Product Review (November 2002) - Kenwood Sovereign
Entre Entertainment Hub and
DV-5900M 400+3 Disc DVD Audio/Video Changer

Kenwood's new Sovereign line represents the company's move towards creating a sophisticated A/V system that will completely change the way you control your audio and home theater. Each Sovereign product is rich in features and when connected to one another, unleashes impressive capabilities. We evaluate two Sovereign products in this review — the Kenwood Sovereign Entré Entertainment Hub and the Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400 + 3 Disc DVD Audio/Video Changer. While Kenwood also has an A/V receiver designed to work with these products, we didn't have it as part of this review. However, even without the receiver, these two components performed amazingly well and certainly changed the way we view home entertainment. When the Entré is connected to a DV-5900M DVD/CD changer, it will gather both DVD and CD information, cover art and Disc Title/Track Title information for practically every disc in your collection. In addition, it will organize and display this compiled information so you can find and enjoy your favorite discs with simple remote commands.

Kenwood Sovereign Entré Entertainment Hub
The Kenwood Sovereign Entré has the most potential of any Sovereign product and certainly more features than meet the eye. The Entré connects to the Internet and uses the OpenGlobe and Gracenote® gateways to access a wide range of services, including DVD & CD databases, Internet radio, entertainment news and CE-Commerce™. While it looks like a simple CD player, the Entré has the ability to store hundreds of hours of MP3 files on its internal 20 GB hard drive. Actual storage time will vary depending on the compression setting (96 to 320 kbps). The default recording rate is 128 kbps, but we found the 320 kbps setting produced the best sound quality for obvious reasons. The built-in CD/RW drive worked well, giving the user several recording options including the ability to make a copy to another disc or "rip" an MP3 version to the internal hard drive. Once the song list is saved, the system lists the CD in the appropriate music category for future access. Simply highlight the CD you want to play and you're listening to your favorite music instantly. You can even compile music for several portable MP3 players by using the front panel USB connection to download the data directly into the portable unit. The Entré can recognize most of the CDs stored in either the Entré CD-R/RW drive or the DV-5900M changer by linking to the Gracenote® CDDB database over the Internet. The CD song list is displayed along with the cover art. It really was impressive to see all of the disc information along with the CD artwork. Internet radio was equally simple and offered a large selection of channels including the broadband-based Sirius Satellite Radio stations.

Connectivity
As part of the initial setup of the Entré, the user must define the type of Internet connection that will be used for accessing the databases and other online services. Three different options exist for the Internet connection: a standard phone line for dial-up access, a HomePNA (HPNA) connection and a USB port (2 on back one in front). AOL is not compatible with this system, but Earthlink's ISP will work fine. The second option uses the same phone line, but instead uses a HPNA network system. The HPNA network is similar to how DSL carries data on the phone line without actually using the phone service. However, it modulates the data above the spectrum used by DSL systems, so it will work with existing DSL services. However, some DSL service providers place filters in the phone lines that may filter out the carrier used by the HPNA system. One should check this before committing to using the HPNA system. We relied upon a Netgear (model PE 102) HPNA bridge to gain access to our already existing cable modem using Ethernet Once the connection to the Internet was established, the user must go through a series of self-driven menus on the screen to setup the connection. This sounds complicated, but it is quite simple and worked great for us. In fact, anyone who has used a product similar to DirecTV should have no problem getting the system up and running. If they do, Kenwood provides full customer support for this product. We did find that we had to have the HPNA unit connected directly to our cable modem due to the firewall built into our router. There are several menus for the network interface that help determine the connection properties. Surprisingly, there's even a section for screen adjustments. Here the Entré provides the reference patterns needed for calibrating the display. PLUGE (Picture Line-Up Generation Equipment), Needle point, color bars and a sharpness screen are provided to maximize picture quality.

The Entré communicates with the DV-5900M changer using a standard RS232 cable provided with the unit. During the initial setup, the Entré collected information from both CDs as well as DVDs stored in the changer and then compares the information with the Gracenote CDDB and Open Globe MovieDB databases. Information such as song list, total playing time, ratings, general descriptions, genre, as well as cover art for each disc is downloaded from the sites. However, not all movie discs were recognized by the automatic setup. In fact, about 20 percent of the discs were flagged as "Unknown DVD". Fortunately, using the Options menu for the unknown titles, I was able to get the Open Globe database to find the information. Heck, even the Kenwood Sovereign demo disc was in the database. We were told that many of the discs that have multiple versions (Dolby Digital, DTS, Special Editions, Etc.) cause this problem.

