Kenwood Sovereign Entré Entertainment Hub and DV-5900M DVD Player 
Home Theater Video Players DVD Players
Written by Brian Kahn   
Monday, 01 December 2003

Introduction
The Kenwood Sovereign Entré entertainment hub and Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M DVD-Audio Mega Changer combination is a high-tech source component system that bridges the gap between home theater and computer audio. While the changer can be used without the Entre’ hub, it really excels when the two are used together. The $1,400 DV-5900M is a feature-laden Mega-changer that need not make any excuses about quality. When the DV-5900M is connected to the $1,500 Entre hub, the already above-average graphical interface becomes remarkably advanced.

DV-5900M DVD Changer
The DV-5900M DVD-Audio changer has a huge array of features, quality and ease of use. This changer is relatively large in size, measuring approximately 17 inches in width, eight inches in height and 21 inches deep, weighing 23 pounds. It facilitates 403 CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, DVDs and/or DVD-Audio discs, including MP3-encoded CDs. Just about the only type of discs it won’t play are SACDs. The changer holds the discs in a tightly packed vertical orientation, with three widely spaced slots, dubbed the “rental zone,” for easy access. Other convenience features include the ability to daisy link three changers without sacrificing playback quality, an onscreen menu system, automatic disc titling, a 15-character dot matrix display and a keyboard remote control, in addition to a more normal full-featured remote and RS-232 control. The RS-232 port allows the changer to interact with the Entré hub discussed below. In addition to the RS-232 port, the Kenwood features the necessary inputs and outputs to daisy chain the digital, stereo analog, component composite and S-video signals from three changers. I noted that there was no capability to daisy chain the 5.1 analog signal, so your DVD Audio discs are limited to the first changer.

From reading the above, one might get the impression that the Kenwood is all flash, which is not so. The DV-5900M has real video and audio muscle. On the video side, it utilizes Faroudja’s FLI2200 and FLI2220 chip sets to provide high-quality progressive scan playback capabilities. (For more information on progressive scan and the Kenwood’s progressive scan capabilities, please see Bryan Southard’s review of the Kenwood Sovereign DV-5700 in the AudioRevolution archives.)

The Kenwood is no slouch in the audio department, either. In addition to the ubiquitous DTS and Dolby Digital decoding, the DV-5900M features bass-managed analog outputs for both DVD-Audio discs and those discs that were decoded by the internal DTS or Dolby Digital decoders. The DV-5900M’s digital outputs can pass a 24-bit/96kHz signal, while the internal DACs are rated at 24-bit/192kHz for the front left and right channels and 24-bit/96kHz for the remaining channels. The Kenwood is also capable of virtual surround and down-mixing with numerous setting options. The audio settings include dialog enhancement, dynamic range and a “Pure Audio” mode that turns off the video circuits.

Entré Entertainment Hub
The Entre’ is designed to be the hub of a networked entertainment system, providing integrated control of Kenwood Sovereign receivers and DVD changers in addition to music management. The Entré features a 20GB hard drive, internal CDR/CD-RW drive, Internet connectivity via a local network or the Entré's internal modem. I used the Kenwood Entré to control the Kenwood DV-5900M DVD changer, which provided me with an enhanced graphic interface system and increased functionality. The increased functionality and interface was significant. While the changer’s own graphic interface was adequate and in fact better than my older Sony CDX-850 changer, the Entre’s interface was a level beyond.

With the Entré connected to the DV-5900M, I loaded it with about 150 DVD videodiscs, a dozen DVD-Audio discs and a few CDs. The Entré detects when new discs are added and uses Openglobe to access the CDDB, Movie DB and Gracenote Internet databases. These databases identified over 90% of the discs. The Entre’ then sorted the music discs from the DVDs and placed them in alphabetical order. One potential shortcoming was that the Entré lists DVD-Audio discs as movies. Kenwood says this is a byproduct of the Internet databases and they anticipate proper recognition of DVD Audio discs as “Music” discs rather than “Movie” discs as the databases are updated.

The Entré menu categories include Movies, Music and Radio. The Movies category lists all the DVD movies in alphabetical order. The guide in the Music mode lists all the CDs in the connected changers, MP3s stored on the internal drive and any audio disc that may be in the internal drive. The Radio mode was the most surprising for me. If the Entré is connected to any Kenwood Sovereign receiver, the Radio mode lists all FM/AM stations received by the receiver’s tuner, as well as all available Internet radio stations. I was surprised to find music to listen to over Internet radio, as this had previously been an unreliable and ever-changing source of music. The Entré provided me with easy access to Sirius and Radio Free Virgin “radio stations” that were streamed over the Internet connection.

The Entré's connectivity also allows for transfer of music files from network-linked computers and to certain supported portable MP3 players. While there are numerous other innovative features, the last one I will mention is the CE-commerce feature. I did not register for this feature, but it allows one to order music via the remote control, so if you like what you are listening to, all you need to do is pick up the remote and voila, a few button pushes later, your new CD is on the way.

Set-up
The set-up of the Entré and DV-5900M is more complicated than a standard DVD player, but Kenwood has thankfully provided detailed manuals that walk you through various connection options. You will need more cables than normal to take full advantage of the Entre’s OSD, as you will need to route the video cables through the Entre’ to your processor. Kenwood also suggests that you set up an audiotape loop. However, the Entre’s only digital output is optical, and there are no provisions for 5.1 analog audio.

