View Full Version : KDC-X993 review

05-07-2009, 11:21 AM
I just installed this HU and am still spending time getting to know it. Before I purchased this unit, I searched the web looking for reviews or first hand impressions. There was little information to be found so hopefully this review will help people that might be considering this model.

My setup: I replaced an older Alpine 9807 with the Kenwood. I'm using the front pre-outs to a 150w/ch US Accoustics amp to Boston Pro60 6.5" components and the X993's internal amp is driving a small pair of 4" Polks at a very low volume for rear fill. Not currently using a sub.

Sound Quality: Because I'm using an external amp, SQ differences between the Alpine and the X993 are directly related to the difference in the electronics and EQ/DSP options, not the internal amp. After completing setup (Cabin selection, Speaker location/size, Time alignment, Crossovers/slope), I started playing around with EQ and other sound control settings. What I ended up with, is a sound much warmer than the Alpine. At first, I wasn't sure that I'd be happy with this as I've gotten used to the Alpine/US Accoustics combo which was a pretty hard hitting and sharp (borderline harsh) sound. But the soundstage is much bigger than the Alpine and I can hear more detail in the music. The overall sound is more accurate accurate and realistic. Time will tell if I miss the "snap" of the Alpine, but right now, I'm really enjoying this new sound.

Interestingly, the US Accoustics amp replaced an Arc Audio model (125w/ch) because the Alpine/Arc combo was a little too sharp for my ears. I think I'll swap out the USA with the Arc and see what kind of sound I get. It might be the perfect match.

BTW, turning off the internal amp driving the rear speakers doesn’t make a noticeably difference in SQ to my BA’s.

Looks: I don't care for the lighting and the shiny face. If you don't know, this unit has illuminiation above and below the display, as well as the knob backgrounds. I can live with the display and knob lighting, but the top/bottom illum is hokey and unnecessary. It makes the unit seem toylike. I like the color control of the display and have found a color/contrast setting that very readable. Overall, the Alpine looks more "serious" than the Kenwood.

Ipod: I'm in Ipod heaven. The sound is MUCH better than the Alpine, with barely any background hiss on mp3 playback. This is the difference using the DAC of the Kenwood vs the Ipod. This surprised me because I'm used to hiss in two of my cars using an analog connection to the HU's. The X993 handles the Ipod very nicely. It’s reasonably intuitive and fast. I only have about 4Gb of music on my 1st gen Touch, but it has no problem loading, searching and playing with no delays. Having total control of my Ipod on the HU is going to be very nice.

Bluetooth: I only tested this feature a few times but pairing to my BB Storm was no problem and everything works fine. I’ve noticed that the caller’s voice quality is pretty bad, especially if you’re listening to music when the call comes in. You go from high fidelity to this AM radio type of sound. It’s fully functional and works fine, it’s just that the caller’s voice is pretty lo fi. I also noticed that the caller’s voice comes out of the woofers on my components, with no sound coming from the tweets. Because the woofers are in kickpanels, the sound comes from my feet. I might need to play around with this.

Everything else: This HU has a ton of features and I feel like I’ve only begun to get the whole thing figured out. It’s a great geek toy if you’re into that type of thing. If not, the benefits of the X993 might be lost on you. This is not an HU that you install and throw out the manual. Plan on spending quite a bit of time learning what X993 can do and don’t be surprised if you have to look up something that you had no problem doing the day before. The drawback to such a powerful deck is that it would be difficult for someone to use your car and make their way around. My wife will hate this when she goes to use my car, I can see it already.

ADDED 05/12/09
The display is very difficult to read in direct sun. I've elaborated on this in my post below.

05-07-2009, 11:47 AM
great review. You should have put it in the review section ;)

some pics would help too

05-07-2009, 12:11 PM
Oops...you're right. Maybe a mod can move this?

05-07-2009, 02:31 PM
Thanks for the review, i may need a new unit for one of my trucks and this may just be the one.

05-07-2009, 09:08 PM
Awesome review!