The component video from the DV-5900M CD/DVD changer is passed-through the Entré on its way to the display. The reason for this is the Entré either switches to the DV-5900M video or displays its own video. This is how Kenwood decided to implement the two components in a seamless fashion. The approach works well and because the video switching is capable of passing a high bandwidth signal, we didn't see any video degradation. A Pass-through button on the remote allows the user to switch between the two video sources at any time. This can come in handy if you want to see what the Entré is doing while the DVD/CD changer is actively displaying something.

The size and button placement on the remote for the Entré was logical and easy to follow. The buttons for Music, Movies, and Internet Radio were labeled well. I liked the way the navigation buttons worked, particularly with the many menus this system has.

The Entré is a powerful unit with a lot of built-in features. This component offers a large number of features including the ability to download the latest system software upgrades on demand. In fact, we downloaded the latest software update the night we received the unit from Kenwood. The Entré is basically a powerful computer with a friendly user interface. As with almost all computers, there were a few occasions where we caused the system to freeze and had to initiate a system reboot by holding down the power button on the front panel. This was rather infrequent and was always rectified once the system was reset.

Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M DVD Audio/Video Changer
The Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M is massive component both physically and functionally and is like no other product we've seen in the past. The 403 disc capacity gives consumers ample amounts of storage space for their DVD and CD collection. Kenwood's Rental Zone™ has three slots in the carousel, complete with separate Play and Eject controls for each disc for easy insertion and removal without disturbing the more permanent collection. This was the very first player certified by Faroudja to meet their high video standards. The Sage/Faroudja video processing chips used in this changer, remove the jagged "staircase" artifacts associated with processing progressive scan video. The result is progressive scan video with enhanced subtle details and colors creating a picture with film-like attributes. Besides being highly attractive to videophiles due to its video processing, the DV-5900M has the ability to flip double-sided DVDs, which is something we've not seen in any product in this class. The DV-5900M is compatible with a large number of formats including DVD Video (Dual sided), DVD-Audio, CD, CD-R, CD-RW and MP3 encoded media. This changer was also able to playback VCD and SVCD we recorded on our Data-Video DVR-3000 review unit. DVD-Audio as well as DTS and Dolby Digital bitstreams are decoded inside this player and make use of the six channel analog outputs on the rear panel.

Aside from the massive 403 disc capability, the video processing in the DV-5900M is by far the most attractive attribute of this product. The highly regarded Sage/Faroudja DCDi Deinterlacer and Video Enhancer chips (FLI2200 and FLI2220) are used for the high performance progressive scan outputs. First, the MPEG video is decoded by the Panasonic (Matsushita) MN677521HB chip and then sent to the FLI2200 deinterlacing chip. This high performance deinterlacer uses a 16Mbit SDRAM for storing multiple fields of video for cadence-reading of the 3:2 pulldown sequences. While the implementation is not cheap, the results are stunning, and far better than strictly relying on the sometime erroneous repeat flags stored in the video stream. To further improve video performance, the FLI2220 video enhancer chip is added to the video chain. The back-end audio processing uses the Burr Brown (now TI) PCM1602KY 6-channel 192KHz/24-bit delta-sigma DAC for the six channel outputs. Kenwood actually chose to use the better of the two parts available with this part number. This is an impressive move on Kenwood's part and reflects their commitment to detail in the back-end audio design. The 2-channel mix line outputs use the Burr Brown PCM1748E 96KHz/24-bit DAC.

The rear panel has the standard DVD interfaces that include component, s-video and composite video as well as 5.1 analog outputs for the DVD-Audio and decoded DTS and Dolby Digital bitstreams. All connectors are gold plated to ensure a good, long-term connection. Digital audio is offered in both Toslink and coaxial. Unfortunately, the power cord is not detachable, which would have certainly made it easier to connect in the limited amount of space we had to work with. The changer is quite large, not only in width and height, but in depth as well. I could barely get the huge changer to fit in my custom-made cabinets. Be sure to check dimensions before you decide to put it into an existing cabinet in your system.

The remote for the DV-5900M was painful for me to get used to. I didn't particularly like the layout and I found the buttons to be somewhat non-intuitive. Chapter search buttons were stacked on top of each other rather than being placed left and right. However, the orange colored power button was useful in our dimly lit room.

Many of the new DVD-Audio players currently on the market lack bass management features, which can cause some problems for satellite/sub speaker systems such as ours. The DV-5900M includes bass management for its analog outputs, but we preferred using an outboard unit to handle this due to the rather high crossover frequency (100Hz) used in this unit. We currently have an M&K BMC mini Bass Management Controller that uses the 80 Hz crossover point.

