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Alpine vs. Kenwood

Car Audio, Video, & GPS

Car Audio, Video, & GPS
Talk about stereos, navigation, amps, subs, and all things car audio

Alpine vs. Kenwood

  • Hey everybody,

    Last December I got a 2004 Toyota Corolla and I can’t stand the pain it causes me when I have to listen to its stock system.  It’s horrible in every way possible.

    With that said and done, I’ve come here for some help and hopefully to get some recommendations from you all.  What I am after is the best sound quality I can get for a reasonable price.

    So right now what I’m looking at are these 3 head units:
    Alpine CDA-9884
    Alpine CDA-9886
    Kenwood eXcelon KDC-X792

    Like I said earlier, I’m mostly interested in the sound quality and the interface.  From looking over the specs of each of these units it seems that the Kenwood is the superior product as it offers more fine tuning adjustment options.  However, the Alpines seem to have many more reviews vs. the Kenwood leaving me wondering if the Alpines are actually better.  Many years ago my sister had a basic Alpine HU and we never had a problem with it and I know Alpine is a very reputable company.

    I think I'd go with the Alpine 9886 or 9884 in a heart beat, but the fact that the Kenwood has what seems to be many more audio adjustments is keeping me on the rocks and undecided.



    I also have an iPod video 30gig and I’d like to have a convenient and easy to use HU to use with my iPod.

    To give as much information as possible to help you all to help me, I’m also looking at upgrading my stock speakers.  I’m most likely planning on going with the following.  ...At this time I’m really not wanting to add a sub because they are just so bulky and add to the overall cost.

    Fronts:
    Alpine SPX-13REF

    Rears:
    Alpine SPR-69C
    or
    JL Audio VR690-CXi


    So, anybody have any recommendations or hands on experience with either unit?  I like the Alpine's look and I used the 9884 today at BestBuy and I liked the interface as it seemed simple to use. ...On a side note, do you all think it is absolutely necessary that I get an amp to power the components and 6x9 right away or can I get away safely and use the HU's internal amp?


    Thanks guys.  Cheers!


    Peter



    [edited by: Rusty12 at 12:37 PM (GMT -5) on Thu, Jun 19 2008] [edited by: Rusty12 at 12:25 PM (GMT -5) on Thu, Jun 19 2008] [edited by: Rusty12 at 7:59 PM (GMT -5) on Wed, Jun 18 2008] [edited by: Rusty12 at 7:54 PM (GMT -5) on Wed, Jun 18 2008]
  • Rusty12:
    So right now what I’m looking at are these 3 head units:
    Alpine CDA-9884
    Alpine CDA-9886
    Kenwood eXcelon KDC-X792

    Like I said earlier, I’m mostly interested in the sound quality.  From looking over the specs of each of these units it seems that the Kenwood are the superior product as they offer more fine tuning adjustment options.  However, the Alpines seem to have many more reviews vs. the Kenwood leaving me wondering if the Alpines are actually better.  ….You see, I’m confused lol.

    The KDC-X792 were just recently released so there aren't a lot of reviews. I have the KDC-X791 (last year's model) and I love it. Excellent sound quality, very easy to use, and an impressive amount of options. However, I have used Alpine head units in the past and have been fairly impressed with them as well. Both manufacturers make excellent head units, so either way you're not going wrong. Maybe see if any of your local car audio retailers have the Kenwood on display so you can compare it to the CDA-9884 you tried.

    On a side note, do you all think it is absolutely necessary that I get an amp to power the components and 6x9 right away or can I get away safely and use the HU's internal amp?
    It would be much, MUCH better with an external amplifier. If you're on a tight budget, I would just forget about the rear speakers for now and use that money towards an amp for the front components.

    1995 Chevrolet C1500 Silverado

    Kenwood eXcelon | Diamond Audio | Kicker | RAAMaudio

  • Have you used your Kenwood with an iPod?  I'm curious as to the iPod works in harmony with the HU.  I'd like to have a HU that I just plug my iPod into and store it away.  I'd like to have the ability to search my playlists and artists through the Head Unit and not have to deal with the iPod.  

     

    When I was at BestBuy, they had the Alpine 9884 driving a set of their R-series components off the Head Unit and it sounded plenty powerful to me.  Am I missing something to what advantage an amp would provide? What kind of amp do you suggest I get then if I were to just start out with a front set of speakers?  I don't know a whole lot about amps and whats required of them to install.  Should I go 4 channel?  

     

    Sorry, I guess I should have placed this thread in the general car audio forum instead of recievers =\



    [edited by: Rusty12 at 12:20 PM (GMT -5) on Thu, Jun 19 2008]
  • Anybody else have any suggestions?
  • I've really liked Alpine HU's over the years.  I've also heard they have one of the best iPod interfaces, particularly for what you are asking about.