And I know what you mean about the wife hating a not so user freindly deck. Been there, done that.

05-07-2009, 10:07 PM
i love mine as well. aside from the bad display in sunlight i really have no major complaints. the manual, like the ts i experienced on the phone with kenwood, leaves me wanting a bit better explanation. for example, in order to pair up a phone via bt you have to set the unit to standby mode and then enter the menu. the manual just says to hit menu and scroll to the bt options with no mention (that i could find in my quick browse) of changing to standby. each source (cd, radio, usb) has it's own version of the main menu with different things to adjust.

not to sure why your bt is only playing via the woofers. that actually really makes no sense to me as this unit cannot support an active setup, so anything that is sent to the front channels (where the bt sound comes from) would have to go to both the mid and the tweet. i have no problems with mine, but the sq is like an AM station. it does however remember the volume settings and changes it accordingly when it swaps over to bt from another source and back again.

along those lines it seems that it has no memory for the phonebook and downloads it each time my phone connects. not a big issue though as it does it fairly quickly and i have over 200 entries. i can't comment on the voice activated dialing as the iphone 3g does not support this feature (yet).

playback is fast with the ipod and it keeps it's location in the playlist even after the iphone is disconnected and the car is turned off.

overall i give it a 8.5 out of 10. if the display was better it would be perfect. if you are looking for a quality unit with good sq, bt, direct ipod support and are not looking to go active i don't think you could find a better model than this.

05-07-2009, 11:36 PM
Nineball, look at the right hand side of the table on page 7-9 of the manual. It shows what source has to be selected to access those selections. Refer to page 6 to decipher the symbols. You can see that the BT setup items require "SB" (standby). It's a clunky manual but the table is adequate. In general, the manual just shows the user all the different settings and selections rather than really explaining what they all do. Again, not so bad if you're techy, but a nightmare for the average user.

Did you adjust contrast on your display? For the color I'm using, I set contrast to "6" for best readability.

05-07-2009, 11:52 PM
Great review! With all of the upper eshelon Excelon decks, it sure does take a while to get use to all of the settings. There is alot to learn and play with. Took me a while to figure it all out. You have to admit though, the sound quality is just fantastic!! Enjoy.

05-08-2009, 01:34 AM
i did adjust the contrast, from one end of the spectrum to the other, and it still is very hard to read in the daytime. night is looks great, day not so much.

Rockin Randall
05-09-2009, 01:17 PM
If u have a sportster 5 Sirius connected through the back of the unit would the dac upgrade the sound?

05-12-2009, 11:46 AM
If u have a sportster 5 Sirius connected through the back of the unit would the dac upgrade the sound?

Don't know, but if you're supplying the X993 with a digital signal instead of using the Sporster's DAC, I would imagine it would make a considerable difference. It does with the Ipod.

05-12-2009, 12:00 PM
So, I want to tack on some last minute feedback. The sun finally came out over the last few days and I got to experience the display under direct sun conditions. Wow, it's bad. Nineball was right and even with the best color/contrast selected, text is not legible when the sun is shining on the display. Even though the X993 is in my convertible, the display is just as bad with the top up. I have to shade the display with my hand to read it. This is really inexcusable for Kenwood and the fix, to me, would have been simple. The problem isn't the backlight, it's simply the glare off the plastic screen. When the sun shines on the HU, the reflection hits you're eye and washes out anything that's on the display. All they had to do was to texture the plastic screen. With a little texture on the plastic (rather than smooth), the glare would go away and the backlight would be sufficient in direct sun. What a shame.

Kenwood will get a lot of feedback on this and I'd be willing to bet it'll be addressed in the future. Meanwhile, I need to decide whether I can live with this. It makes Ipod navigation a PITA when you can't see the display. I think I'm going to give it a little time because I like so many of the features as well as the SQ, although as soon as I feel that there's something on the market that will match this HU in all areas (Pioneer DEH-P710BT maybe?) , I'll probably make the switch.