We all know there are a ton of choices when it comes to selecting a new head unit for your ride. Deciding which one is the perfect choice is a personal decision - we all have different priorities when it comes to the features in our dash. Most of us start out by looking at models that have the basic functions we need, then the two main decision-making factors are usually cost and cosmetics. With a suggested retail price of only $189.99 (USD), the JVC KD-A845BT has the cost issue covered. That leaves cosmetics. Studies have shown that people choose a head unit because of the way it looks more than almost any other factor. The JVC product development team made sure this factor did not get overlooked when they designed the KD-A845BT. Read on.
The KD-A845BT is a single-DIN head unit with a removable faceplate. It is loaded with useful audio features such as 4.8-volt front, rear and subwoofer pre-outs and a front panel-mounted 1/8-inch auxiliary input. There are dual (front and rear) USB connections for a thumb drive and iPod/iPhone, a built in MOSFET power amp and DSP powered signal control. Bluetooth connectivity brings hands free telephony to the party, and of course it supports streaming audio from your Bluetooth-enabled phone as well.
The KD-A845BT is fully compatible with your iPod or iPhone and includes a Pandora app that works when your iPhone is connected via the USB cable. iPhone users can also take advantage of the Siri Eyes Free mode that allows you to use Siri for various things like search for songs, read text messages, or provide navigation instructions.
Android users aren’t left out either; they can use Pandora through a Bluetooth connection for full station selection, thumb up/down functions and even on-screen title display.
The KD-A845BT also has one of the most attention-getting “demo modes” I’ve seen in a long time. The unit not only changes the color of the display and buttons, but can do it in various segments across the face. In demo mode there is a wild (verging on annoying) display of all these colors flashing crazily. Sometimes things can be taken a bit too far, and this is a good example of that; but you can set the faceplate to one of 32 colors in five selectable areas, with six pre-set moving illumination patterns. The LCD display also has its own set of adjustments and you can set it to change color with the volume setting. Now I’m all for personalization, and matching your dash colors, but wow, does anyone really need three different button colors going across the radio face? Either this borders on gimmicky, or I’m just getting old.
But when you have a look at the advertised specifications, the KD-A845BT takes things a bit more seriously. A CEA-2006 rated amplifier, and 4.8-volt pre-outs give you an idea that this unit will deliver when it comes to your music.
To get things dialed in to suit your car and personal tastes, the KD-A845BT offers the choice of a built-in, three-band PRO EQ with selectable frequency, level, and Q settings, or the Easy EQ which includes six available preset curves. If you decide to set things yourself, you have the ability to select one of four frequencies in the three bands of adjustment, and then adjust the filter Q and amount of boost or cut. While it’s not a precision equalizer by any means, it’s much more useful than a typical tone control. Sources can also be level matched to prevent large differences in volume levels when switching sources. On the front and rear preamp outputs, a high-pass filter is available with frequencies of 100, 120, and 150 Hz. The subwoofer preamp outputs also have their own set of controls, with low-pass crossover frequencies at 55, 85, and 120 Hz, plus a subwoofer output level control with an adjustment range of +8 to -8.
And here is a feature I’ve never seen before (and I’m not sure I’ll see again) – the KD-A845BT has an internal timer to turn on the radio to a particular station, at a set time either once, daily or weekly. I suppose it’s a cool feature if you have a radio show you can’t miss.
Other popular and useful features include Sirius/XM compatibility, and a steering wheel control input.
In terms of functionality and ergonomics, the JVC KD-A845BT works pretty well. Some of the buttons are a bit small and close together, but under normal conditions the controls are easy to find and have good tactile feedback. Menu navigation is reasonably logical and the software does a good job of identifying what function you’re adjusting. A small IR remote control comes included, and is so well designed that it can be used without looking at it.
The display is fairly basic in terms of actual design, using the Union Jack/starburst system of LCD segmentation, but it displays the most important information just fine. The CD takes a bit of time to start playing, with the display flashing “READING,” but the delay is only a few seconds.
I set up the KD-A845BT in my listening room, using the front pre-outs to drive my reference amplifier, and the subwoofer outputs to drive a separate amp for my subwoofer. After a bit of basic level setting and ensuring everything is set flat, I get down to listening. In terms of sonic performance, the JVC KD-A845BT sounds excellent in CD mode. The unit has very low noise, plenty of output, and good stereo separation. On very intimate tracks like the Cowboy Junkies Sweet Jane, which was recorded in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto, all the space and reverb in the room is reproduced well. Changing sources to my iPod and using 320 kb/s AAC tracks, the sonic characteristics are still excellent, and searching for tracks is quite fast.
Using a track with an 18 Hz note on it, I notice from the woofer cone movement that the head unit has good bottom-end output, which should please bass-heads on a budget out there. This flat, low-end response is fairly uncommon at the lower price points, so kudos to JVC for paying attention. The FM tuner section of the KD-A845BT is pretty good too, with strong, clear reception and good sound.
ON THE BENCH
When the listening was over, I moved to the test bench to get the numbers out of the unit. The RCA outputs measure at a very healthy 3.6 volts at 1.0 % THD, and the S/N was excellent, at almost -88 dB A-Wtd. Frequency response was very flat from below 20 Hz to well over 20 kHz.
The JVC KD-A845BT has a retail price of under $200 and a seriously good preamp section, making it a great value for someone wanting a high-performance audio source on a budget. Add the iPhone functionality and it almost becomes a no-brainer – that is, if you don’t mind dialing down the disco light show that the faceplate performs. But once tamed to a normal, functional display, the KD-A845BT simply becomes a great source for your music. As part of the JVC Arsenal line, the unit comes with a full two-year warranty as well. Drop in to your local JVC dealer and check one out for yourself. You certainly won’t miss it in the display board!