Video performance was excellent on the DV-5900M and the benefits of the Faroudja processing were rather obvious. Scenes from the introduction of Star Trek's Insurrection showed excellent deinterlacing processing. The scene where the children are jumping through the straw looked detailed and the sloped roofs of the structures were free from jagged edges. Color rendition was superb, exemplifying the performance of DVDs such as Toy Story. The unit did take considerable time to change a disc and almost just as long to start playing it once it was selected. On certain discs we could hear the changer humming quite loudly, but it never affected performance in any way. This seemed to occur only in the beginning when the disc is spinning at the highest rate. As long as the unit is in a cabinet, this shouldn't be a problem.

Listening to 5.1 DVD-Audio is a very different experience than standard two channel recordings because so much of the ambiance is created by the mixing engineer. No longer is the music limited to the imaging of the front two channels. These new DVD-Audio discs bring you right into the middle of the music. We had several new discs as part of this review including Fleetwood Mac's Rumors and the Eagles' Hotel California. These are two classic recordings we always enjoy listening to. These 70's recordings sound excellent on DVD-Audio. Even when transferring the old analog tapes to the DVD-Audio format, the highest fidelity is preserved for us end-users. It's simply wonderful. Another great DVD-Audio disc provided to us is a collection of jazz cuts from various movies called "The Bedroom Mixes" - Jazz at the Movies. The brass in this recording is very clean without an edgy side heard in poor recordings. The DV-5900M delivered reference quality sound from this superb audio format. Kenwood engineers did a great job designing this huge DVD/CD changer and the quality of the audio would impress many critics. The internal DTS and Dolby Digital decoders worked perfectly with our demo material.

As movie and music collections become very large, the need to organize becomes important. The Kenwood Sovereign Entré both archives music as well as controls your A/V setup while the DV-5900M provides the massive disc storage needed to complete the system. Kenwood's Sovereign line integrates complex components and is certainly worth more than the sum of its parts. As an integrated system, the features are rich and powerful especially with the connection to the Internet databases. Information provided by Open Globe and the CDDB sites proved to be very impressive. The system is geared for the more serious home theater enthusiasts willing to pay for the luxury of an integrated set of electronics. Even so, the cost is fairly reasonable for the performance. As with any complex system, there were some glitches we ran into, but most of them were fairly benign. Kenwood's Sovereign line is a giant leap forward in providing consumers with a fully integrated audio and home theater system. The bar for home entertainment has certainly been raised once again.
- Kevin Nakano


Latest Information from Kenwood regarding their Sovereign Products

The following information was provided to us by Kenwood's PR rep.

NEW SOFTWARE FOR KENWOOD SOVEREIGN ENTRÉ ENABLES CONTROL OF THREE DVD CHANGERS AND PERMITS CONTROL BY CRESTRON®

Free Online Upgrade For Current Entré Owners; Company Also Announces Technology Upgrade for DVD MegaChangers, Free For Current Owners

LAS VEGAS, January 9, 2003 - Kenwood announced a major software upgrade for the Kenwood Sovereign Entré Entertainment Hub, enabling the Entré to control up to three Kenwood Sovereign 400-disc DVD changers with Rental Zone™ simultaneously, and, for the first time, allowing devices made by Crestron and other manufacturers to interface with and control the Entré. Kenwood demonstrated the software, including the three changer support feature, here today at the Consumer Electronics Show.

The company also announced a technology upgrade for its 400-disc DVD megachangers and said those who had previously purchased the megachangers would be able to obtain the upgrade free from Kenwood.

Brian Towne, director of product management for Kenwood USA, said the new Version 2.0 software for Entré would be in new products beginning in April and that current Entré owners would automatically be upgraded with the software at no charge when using the Entré's built-in online services capability, powered by OpenGlobe technology.

Towne said the Version 2.0 for Entré also includes changes to the user interface, such as fast, one-button access to media information stored in the Entré. In addition, third-party control devices can now interface with the Entré using either its USB or Home PNA port with an Ethernet adapter.

"These new features will make Entré and other Kenwood Sovereign components even more suitable for installations in high-end integrated home systems," said Towne. "Of particular importance is the addition of three-changer support, a feature we've had a lot of requests for."
Towne said the technology upgrade for Kenwood DVD megachangers, affecting models DV-5900 and DVD-5050, would make disc loading 20 percent faster and would make layer changes (needed when playing 2-layer discs) 59 percent faster. Damping to reduce noise caused by elliptical discs (discs which have a slightly off-center hole) has also been added.

