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Product Review
 

Kenwood VR-8070 THX Select 7.1 A/V Receiver

March, 2005

Scott A. Taillie

 

Specifications

 

Codecs: DD, DD-EX, DPL-IIx, DTS, DTS-ES, DTS
    Neo:6, THX Surround EX

Power: 100 Watts per Channel x 7
Inputs/Outputs: Three Component Video
    In/Out, Five S-Video, Five Composite Video,
    Two Coaxial Digital, Two Toslink Digital, Eight
    Pre-Outs

MSRP: $600 USA
 

Kenwood

www.kenwoodusa.com

Introduction

When at first I was asked to review a mid-priced receiver, I was somewhat disappointed, as my quest for the $20,000 amplifier continued. My first thought was could I really expect much more than basic features at such a reasonable price point?

Kenwood has not disappointed in the least with their VR-8070 A/V Surround Sound Receiver. The VR-8070 is as full and feature packed as receivers that are significantly more expensive. This review is a continuation of the “Budget Receiver Roundup” series that is currently ongoing at Secrets.

The Design

Introduced in May, 2004, the Kenwood VR-8070 was the industry’s first 7.1 channel THX Select receiver at the $600 price point. THX Select is the performance benchmark for mid-priced home theater systems. The designation is used for smaller speakers and smaller rooms, which if you are like most of us, describes your listening environment.

The VR-8070 incorporates high end features beyond the THX-Select certification, such as 24-bit/96kHz digital-to-analog audio conversion, HD component video switching (meaning the bandwidth is high enough to switch HD signals), digital inputs and outputs, and THX Surround EX and DTS-ES audio decoding. The seven audio channels are driven by Kenwood’s proprietary K-STAT (Kenwood – Self Tracking Audio Transistor) Discrete Audio Amplifier Technology to 100-watts RMS each.

Satisfying the designer in each of us, Kenwood offers the VR-8070 in both silver and -  my preference - midnight black, sure to match your existing décor.

All of this means that you get a lot of receiver with powerful audio processing and the latest technology for your money.

The Front Panel

The clean well organized look of the front panel is well laid out and easy to navigate. The source inputs are grouped together, as are the power and speaker selection buttons. There is a Multi-Control knob to handle most of the setup functions for speaker setup, and test tones. There is also a Listen Mode knob for all of the various Dolby and THX modes. With the Listen Mode there is also a setting for Auto Detect which corresponds to your selected input and will allow the receiver to automatically select the optimal listening mode based on the type of input signal and the speaker settings. I found the Auto Detect worked very well in detecting the mode to play movies and music.

The volume control is large and off to the right. It felt as if you had to turn the knob quite far to achieve a small change in sound, and this is good for making fine changes in volume. For easy access, the front panel includes not only composite video and stereo inputs, but an S-Video input as well allowing you to connect an additional component such as a video camera, or in my case an iPod. There is also a convenient headphone jack. The display is a fluorescent blue with some red that is dimmable.

It is refreshing to have a receiver that you can control completely without the remote and allows you to perform all of the system setup from the front panel in a logical manner, but without having an overabundance of knobs and buttons.

The Rear Panel

The connections are intelligently grouped by source and function, making them easy to follow. Some of the nice functions include pre-outs for each of the speaker groups, as well as composite video and stereo outs for a second zone or room. With the thoughtful inclusion of the IR sensor input as well as the two IR repeater outputs, this allows for the sending of the audio or video signals to be controlled in the second zone. It also allows for greater flexibility in placement of the unit, such as inside of a cabinet or other location out of the line-of-sight of the universal remote.

For a receiver at this price point, the logical layout makes it extremely easy for the novice user to complete the set-up. The printed instruction manual is also very well laid out with many pictures, diagrams, and flow charts to accommodate virtually all sources and set-up needs.

Once all of the connections have been made, the speaker set-up can be accomplished through the remote or front panel. The included manual logically lays out a flow chart of the various settings as well as nice descriptions of what each of the settings does. In the setup mode, there is also a test tone function to cycle through your speakers and levels.

The Remote Control

The remote is well laid out and ergonomically feels good to hold. There are source buttons laid out across the top to control both Kenwood and non-Kenwood products. There were plenty of buttons to accommodate the programming and function of up to nine TV, DVD, and other source components' main functions. The layout of the buttons is intelligent and easily memorized, although the inclusion of a backlight would be a nice addition. I was also somewhat disappointed with the line of sight of the remote in that it needed to be pointed directly at the unit rather than just generally in the direction of the receiver.

In Use

The overall set-up, installation, and use of the VR-8070 was very easy. As to my spouse, she was able to figure out the remote and switching between inputs and sound modes the first day of use.

With movies, the sound field created by the unit was very convincing. The dialog was clear, no more backing up to catch that last line. The bass was authoritative, and while it lacked a huge chest pounding thump, it was more than enough to get your attention.

The Neo:6 mode which produces 6.1 channels from stereo sources was very nice for taking older Dolby Pro Logic encoded movies in my collection and introducing discrete sounds in the surround channels. While using Neo:6, I did not detect any sounds from the surround speakers that sounded out of place. It truly created a three-dimensional soundstage surrounding me with warmth and sound.

While listening to music I utilized the additional Music mode controls, including the Panorama effect which created a seamless wraparound sound effect from two-channel stereo that was very nice with jazz tracks.

It was also notable that the VR-8070 ran very cool compared to other amps that I have had in its place, a welcome relief to some of the larger space heaters I have used.

Keeping in mind that THX Select caters to a smaller room, the Kenwood filled the room wonderfully, but don’t expect it to fill a grand ballroom.

Conclusions

In a world of people settling for less or with the attitude of, "You get what you pay for," being pervasive, the VR-8070 clearly gives you much more than you pay for. I do not believe that in this price range you could find a more solid performer than the Kenwood VR-8070. Considering you can buy this unit on the street in the $500 price range, the 8070 is a receiver not to be overlooked when you are ready to enhance your sound experience and have some money left over for the mortgage.


- Scott A. Taillie -

© Copyright 2005 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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