JVC KW-XR810 Bluetooth/USB/CD Receiver Review


Overview

JVC KW-XR810JVC's double-DIN KW-XR810 is a USB/CD receiver with a lot of connectivity options – from USB, to iPod, iPhone and other devices. Bluetooth technology gives you hands-free phone calling or audio streaming from your mobile phone, and expansion options include three preamp outputs and the easy addition of HD or satellite radio.

Striking a fine balance between style and features, JVC’s KW-XR810 offers plenty of customization options that you don’t find on other double DIN car stereos.  As the icing on the cake, you'll enjoy superior sound quality from all your music sources.

Review

Display & Looks

This JVC KW-XR810 has an attractive, glossy look, without being flashy. It almost looks like a stock unit, which goes a long way in not attracting the attention of thieves.

You can choose display colors to match your dash, with separate settings for the display and the buttons, in addition to choosing negative and positive backlighting. Since the display can be hard to read in very bright daylight, we recommend that you choose amongst the brightest colors in order to make it more visible.

But the clincher is really the ability to choose day- and night-specific brightness levels, which activates based on time of day or with your headlight switch. No more distracting multi-colored light show at night… Isn’t that awesome?

Interface

The JVC KW-XR810 has a very easy and intuitive navigation, which is all the more impressive considering all the features. You have large dedicated buttons for preset radio stations, which is a great plus if you’re a big radio listener. The buttons make the nested menus easy to navigate, especially when using USB mass storage with thousands of songs.

What’s even better is the ability to hide infrequently used menu options using Setup. You can truly customize the KW-XR810 interface to meet your preferences, and make it easy to use in the process.

Another thing which sets this headunit apart from other similar ones (like Kenwood) is the large control knob located on the left hand side, which makes it much easier to access while you’re driving.

So, how does the menu system of the KW-XR810 works? Well, it’s pretty straightforward. Press and hold the Menu button until the first menu appears. Turn the knob to scroll through the list, and push it to select an item. This works for submenus, too.  After you select an item, use the knob and/or up/down and back/forward buttons to make change (the back button will move you back up a level, etc.). Pressing the Menu button briefly takes you back to the regular display.

We strongly recommend that you do the initial set-up before you start driving. For instance, you might want to adjust a few options (random playback from a USB drive or a CD, etc.), which you can then easily reach with a push of a button or the knob.

Now, the interface and navigation aren’t without faults. We wish the clock on the screen were bigger or bolder. And by the way, it doesn’t display when the unit is off.

Also, this head unit isn’t optimized to dial phone numbers directly on it. The method is rather clunky, using forward and back buttons to select the right digit. Needless to say, you’ll be wiser to keep your eyes on the road.

Finally, file and folder names are limited to 25 characters on the display. Since tags (artist, album, song title) can contain up to 130 characters, you won’t see it all at once. You can select to scroll long tags once, repeatedly, or turn scrolling off altogether.

Bluetooth

The Bluetooth connects fast and easily. On screen prompts just about negate the need for the manual.

We should mention that the Bluetooth functionality is not completely "built-in". It actually depends on a tiny Bluetooth adapter that you plug into one of the USB ports (we recommend the front port for better connectivity and to make it easier to pull out and connect another device, without having to access the rear of the unit). If you’re buying a used JVC KW-XR810, make the seller confirm that the adapter is in the package, otherwise it’ll render Bluetooth inoperable.

A nice feature on this unit is the ability to have several phones connected simultaneously, whereby you can press and hold the phone button to `hot swap' between them. A phone icon with the number 1, 2, 3, or 4 is displayed to show which unit is the active one.

The KW-XR810 streams A2DP audio very, very well. The audio quality is stellar, and there is virtually no delay at all between the player and the unit, like there is on many factory systems.