    I had one Kenwood KDC-2006 from the CF outlet in 1997 and was under-impressed with it (poor FM reception), but that's hardly a deciding factor for 2008.  However, there have been a lot of forum posts of many of the units failing after a year or two, which would concern me.

    Agree with Thunderstruck - the best thing is to try the units out locally even if it isn't the exact model you are considering and see what you think.

    Amp - you could always add an amp later if you thought the HU did not provide the power you were looking for. 

    Rusty12:
    When I was at BestBuy, they had the Alpine 9884 driving a set of their R-series components off the Head Unit and it sounded plenty powerful to me.  Am I missing something to what advantage an amp would provide?

    You really have to hear one to understand - going from the stock audio to the HU will give you an idea, the amp would just take it to the next level.  You get better clarity at low volume, and the music sounds less "strained" on dynamic passages.  You also will get much fuller bass, which would be important if you don't plan to add a sub anytime soon.  This post by Silver Storm describes it well, I thought.

    What kind of amp do you suggest I get then if I were to just start out with a front set of speakers?

    I'd look at a 60W RMS amp, iether 60Wx2 or 60Wx4.  The Profile AP400 or AP740 come immediately to mind, but there are also better quality amps that would match better to the quality of the Alpine speakers and either HU. 

    I don't know a whole lot about amps and whats required of them to install.

    It's not rocket science - the hard parts are you have to route power from the battery to the cabin or the trunk, and you have to run RCA's to the HU and wiring to the speakers or the HU.  Doing that cleanly will require removing and re-installing a lot of the interior trim and carpet, which can be tedious, but not really difficult. 

    Should I go 4 channel?

    Basically depends on how loud overall you want it, and how much you want full 4-channel sound as opposed to front sound stage/rear fill.  Most audiophiles go for the rear fill approach, but it's a preference type of thing.

    Sorry, I guess I should have placed this thread in the general car audio forum instead of recievers =\

    It's okay, it started out as receivers and "mushroomed/snowballed".

    2002 Ford Focus JVC KD-A815 Sony CDX-GT410u Sony XT-100HD HD Tuner Stock speakers, no amp, no subs

  • Thanks for the input TigerHeli!

    TigerHeli:

    I had one Kenwood KDC-2006 from the CF outlet in 1997 and was under-impressed with it (poor FM reception), but that's hardly a deciding factor for 2008.  However, there have been a lot of forum posts of many of the units failing after a year or two, which would concern me.

    Agree with Thunderstruck - the best thing is to try the units out locally even if it isn't the exact model you are considering and see what you think.

    You have me a little wary now of choosing the Kenwood because of potential reliability issues.  As soon as I read that comment I went and tried to research Kenwood reliability via google but came up short. 

    I'll try and go back over to the evil empire Best Buy and play around with the most similar Kenwood I can find to the 792.  The only local audio shop around my area doesn't stock Kenwoods so I'm left out in the cold on that front.


    Should I go 4 channel?

    Basically depends on how loud overall you want it, and how much you want full 4-channel sound as opposed to front sound stage/rear fill.  Most audiophiles go for the rear fill approach, but it's a preference type of thing.

    When you say that most audiophiles prefer the rear fill approach, I would assume most of them have a sub to balance out the sound?  While I would like to get the best SQ possible, I don't want to add a sub at this time like I said.  Which leads me to wonder, if I get some 6x9s for my rears and power them just off the HU would they be able to produce enough bass to balance out the sound in the car or would that require me to amp them up as well?

     

    I was wondering if you know anything about the quality of Kicker or HiFonic amps?  Profile, while I'm sure are capable units, I'd rather spend a little more for something that gives me peace & mind regarding the quality and reliability of the amp.

     

    Thanks.

     

     

  • A couple of points... 

    Make sure you listen to the speakers your considering prior to purchasing...(if at all possible). I personally do not care for the Alpine speakers, especially for the money. JL/Polk/Infinity's that I've heard seem to be better sounding. But that's just my opinion, I think it has something to do with the aluminum tweeters. Silk tweeters is my preference. 

    Rear fill is complete personal preference...unless your doing 5.1 audio / have passengers in the rear seat that like to hear music, rear fill is not required nor is it preferred by true audiophiles. True audiophiles believe in Left / Right channel....nothing more. They don't want the music to emerge from the rear of the vehicle. So, keep that in mind when doing rear fill, i.e., 6x9s would be overkill (unless you have no subwoofer). But it comes down to preference. If I was looking to save money, this is the first place to start.

    I had rear-fill previously....and since I've bought the cda-9887 no longer could use it and I have yet to notice or (miss the rear speakers). Granted, I typically don't have anyone sitting in the rear seats. And if I do, the radio is turned down so that people can talk... 

    Buy a nice 2 channel amp and amp the fronts, along with a nice mono sub amp for a single 10 or 12" and your good to go. 

     


  • Rusty12:
    You have me a little wary now of choosing the Kenwood because of potential reliability issues.  As soon as I read that comment I went and tried to research Kenwood reliability via google but came up short.