I connected the Entre’ to my computer network and Internet by utilizing the Home PNA connection. This connection allowed me to connect the Entre’ to a phone jack with an ordinary phone cable in my audio room. My router is in my home office, which is set up in a different room. In the home office room, I plugged a phone cable into the phone outlet on one side, and connected the other to a Netgear Home PNA to Ethernet adapter, and then into my router. All of the network connections were easily made in less than five minutes. This connection allowed the Entre’ to access the Internet and also transfer music files from my networked computer. Got all that?

Music and Movies
Shortly after loading the discs into the changer, some friends came over requesting to see “Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment). I easily found the disc in alphabetical order in the Entre’s OSD. While watching the video, I noted that the image was slightly less sharp than my reference Pioneer Elite DV-38A (all image settings at neutral or default positions). The difference was not great but was noticeable in an A-B comparison. I also took this opportunity to connect the DV-5900M’s component video outputs directly into my processor instead of through the Entre’. I am happy to say there was no signal degradation visible when going through the Entre’. The infamous pod racer scene gave the Kenwood the opportunity to show off its audio capabilities. While much of the audio quality comes from the processor, the processor needs a good digital signal to begin its work. In this scene, the spatial cues were all properly located and the bass was deep and detailed. The explosions and vibrations of the engines were detailed and never muddy.

Animation films can be torture on a DVD player’s video processing, so I decided to take a look at the newly released copy of “The Lion King” (Walt Disney Home Entertainment). The traditionally animated animals provided large areas of vibrant colors on the screen to examine. I noticed a very slight amount of video noise not apparent in my reference player when the Kenwood’s DNR control was in the neutral position. The Kenwood’s interlaced playback was very good and the slight softness can be sharpened up if desired by judicious use of the controls. (For information on progressive playback, please see Bryan Southard’s review of the DV-5700.)

Moving on to audio, I listened to both DTS-encoded CDs and DVD-Audio discs. DVD-Audio discs are where the player gets a workout, utilizing the player’s internal DACs rather than merely outputting the digital signal to be dealt with by the processor. I played Queen’s A Night at the Opera (DVD-A, DTS). The track opens with an accurately rendered guitar in the front that leads into vocals and a full band. The chorus on “The Prophet’s Song” fades in and out between channels, with smooth transitions indicating consistent decoding of the different channels. The highs on this track can sound grating on entry-level machines, but were smooth and open on the Kenwood.

I also played an old favorite of mine, Missy Elliot’s “So Addictive” DVD-Audio disc (Warner/Elektra). The track “Get Ur Freak On” remains one of my favorites and features a powerful and deep bass line. The opening seconds feature a chanting voice that circulates around all the channels. The channel-to-channel consistency confirmed my earlier listening observations that the Kenwood was able to remain consistent from channel to channel, despite the use of different DACs (24/192 for the front left and right, 24/96 for the remaining channels). I found the Kenwood’s DACs to be very detailed and smooth, which definitely helped in creating a sense of envelopment with multi-channel music. With this disc, I again found that the high end was extended and free of harshness or apparent grain. The bass lines on this track are as demanding as they are prolific. The Kenwood’s bass reproduction was extremely deep and full, with great resolving power that was only pushed at the very bottom end. This made the bass sound more full and powerful, with a slight reduction of clarity at the extreme bottom end. Overall, this player combo performed very well. It provides the flexibility and organization that we all desire, along with the sound and video quality that would make it a solid foundation for any high-quality AV entertainment system.

The Downside
The Entré and DV-5900M combination takes some time to learn to use properly, in order to take full advantage of all the available features. While I found it much easier to use than the previous generation of mega-changers, I would keep the manual handy if you want to use all of the recording and management features. My concern is that this is a cool piece that nearly everyone would be intrigued with, yet I am not convinced that the “electronically challenged” can grasp all of its splendor. With regard to logistics, the unit will take more space and needs to be located somewhere near your home network or a phone jack. While these should not be problems, some additional thought is required in the placement and set-up of this combination.

I would have liked to see some additional connections provided. On the Entré, a 5.1 pass-through and a coaxial digital output would have been nice. On the DV-5900M, a 5.1 analog input would allow DVD-Audio discs to be placed in the down-line, daisy-chained players without sacrifice.

Conclusion
The Kenwood Sovereign Entré and DV-5900M combination, at nearly $3,000, is not cheap but is a truly amazing source, placing CDs, DVDs, DVD-Audio discs, MP3s and Internet radio into one easy to use source without sacrificing quality. When I first received the unit for review, I thought it would just be a mega-disc changer that was easier to use than the norm. This combination surprised me as it also excels as an easy to use, audio/videophile DVD-Audio changer, as the exemplary playback quality is on a level that approaches that of the expensive single disc players. The added features of the Entré allow the advanced user the option of compiling and recording discs and accessing different music sources, but does not get in the way of the user seeking only a simple interface for the high-quality playback of movies or music on a variety of different disc formats.
Manufacturer Kenwood
Model Sovereign Entré Entertainment Hub and DV-5900M DVD Player
Reviewer Brian Kahn





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