to a large TV.  Set up some lounge chairs for you and your buddies, and you are ready for the ultimate tailgating for the football season.  Kenwood lets you do it all!
The Kenwood DNN990HD really does have everything......except the kitchen sink.  It has everything you can think of that you need, as well as items you do not know you need but will wonder how you ever got along without.  All of this is done in a package that looks amazing and performs in spades.  Kudos to Kenwood for just raising the bar......again!  Based on its design, features, quality, and performance, the Kenwood DNN990HD has earned our Editor's Choice Award.  For more info and complete specs, check out their website at
Reference gear used: Kenwood Excelon DNN990HD Connected Navigation Entertainment Receiver, JL XD 600/6 Six Channel Class D Amplifier, Vibe Audio Stereo 4 Four Channel Class GH Amplifier, Vibe Audio Black Death Mono Class GH Subwoofer Amp, AudioControl  DQXS Electronic 6 Channel Active Crossover and Equalizer, Kicker Front Row Digital Signal Processor, German Maestro MS654010 3-Way Active Speaker System, Alpine SPX13-Pro Type-X 5.25" 2-Way Component Speaker System.  Massive Audio dual 8" DVC subwoofers.