If you run into Bluetooth problems, then update the firmware: http://support.jvc.com/consumer/product.jsp?modelId=MODL028629&pathId=148&page=3&archive=true
and here's a direct link to the firmware instructions: http://resources.jvc.com/Resources/00/01/37/37.PDF

Phone calling

Phones easily pair with the JVC KW-XR810, and Bluetooth works great. We like the way the JVC lets you know that you have a phone call, with the unit blinking in a way you can’t miss, and with the music automatically being turned down…

While most people sound fine, call quality is not as good on Pioneer units. Some people have reported poor voice quality when on a call, sounding distant, and with echo. The microphone for the Bluetooth that comes with the headunit is understandably quite poor, so you may want to order the Olympus ME-15 Microphone and a 3.5 extension cord.

Now whether you upgrade your microphone or not, poor voice quality is usually caused by poorly chosen placement of the microphone and natural background noise in a moving car. Maximize your chances of being heard over the phone, by placing the microphone behind your steering wheel.

As we said earlier, dialing manually on the headunit is cumbersome. The best way is to dial out using the phonebook on your cellphone, and then let the headunit take over.

iPod and mobile phone controls

The interface, which we talked about earlier, almost mirrors the click-wheel interface of the iPod, with the Menu and Back button making getting into and out of the song menus a snap. However, we say “almost” because there’s one annoying difference that you’ll read about further down.

Once you plug in your iPod, you can choose Artist, Playlist, Song, etc. Once you choose Artist (for example) you can use the up and down buttons on unit to move from A to B to C quickly, without having to spin the knob. This makes is pretty easy to get around: once you pick the letter just use the knob to scroll through, and then press the knob to select the artist/album/song.

Something that does bother us a bit is that the "Back" button only works when searching for songs, but not when you are playing a song. So once you begin to play a song on your iPod, you cannot go back and search for a different song by the artist, but rather you would have to toggle forward or backward, not knowing the title of the song until you toggle through them.
If you want to listen to a completely different artist for your next song, again the "Back" button is useless, and you would have to hit "Menu" on the stereo to start all over again at the letter “A” to toggle and search through to find the next song from that different artist.
This can waste time and this tiny inconvenience can become frustrating. So you better hope you have a playlist or the artist's name doesn't end with the letter "Z"…

Sound quality

Audio quality is excellent. Even with stock speakers, we are very satisfied with the clarity and volume of the built-in amp’s 20 watts output, which will produce little noticeable distortion. Single sub added for depth. Of course, you have 5 sets of RCA out jacks and built-in subwoofer control if you want to amp it up… Using Alpine speakers will make this car stereo blow away even a home Pioneer/Bose setup, with beautiful heart-thumping bass!

With “only” 3-band EQ (compared to Pioneer’s 7-band EQ), the audio output is still quite good with the EQ set flat and that only minor tweaks in certain areas of the sound spectrum are needed.

Either way, you get three areas to tune: Bass, Mid, and Treble. Within each of those areas, you must select one band to adjust; for example, in the bass area, you may select 50, 80 or 125 Hz to increase or decrease (you can only change one or the other). We advise you to pick the preset that’s closest to what you like, then make little manual adjustments. The headunit will then automatically save it as a user preset that’s easily accessed via a dedicated EQ button. You may also take advantage of the KW-XR810's fader/balance controls to center the "sweet spot" at the driver's seat. There are also 3 loudness levels to improve low-volume listening.

With all the adjustments, you can tailor your stereo to the type of music you typically listen to, and fine-tune it to your speakers and the car’s acoustics.

As for volume, it goes from 1 to 50, which takes a lot of turning. But since the lower levels are really low (and thus not that useful), the trick is to adjust your “source levels” at +5, in order to have far less turning of the volume knob.

Audio options are plentiful, with not one, but TWO USB inputs, an AUX inputs, HD radio, CD, and Bluetooth audio streaming. For each of these input sources (other than the radio), you can adjust input volume so it’s the same everywhere, which helps avoid jarring volume changes when switching sources.

Radio

The radio sounds good and has 18 –yes eighteen– presets for your favorite stations.

