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Topic: First Impression - Kenwood eXcelon KDC-X693

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Old 06-27-2009, 05:32 PM
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Junior Lounger
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Home of the first capital of New York
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First Impression - Kenwood eXcelon KDC-X693

Stolen from my website
Quote:
Preface

For some time now I wanted to get a head unit that would be able to not only connect up my iPod, or any other external device, but I was in search for the elusive head unit that could control an iPod at the head unit itself. This search literally began years ago and there were only a couple units out there that could achieve this feat and for those that did they required an additional module to control an iPod.

Now that the demand for this feature is constantly increasing, many manufacturers were finally getting into the game developing head units that have a direct USB connection to their head unit. Some elected for a front panel solution, seemingly good if you wanted a simple way to plug an iPod (or flash drive which seems to be a good solution in this case) but that leaves for a somewhat unappealing dangling cord from the front. Others like Kenwood have developed a rear mounted USB solution which allows for a much more integrated solution if one wishes.

The other feature I was looking for was to have a lot of information from one’s iPod available on the head unit. While there are a number of head units that have good displays that even show album art, if one was budget conscious you were delegated to 8-12 large LED-style characters.

So my goal was to find a unit that had all the above features, iPod control, rear mounted USB cords, beyond basic equalization, and all for a budget of less than $225. Sounds impossible? Think again.

The Kenwood eXcelon KDC-X693

I happened across this head unit by chance after posting to a couple forums to find a good budget head unit. There were only a couple quick reviews I could find on it but they all were positive. Additionally there were a number of good reviews for a close sibling of this head unit that had Bluetooth on board but it cost nearly $100 more. While the Bluetooth feature was nice, I opted to stay within budget and get the X693. If I would like in the future I can buy modules for Bluetooth, Satellite Radio, and other features which seemingly makes this a great base head unit to work with. So I took a chance and purchased it through Crutchfield for $209.00. While you can get it at Amazon for considerably less, you have to include shipping since it’s offered by a partner business and once you get the wiring harness for your vehicle the price becomes a wash.

Opening the box presented me with the box for the head unit, the cable to hook into the Infinity “Sun & Sound” system in my 2004 Lancer RalliArt, and instructions.

Click the image to open in full size.

While this might not be some exotic packing al la Apple, it at least seems they took a little care in packaging this. The head unit is covered completely in plastic so it won’t get scratched. It also includes what you would expect; instructions, batteries, screws, and wire ties. One thing that I did not expect was a convenient plastic mount that you can secure your USB wire to so you don’t have to have the wire dangling around. Kudos to include something so simple but a very nice option to have for your installation. In this installation the only other things I had to buy was some connectors and some wire loom to tidy up the install.

Pre-wiring

Thanks to a bit more standardization over the years, almost anyone can wire up your harness adapter to your head unit harness. I have done a lot of installs in the past where you had to be performing all of this wiring inside the car so it’s nice to be able to literally plug and play and drive.

As mentioned above I own a 2004 Lancer RalliArt with the “Sun and Sound” system. I will be the first to admit that the stock system really does not sound that bad. While you don’t have discrete audio adjustments, the seven speaker system does an adequate job of reproducing sound at even fairly loud levels. This is helped with the separate amp located under the driver’s seat pushing out a Mitsubishi reported 310 watts. OK so this is an exaggeration IMO, but it probably does push out a respectable clean 40-50 watts per channel.

One thing I was a little disappointed in with Mitsubishi is the amp only has four discrete channels. I had assumed given that it had a subwoofer that there would be 5 channels. I can only assume that they have some inline crossovers off the rear channels. No biggie in the end. If I really want to I can always remove the current sub and put a replacement sub in with a separate amp.

I spent probably 10 minutes wiring up the harness together. Since I am going to plug into the existing Infinity amp I only have to connect up 5 wires; constant power (yellow), power (red), “antenna power” (blue), illumination (orange), and remote power (blue-striped). Everything else will be connected via RCA to the head unit.