New DVD megachangers shipped in March will incorporate the new improvements, Towne said, and beginning at that time, current owners can receive the technology upgrade to their changers at no cost by contacting Kenwood customer service and shipping the unit to Kenwood's service center.

Review System

Display - Pioneer Elite PRO-610HD 58-inch HD-Ready TV (ISF calibrated)
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Front Speakers - Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers - Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole® Surround Speakers
Subwoofer - Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments - Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box - RCA DTC100 HDTV/DSS Satellite Receiver
DVD/CD/SACD Player - Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
Laserdisc Player - Pioneer Elite CLD-99 Laserdisc Player
VCR - Mitsubishi HS-U82 S-VHS VCR
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables
Video Generator - Sencore VP300 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Color Analyzer - Sencore CP288 ISF Certified Color Analyzer


Review at a glance
Kenwood Sovereign - Entré Entertainment Hub

GENERAL FEATURES

  • Controls Kenwood Sovereign 400-Disc DVD Changers: via RS-232 Connection
  • Controls Kenwood Sovereign Receivers: via RS-232 Connection
  • PC Application: Allows Management for Entré Program Meta-Data Information Remotely via PC
  • Instant On/Off (no "Booting")
  • Internal CD-R/RW Drive
  • Internal Hard Disk Drive: 20GB
  • Internal Modem: v.90 (56kbps)
  • Internet Connection: via OpenGlobe, Inc. Gateway
  • Manages Digital Media: CDs, CD-R/RWs, DVDs, MP3 Files, and Internet Radio
  • Multi-Room Capability via Home PNA 2.0 Connection: with Optional Kenwood Remote Audio Player
  • On-Screen Graphical User Interface: Formatted for 1.33:1 TV Screens

    OPENGLOBE FEATURES
  • No Monthly Fee for OpenGlobe Services
  • Provides Gateway for CE-Commerce™: upon User Registration
  • Provides Gateway for Internet Radio, Gracenote® CDDB, MovieDB® and FCC Info Databases
  • Provides Gateway to Internet

    MP3 FEATURES

  • Automactic Internet-Based Titling During MP3 Creation: via Gracenote CDDB Database
  • Creates ('Rips') MP3 Files: from User-Owned Software (CDs, etc.)
  • MP3 Compression Rates: 96/128/160/192/320kbps (128kbps Default)
  • Records Conventional CD-R/RW Discs: via Internal CD-R/RW Drive
  • Records MP3-Encoded CD-R Discs: via Internal CD-R/RW Drive
  • MP3 File Transfer Capability: via Portable Players via USB Connection

    INTERNET RADIO FEATURES
  • Automatic Station Link Confirmation: Minimizes Downtime and Buffer Problems
  • Available Stations: 3,000+ (tentative)
  • Connection to Personal Computer not Required
  • Streaming Radio via Tuning Service

    GRACENOTE CDDB MUSIC RECOGNITION FEATURES
  • Available CD Titles: 800,000+
  • Available Song Titles: 10,000,000+
  • Downloadable Genre, Cover Art Information

    MOVIEDB DVD-VIDEO MOVIE RECOGNITION FEATURES
  • Available DVD Titles: 6,500+
  • Downloadable Chapter Title Information
  • Downloadable Genre, Rating, Cover Art Information

    COMMUNICATIONS FEATURES

  • Cable Modem Access: Ethernet via USB Connection (with Commercially-Available Converter)
  • Dial-Up Access: via Internal Modem
  • DSL Access: Ethernet via USB Connection (with Commercially-Available Converter)

    CONNECTION FEATURES
  • Analog Audio Outputs: Left/Right
  • Digital Audio Inputs: 2 (1 Coaxial, 1 Optical)
  • Digital Audio Outputs: 1 (Optical)
  • Home PNA 2.0 RJ11 Connector
  • RS-232 Connector: 2
  • Stereo Analog Audio Inputs: Left/Right
  • Telephone Pass-Thru Connector
  • USB Connector
  • Video Input/Output Connectors for On-Screen Display

    KENWOOD SOVEREIGN 400-DISC DVD CHANGER CONTROL
  • Aggregates Title Information for GUI Display
  • Automatically Collects CD & DVD Title Information from CDDB and MovieDB Databases
  • Controls Transport Functions of up to 3: coming soon

    KENWOOD SOVEREIGN RECEIVER CONTROL FEATURES
  • Aggregates Info for all In-Range FM/AM Stations for GUI Display: via FCC Database
  • Controls FM/AM Tuner Functions

