My listening evaluation of the KIV-BT900 went very well, the unit sounded great with either my iPod or USB thumbdrive as the source. It should be noted, however, that to get great output with any player you need to have high quality input, so if you’re ripping stuff at 96kbit/s it’s still going to sound like it. With good quality 256kbit/s files, I noted a flat, accurate response, with excellent detail and very little background noise. Vocals were natural and the timbre of instruments was easy to identify. The high voltage pre-amp outputs also provided nice and hot signals to my amplifiers, which allowed me to use reduced amp gain, further enhancing the signal to noise and dynamic range of my system. The audio adjustment functions can be accessed while playing, and it was interesting to play with several different adjustments and listen to the effects in real time. And compared to some other units I have played with, the Kenwood gets very high marks in ease of use and functionality when it comes to the signal processing and general setup. Suffice to say there is more adjustment capability in this source unit than I used to have in my pro-audio rack doing live concert sound, and the logically arranged menus mean you don’t have to jump through burning hoops to quickly find what you need. The thing that kept coming to mind while playing with the KIV-BT900 was how sensible it is, and that translates to it just being a pleasure to use.
ON THE BENCH
Moving from the listening room into the lab, the Kenwood underwent the usual battery of tests, measurements and checks. All in all, it performed very well, and posted quite respectable numbers. All of the controls and functions performed as advertised and with very good accuracy, as you’d expect with a modern digitally powered unit. My only minor quibbles were the rather mundane preamp output impedance of 255 ohms, and the internal power amp fell about 1dB shy of the advertised 22 watts per channel.
Kenwood has spent some time and effort successfully designing a unit that makes a lot of sense. It’s easy to live with during day-to-day use, and provides a very high level of sound quality. With all of the available tuning functionality and the convenience and safety of hands free telephony, I have no doubt the KIV-BT900 is going to be a big hit with audio enthusiasts and commuters alike.