Click the image to open in full size.

One small nitpick in this was that the constant power and the main power lengths of wire on the Kenwood side of the harness was longer than the rest of the wires. No real biggie, just a nitpick. To tidy up the install I cut a couple lengths of wire loom and stuffed my wires inside.

Click the image to open in full size.

Installation

Installation was pretty much a breeze thanks to the wiring harness. It just takes four screws to get access to the radio. Another small nitpick thanks to the people at Mitsubishi is there is no ground wire at the OEM harness. I finally found a place to hook up the ground but it’s just a little burdensome that there would be such a glaring omission from a harness.

Click the image to open in full size.

There is a great spot in the Lancer to place a iPod or iTouch/iPhone and that is in the little plastic tray of the two-chamber center console. Again just two screws anchors it down and after about 20 minutes I fished through the Kenwood USB cable and coupled it with a standard Apple USB cable. The finished product looks like this.

Click the image to open in full size.

Once everything is snapped back together the installation was finished. I wish the head unit was flush, or that it was slight more risen so you can put the trim ring on. But otherwise this was a pretty easy install.

First Thoughts

My very first thoughts on the X693 is WOW, this thing has so many options, so many in fact that it took me a good hour plus to acquaint myself with all the features and nuances of the unit. Even things like setting the date took an extra minute because you have to set it in standby mode. That being said I would rather have to spend a little time on such a full features product than to have fewer features.

Everything is customizable. The head unit colors are customizable down to the left and right knob lights. The display can give you a number of different settings and text combinations. Sound is extraordinarily customizable with different EQs, cabin profiles, even speaker size profiles to maximize the sound from your head unit. Unfortunately I can only take advantage of some of the features since I don’t use the head unit amp, but right out of the gate it made the Infinity system sound better, and with some tweaks it sounded really, really good.

The Bad Things

So this is not far from perfect so let’s list out the imperfections of the unit. First the display reflects lot of glare, almost the point that it’s unreadable. Luckily there is a contrast option to help brighten up the display to combat the glare.

The radio presets have no direct input on the face panel. Now this isn’t a big deal since you just select the search function and it lists the six presets per bank (3 FM banks and 1 AM bank), but it is only listed as “Preset 1”, “Preset 2”. It would have been nice if Kenwood would have displayed the station and possibly call letters for each preset.

It would have been nice to have two small FF/RW buttons on the display. This is solved by the right jog wheel but it seems to take an extra push from time to time for it to register.

There might be a way to turn off some of the animation of the head unit but I have not seen that option yet. When you switch between menus or sources it goes through little short animation bursts that I could do without.

The Good Things

There are a lot of things to praise about this unit. The audio sounds above average especially with the price point of this head unit. The direct iPod control seems to be spot on only taking a couple seconds to register songs from a 80GB iPod Classic or a iPhone 3G v3.0 8GB. The radio turner is superb pulling in stations the stock head unit could not and its RDS tagging comes up quickly. There was a comment on Amazon that stated “this is the head unit for geeks” and I could not agree more. While I could see this being intimidating for some, for anyone with a grasp on technology can discover a treasure trove of features and dial in the head unit to act exactly as they want.

Conclusion

While I have only had this for a day now I am thoroughly impressed with it thus far. Far from perfect this unit has features that some units $100, $200, even $300 or more simply do not have, I have had Kenwood eXcelon equipment in the past, namely some V12 amps about 10 years ago and I was very impressed with those amps as I am now with the X693. I will have a longer term synopsis later on this after it’s broken in for a couple months, but for now I will be enjoying my long rides from NY to VA and back with an incredible new head unit.
ltparis is offline  
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Old 07-08-2009, 02:02 PM
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Pro Lounger
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: orlando fl
Posts: 653

If you mound the radio using the side screws ,there is a way you can move back about 1/4 of inch
the problem is that you will have a small gap on the sides,
the installation looks very good nice job
partyd is offline  
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Topic: First Impression - Kenwood eXcelon KDC-X693

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