|Kenwood Sovereign VR-5900 Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Bryan Southard|
|Monday, 01 April 2002|
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The manual navigates you through your system setup with relative ease. After you input your speaker size, the number of speakers that are being used, and adjust the volume levels, the VR-5900 calculates the timing delays and you are off to the races. One of my greater peeves today is the very complicated setup of many home theater products especially some receivers and AV preamps. In this day and time it’s becoming very difficult for John P. Average to set up and optimize their own theater system. I simply don’t understand this phenomenon. With all the high technology of the twenty first century, manufacturers need to figure out how to design more friendly interfaces. I would rate the VR-5900 as one of the easier setups yet I’m quite sure that a novice could not set up and optimize this product. This isn’t a knock on this product, but rather an industry wide issue.
Movies and Music
Looking for something a tad from the ordinary, I cued up Spinal Tap (MGM), the Rob Reiner directed rock and roll cult classic. This movie affords me the opportunity to supply some volume and a sizable load for the Kenwood VR-5900. In the song "Big Bottom," a song complete with such brilliant lyrics as "Talk about mud flaps, my baby’s got ‘em," my RBH loudspeakers kicked at extreme volumes without any true signs of running out of gas. This is particularly important because the wattage ratings of today receivers tell little about their ability to drive your loudspeakers. There can be a huge difference between two different manufacturers receivers, even if they reference the same wattage rating. RBH loudspeakers aren’t necessarily a difficult load, yet are far from the easiest speaker to drive. The bass in this chapter remained open and lacked compression even at extreme volumes. High frequencies lacked the edginess most typically associated to poor or underpowered amplifiers. I was actually surprised by how well this receiver performed. I have long considered receivers to be a small-time solution for home theater when compared to higher priced separate components, a theory that the VR5900 has since proven erroneous. They perhaps don’t supply the ultimate performance of the mega-thousand dollar separate preamp/amp combinations, but they supply a good percentage and at a fraction of the price.
One of the better thrillers of the past couple years, What Lies Beneath (Dreamworks), provided me a good taste of what this product is all about. The Kenwood VR-5900 sounded well balanced. It’s midrange is weighty yet seemingly agile and transparent. This was probably the biggest surprise to me as this represents the area that most all receivers can fall apart. The high frequency however could tend to lack some sweetness at higher volumes. I played with a variety of source materials and later found that this is partially due to the fact that the VR-5900’s top end is exceptionally revealing. With good source material and quality speakers to match, this effect would be a non-issue in most all systems.
In scenes where low frequency information is combines with high frequency detail, the VR-5900 managed to separate them nicely. A couple times I felt the aural images blur at high volumes, but this was something that I would expect from any receiver at any price.
After navigating through the VR-5900’s bass management feature, I was ready to test its 24/96 capability with the DVD-Audio version of Buena Vista Social Club (WEA/Atlantic). In the song "Chan Chan," the drums were set back and separated nicely, integrating superbly with the rest of the information. The stage was well formed both in width and depth. It had a surprising well-developed three-dimensional image. DVD-Audio is always impressive but this test proved that you can have big-time music reproduction from a relatively inexpensive DVD-A player and a $3,000 packaged receiver - a wake up call for all of those that still unsure if this new high-resolution format is really a worthy improvement. Compared to the 16/44 version of this cut, the reproduction was considerably better. It had superior detail and transparency, a difference that the most novice would not only notice, but would be thrilled about. The VR-5900 once again sounded like a piece of electronics at the top of its game.
As much as I loved the PowerTouch III controller interface for its flexibility, programmability, and downright coolness, its size will turn some off. Measuring six-and-a half inches, by five inches, by two inches deep, this remote is not one that will sit easily on your lap like most remotes. A nearby table will do the trick. I couldn’t help but wonder why it needed to be so large considering the diminutive size of the Philips Pronto, one of today’s stronger references in affordable programmable LCD remotes.
Lets say goodbye to the reputation of cheap low quality electronics that plagued mainstream audio-video manufacturers like Kenwood for so many years. The VR-5900 is a solidly made instrument with today’s very best and up to date features. Its $3,000 price tag is on the high side of receivers today, yet the performance and build quality clearly justifies the price. Movies and music were energetic and detailed, lacking the painful grit of yesteryears receivers. In my eyes, this is the product for those that want ultimate performance at a reasonable price point. The VR-5900 has the power to drive the tough loads of many speakers without fatigue, and the features to keep your system state-of-the-art for years to come. For those that want the utmost performance from single chassis, and either don’t have the time or availability to audition receivers, the Kenwood VR-5900 is great choice. Perhaps a sizable receiver purchase, yet one I am certain you will not regret.