    MULTI-ROOM FEATURES
  • Provides Up to 4 Simultaneous Independent Audio Streams
  • Internet Radio and/or Compressed Audio Files Stored on Internal Hard Disk
  • Requires Axcess Remote Portal: up to 4

    INCLUDED ACCESSORIES
  • Remote Control
  • RS-232 Cable

    Kenwood Sovereign Entré Entertainment Hub
    Source: Manufacture loan
    Serial Number: 10900405
    MSRP: $1,750
    Weight: 14.5 pounds
    Dimensions: 11-3/4 x 17-1/2" x 4-1/2" (LxWxH)
    Warranty: 1 year parts and labor

    Company Information
    Kenwood USA Corporation
    P.O. Box 22745
    Long Beach, CA 90801
    1-800-KENWOOD
    URL: www.kenwoodusa.com


    Kenwood Sovereign - DV-5900M DVD Audio/Video Changer

    GENERAL FEATURES

  • Daisy-Chain Control Terminal: Stereo Mini Connector
  • Finish: Midnight Black
  • Full-Function 10-Key Remote: with Joystick Control
  • On-Screen Menu System
  • Status Display: 15-Character Dot Matrix

    AUDIO FEATURES

  • 24-Bit, up to 96kHz Digital Output Capability
  • 5.1-Channel Analog Outputs: for DVD Audio and Dolby Digital/DTS-Decoded Signals
  • Digital Audio Input: 1 (Coaxial, for Daisy-Chaining)
  • Digital Audio Output: 2 (1 Coaxial, 1 TOS-link Optical)
  • Digital to Analog Converter: 24-Bit Resolution, up to 192kHz Sampling (L&R)
  • Digital to Analog Converter: 24-Bit Resolution, up to 96kHz Sampling (C/LS/RS/Sub)
  • Dolby Digital: built-in Decoder
  • DTS Digital Surround: built-in Decoder
  • Pure Audio Mode
  • RCA Audio Inputs: L&R, for Daisy-Chaining
  • RCA Audio Outputs: L&R Mix, for Dolby Digital/DTS 2-Ch Downmixed and Stereo Audio Signals
  • Virtual Surround: 2-Stage

    PERFORMANCE FEATURES

  • Twin Focus Laser Pickup

    DVD FEATURES

  • Camera Angle Selection
  • Dialog Language Function
  • Dual-Side Play
  • Frame Advance
  • Parental Control
  • Plays DVD Audio, DVD Video, CD, CD-R, CD-RW and MP3-Encoded CD-R/RW Discs
  • Rental Zone 3-Disc Storage & Playback
  • Slow Motion Play
  • Still Frame
  • Subtitle Function

    DISC PLAYBACK FEATURES
  • Digital Filter: 8-Times Oversampling
  • Disc Capacity: 400 Discs
  • Disc Sensing
  • Noise Shaping: 3rd-Order
  • PC Link Net Namer Automatic Title Downloading
  • Play Exchange: 399 Discs
  • Precision Digital Timing (DPAC)
  • Programmable Memory: CD
  • Random Play: CD
  • Repeat Play
  • Search

    VIDEO FEATURES
  • Digital Video Enhancer: Faroudja
  • Gamma Control
  • Multiple Video Aspect Ratios
  • Picture Mode Control: Normal/Cinema/Soft/Fine
  • Progressive Scan Deinterlacer: by Faroudja, with DCDi™
  • Video Digital to Analog Converter: 10-Bit
  • Video Inputs: 1 Component, 1 S-Video (for Daisy-Chaining)
  • Video Outputs: 1 Component, 1 S-Video, 1 Composite

    CUSTOM INSTALLATION FEATURES
  • IR Control Terminal: Stereo Mini Connector
  • IR Title Data Input/Output
  • RS-232 Control Input: for KMC-1 Control and PC Link NetNamer

    INCLUDED ACCESSORIES
  • Coaxial Digital Cable Composite Video Cable
  • Daisy-Chain Cable
  • IR Data Cable
  • IR Keyboard Remote Control
  • RS-232C Cable
  • S-Video Cable
  • Stereo Audio Cable

    Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M
    Source: Manufacture loan
    Serial Number: 95105008
    MSRP: $1,400
    Weight: 22.9 pounds
    Dimensions: 21-3/4 x 17-5/16" x 8" (LxWxH)
    Warranty: 1 year parts and labor

    Company Information
    Kenwood USA Corporation
    P.O. Box 22745
    Long Beach, CA 90801
    1-800-KENWOOD
    URL: www.kenwoodusa.com

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