Now, FM radio reception isn't really any better than on a stock headunit. But the sound is clearer, with less static. AM reception seems better than stock, and much clearer overall (if you don’t use AM, you can simply hide it from the source select menu). HD radio sounds GREAT, and is a great investment in the future; indeed, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the HD stations to increase their broadcast power/range ten-fold in February 2010, which means HD radio are becoming more and more common.

Installation

The headunit without the bracket is true double DIN size. For installation, you will need a Metra double DIN trim and a harness kit (ex: Metra RoadWorks Wire Harness AW-WHFD3)

We strongly recommend buying the Metra radio wiring harness to fit your specific vehicle.

Other things you may need: a stock radio removal tool specific to your car (ex: OTC 7575 Radio Removal Tool for Ford), a double DIN installation dash kit (Metra 95-5817 Double DIN Installation Dash Kit), and an antenna adapter kit (Metra 40-CR30 Antenna Adapter Kit).

In order to make the steering wheel controls work, all you need is the Metra Axxess ASWC Universal Steering Wheel Control Interface.

Bottom line

The JVC KW-810 is a great product for $190, it has the most features available at this price point in a double-DIN deck. Those features are easy to use, and the sound won't disappoint.

PROS:

  • Thousands of colors to customize the display. You can match it to your car interior and make it look like a stock unit.
  • Full phone address book (hundreds of entries).
  • Good call quality overall.
  • Long wire on mic so you can hide it behind dash, under the ceiling cover.
  • Bluetooth audio streaming. Lots of units do phone, but without the audio.
  • Streaming Pandora and Sirius/XM from your phone sounds fantastic.
  • iPod control built-in, not an add-on (and it works very well).
  • Two USB ports, front and rear.
  • 3.5mm front AUX.
  • User upgradeable firmware.
  • Great sound – huge improvement over factory, even with stock speakers.
  • Remote and stereo controls are easy, quick to learn and logical.
  • Huge improvement in AM/FM reception.
  • Easy to browse through folders on a USB drive.
  • Charges iPhone/iPod.
  • Beautiful glossy look.
  • Easy installation.
  • Great Price.
  • When you turn the music back on, the music picks right where it left off.
  • Larger capacity devices will take a few seconds to read.
  • Handles CD text.

CONS:

  • Smudges on the display can be bothersome, but not a big deal.
  • Dialing from unit is cumbersome (dial on your phone instead).
  • Bluetooth is not build-in, so plugging the adapter means you lose one USB port.
  • Tag scrolling.
  • Sat radio cost. $100+ for Sirius/XM is a bit much (Stream radio from your phone instead!).
  • Scrolling through long lists (300+ phonebook, 40 gig MP3 drive…) requires to turn the know a lot, which can be a bit irksome.
  • No FLAC support.
  • Microphone reception is so-so.
  • Screen is hardly visible if the sun shines into it.
  • Equalizer: you have to go into menu and create your own profile (just one), you can’t just listen to a song and add more bass manually.

The cons are nitpicks, and are easily overcome.
Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 4.5 x 6.3 inches; 5 pounds

General features:

  • CD receiver with built-in MOSFET amplifier (20 watts RMS CEA-2006/50 peak x 4 channels)
  • adjustable illumination (you can select different colors for the display and controls)
  • fits double-DIN (4"-tall) dash openings
  • plays CDs, CD-Rs, and CD-RWs, including discs loaded with MP3 and WMA files
  • built-in Bluetooth
  • remote control
  • Auxiliary input, dual USB ports (front/back)

Audio features:

  • built-in iPod and iPhone controls
  • iEQ 3-band equalizer
  • 24-bit Burr-Brown digital-to-analog converter
  • subwoofer level control

Expandability:

  • compatible with JVC satellite/HD radio
  • inputs: front- and rear-panel USB input, front-panel auxiliary input
  • outputs: 6-channel preamp outputs (2.5-volt front, rear, sub)

JVC KW-XR810 Bluetooth/USB/CD Receiver Review admin
Features
Value
Durability
Usability
Design

Summary:

4.5


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