|Kenwood Sovereign VR-5900 Receiver|
|Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers|
|Written by Bryan Southard|
|Monday, 01 April 2002|
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Receivers are better today than they have ever been; yet their reputation continues to be plagued by memories of low quality mass-market products of the past. A decade ago Japanese electronic manufactures had the reputation of churning out low quality inexpensive garbage-in-a-rack, a reputation that the better Japanese manufacturers have since worked hard to overcome. Today’s top performing receivers are substantial collections of advanced electronics that perform near the ultimate level, and provide convenience, excellent sound quality, and the most state-of-the-art features the industry has to offer all in a convenient compact package.
The Kenwood VR-5900 Audio/Video surround receiver resides at the top of the Kenwood line. It measures 17-5/16 in width, 16-3/8 inches in depth and seven-and-one-half inches tall with a net weight of 44 lbs. The retail price of the Kenwood VR-5900 is $3,000.
The Sovereign series is Kenwood’s reference line of components, a product line that provides consumers with a high performance option. Taking a close look at this piece, I rather liked its modern, rugged appearance. Its brushed black aluminum face looks somewhat industrial yet its design is unmistakably modern. The volume knob is a tad tough to turn, yet on the other hand felt precise and secure. Features such as a motor driven door that operates with the press of a button exposing control buttons, is an example of what gives this product a sense of exactness and precision.
I am simply amazed with feature-set provided in today’s top theater products. Many come with options that can take you months to assimilate. The VR-5900 is no exception. It comes with 24-bit 96 kHz D/A converters and today’s best DSP modes to include Dolby Digital, the new Dolby Digital Prologic II, DTS ES Surround and more. It also provides THX correction modes and wears the THX Ultra certification.
The Kenwood VR-5900 is 7.1 ready, allowing you to connect 7 speakers, two more than a standard 5.1 setup. The extra channels in the VR-5900 reproduce Surround Back Channel information when it is present in THX Surround EX- encoded DVDs or when it is synthesized by the DTS Neo: 6 mode. These two extra speakers are designed to be placed behind the listener. The only downfall to feature is the current lack of software that will support this added capability. There are just a small handful of audio and video releases that provide 7.1 information. For a touch of tomorrow’s technology, the VR-5900 provides analog audio inputs for DVD-Audio sources.
The VR-5900 features a dual room mode that is essentially a second A/V system in another independent room. This mode allows you to run a completely different and independent source simultaneously meaning that you can be watching a movie in your main room and either listen to music or watch a movie in surround in another room. Another cool feature is the VR-5900’s Midnight Theater Mode that limits very loud passages for viewing at hours that would otherwise disturb those either sleeping or disinterested. This eliminates the need to turn voices up and frantically turn the theater down for abrupt action.
Perhaps the most alluring feature of the VR-5900 is its PowerTouch III controller. This ultra-cool Palm-like interface has a large LCD display/touch-screen. Along with this rather large appliance comes a stylus that is very much like the ones provided in today’s PDA’s. Similar in nature to the Philips Pronto remote, the PowerTouch III allows you to completely customize your system. The manual seemed to navigate me adequately through the initial setup as I soon had all my devices programmed into the remote. A simple press of the DVD button would both switch the video source to the proper input, and switch the display screen to display a full function DVD remote. This is pretty cool. When I select Satellite, I am switched to Satellite TV and the satellite receivers remote functions are displayed on the LCD screen. The PowerTouch III provides codes for most all modern equipment, but in the event that the code is not available, it has a learn feature that can memorize functions from other remotes. The VR-5900 also provides you with the ability to program macro steps for custom install applications. The PowerTouch III gives you the ability to save your favorite radio stations and add text to your preset such as the radio station name or the name of the family member that saved it. Another feature allows you to configure custom windows, then password protect them so others can modify them or erase them. (Kid proof) These are just a few of this powerful remote’s available features.