|Kenwood Sovereign VR-5700 Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Wednesday, 01 October 2003|
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The Movies and the Music
After installing all of my components into the receiver and doing some basic settings for room size and type, I busted out the DVD player to watch some “Fight Club” (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment). The first rule of “Fight Club” should be to crank the volume on the Kenwood to see how much power this baby can dish out. When Edward Norton’s unnamed character is in his boss’s office, and decides to beat himself up and goes crashing into the glass table, the Dolby Digital Surround EX soundtrack was as powerful as the onscreen visuals. The sound was effortless and never sounded the least bit constrained or compressed even at obscene levels. The Dust Brothers’ musical score pumped through the Kenwood with ease and filled my room with ample amounts of volume. This bizarre, twisted adventure into the mind of a schizophrenic Joe-anybody who finally snaps looked great and was a breeze for the Kenwood to handle audibly. I am Jack’s Kenwood receiver …
Next up is the ultra-mega-cheesy yet technically spectacular “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” Widescreen Edition (Lucasfilm/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment). I was pleasantly surprised with the progressive video performance of the Kenwood DVD player through the VR-5700, but my goal with this disc was to see if I could easily follow the clunky dialog of the movie. The sound on the disc came through with superb clarity and I felt that the Kenwood easily powered all of the speakers in my 5.1 setup. The receiver automatically adjusted for the sound format that I chose to view the movie in (Dolby Digital 5.1 EX), which made life easy. All too often I’ve seen people with receivers that have many different sound features, yet forget to switch the inputs on the receiver to actually accept the correct input. With the auto-sensing feature, this is less likely to be an issue.
Since the Kenwood specifically has 5.1 analog inputs for DVD-Audio, I was excited to see how well it would work with the Kenwood DV-5700 DVD-Audio player. My previous experiences with DVD-Audio were on systems that were many times more expensive at trade shows and other reviewer’s higher-end systems, so I was very curious to see if the Kenwood/Paradigm system could compare. Beginning with Frank Zappa’s DVD-Audio disc Halloween (DTS Entertainment), I sat down to see if the Kenwood could transport me to the middle of New York City’s Palladium in 1978. The sound of the crowd enveloped me before the musical festivities even began and was full and energizing. This 5.1 mix sounded great and was both detailed and dynamic. The DV-5700 was capable of bringing this new format alive and at a reasonable price.
Cuing up the Rush’s new CD release, Vapor Trails (Studio) and the track “One Little Victory,” the thunderous drums and heavy guitar riff quickly engaged my ears, as the Paradigm Monitor 9’s were fed an abundance of clean juice by the VR-5700. Aided by the Paradigm PW-2200 subwoofer that had it’s own internal amplifier, this little stereo/sub combo was a relatively low priced powerhouse.
To hear the definition of the system using a much cleaner and subtler stereo recording, I put aside my musical preferences and put on The Counting Crows’ newest CD, Hard Candy (Geffen). You can sometimes be artificially biased when evaluating the sound of a system by just listening to music that you love, so I find if helpful to listen to music that I’m less emotionally invested in but I know is technically stellar to give me a better idea of how well the system is able to reproduce it. On the title track “Hard Candy,” Adam Duritz’s unique voice and David Bryson’s guitar rings through with so much more clarity and resolution than I had heard on my $699 Sony AVD-C70ES receiver that it became quite apparent to me that the extra dough for a receiver of this caliber was hugely worth it.
From a design standpoint, the front panel of the VR-5700 is very dark and some of the buttons and features are hard to see without adequate light. Fortunately, the layout is fairly intuitive so it becomes a “set it and forget it” component for the most part, but when it’s time to do some tweaking, you are going to need to be sure you have adequate light or a flashlight on hand.
The height of the unit and may be a problem for some people to fit into rack shelves or an entertainment center. I found that I had to do some serious equipment rearranging when switching from my shorter and slightly wider Sony receiver to the squattier Kenwood. It also ran much hotter than the Sony did. This is one of the tradeoffs of having oversized power supplies, but you’ll want to think about making sure the receiver has enough room to “breathe” and may want to think about the option of installing fans on the back of a rack near the receiver. It was never so hot that it caused the unit to shut down, but if you are stacking gear on top or under the VR-5700, do take note of the heat it generates.
The VR-5700 has only five channels of available amplification in a time when many if not most are now being outfitted for 7.1. Some are even shipping with 9.1. There are very few discs that are encoded in 7.1 surround sound and I don’t have the room in my system for side channel speakers but, due to the fact that the receiver has only five channels of power, you’ll need to run the pre-outs to a separate amplifier if you someday have the need. Kenwood does make an amp for this purpose, so it is an option that you can certainly add later, but just know this in advance if you are a surround sound junkie and simply have to have a true 7. 1 system.
The Kenwood Sovereign VR-5700 has just about every type of connection that you can think of. When shopping for a receiver, I want to be sure that I’m going to have enough connectivity for all of my components with room to spare in case I want to add another toy to the system. Aside from the lack of a second 5.1 analog input, which would be too much to expect from a receiver at this price point, the VR-5700 has as many input options as you could ask for.
With an instruction book that rivals “War and Peace” and a feature lineup longer than Oprah’s weekly grocery list, I still find myself learning more and more about the VR-5700, even after having it in my system for several months. Even with all the bells and whistles, Kenwood has found a way to make this receiver very intuitive and simple enough for the beginning user. The simple back panel layout made for a fairly easy, hassle-free installation with my existing equipment. The vast amount of options and settings do not intrude on the person who wants to just turn the receiver on, select the desired input, then happily channel surf or relax and watch a movie. This makes for a receiver that appeals to the geek who wants to be able to tweak out incessantly with it, but also is simple enough that other family members don’t have to have a degree in computer science to watch a DVD or play some video games. I found the VR-5700 to be a great value in its price class and a worthy investment for anyone looking for a receiver that will last the test of time.