    Here and Here are the main threads I was referring to.  I will also advise you of a bit of "selective hearing" on my part here.  There are numerous threads of Pioneer HU's developing line noise if you connect an amp or disconnect an amp with the unit powered and don't connect the ground wire first on restart.  I've had Pioneer cassette decks and really liked them.  I wasn't very impressed with the one Kenwood deck I owned, and also wasn't impressed with the display models I looked at when I was selecting my current HU (2007 models).  I have also seen Kenwood advertise frequency response on their speakers that I think is exaggerated, and one-ohm stable amps that didn't really produce power at one-ohm.  The last is okay, but I don't like it.

    That said, I've seen people trash Sony audio, and while I think Pioneer and Alpine are better, I've been happy with my Sony, and there are more loyal Kenwood audio fans than likely any other brand, so keep that in mind also.  

    When you say that most audiophiles prefer the rear fill approach, I would assume most of them have a sub to balance out the sound?  While I would like to get the best SQ possible, I don't want to add a sub at this time like I said.  Which leads me to wonder, if I get some 6x9s for my rears and power them just off the HU would they be able to produce enough bass to balance out the sound in the car or would that require me to amp them up as well?

    Your case is a bit different then.  First off - 6.5's will produce almost as much bass as good 6x9's, but you have 5.25's.  I haven't had a lot of those over the years, so can't speak as well to them.  Second, bass requires power, reqardless of the speaker size.  In your case, what you might want to eventually do is get a four channel amp and LPF (Low-Pass Filter) the rear 6x9's so essentially, they function as mini-subwoofers.  Bass is omni-directional, so you won't kill your soundstage if that is a concern. 

    I was wondering if you know anything about the quality of Kicker or HiFonic amps?  Profile, while I'm sure are capable units, I'd rather spend a little more for something that gives me peace & mind regarding the quality and reliability of the amp.

    See this thread (and sub-links) - Profile makes a very solid amp with a 3-year warranty.  They would probably be my personal choice, but they aren't really up to the quality standard of Alpine HU's and Type X component speakers.  Kicker and Alpine make great multi-channel amps, as does Rockford Fosgate.  Hifonics makes some of the best 1-ohm stable amps, although I have read they draw more current than other brands do.  I don't know anything about their multi-channel amps - I would expect them to be decent, but I think Profile is as well, so how they compare to them even, I can't say.

    Anyone?

    2002 Ford Focus JVC KD-A815 Sony CDX-GT410u Sony XT-100HD HD Tuner Stock speakers, no amp, no subs

  • junior77:

    Make sure you listen to the speakers your considering prior to purchasing...(if at all possible). I personally do not care for the Alpine speakers, especially for the money. JL/Polk/Infinity's that I've heard seem to be better sounding. But that's just my opinion, I think it has something to do with the aluminum tweeters. Silk tweeters is my preference. 

     

    I was under the impression that Infinity and some of JL's tweeter designs were aluminum, where as the Alpine x-series is a ring dome (not sure what that means??  I had an old pair of Infinity ref. coaxials and the highs were to bright and harsh in my opinion.  I like a more mellow high which is what silk offers.  

    When I was at Best Buy, I compared Infinity Kappa components vs. Alpine R-series components and I preferred the Alpines much much more.  I guess as its always stated, its just subjective and personal preference.



    [edited by: Rusty12 at 12:19 PM (GMT -5) on Fri, Jun 20 2008]
  • Not all Alpine's are silk tweeters, not all Infinity's are aluminum tweeters, and yes, it is subjective and personal preference.

    2002 Ford Focus JVC KD-A815 Sony CDX-GT410u Sony XT-100HD HD Tuner Stock speakers, no amp, no subs

  • Rusty12:

    When I was at Best Buy, I compared Infinity Kappa components vs. Alpine R-series components and I preferred the Alpines much much more.  I guess as its always stated, its just subjective and personal preference.

    Type R and Type X alpines are different....don't assume since they are made from the same manufacture that the sound will be the same or that they use the same tweeter/woofer/crossover technology.  JL makes various level speakers, the C5 line to me sounds great...but they're $500 retail for a pair.

    From what I understand, most of these manufactures buy speakers from 'speaker' manufactures. The rumor is that Alpine is sourcing out to 'scanspeak'. Nothing wrong with that...just keep that in mind. 

    I guess what I'm trying to say, make sure you listen to the particular model you plan on purchasing first. And as long as your happy with it...great. Speakers are extremely subjective...the best, most neutral sounding, detailed speaker will sound 'flat' to most people. B&W's / Dynaudio come to mind...

  • junior77:
    From what I understand, most of these manufactures buy speakers from 'speaker' manufactures. The rumor is that Alpine is sourcing out to 'scanspeak'. Nothing wrong with that...just keep that in mind.

    Hadn't heard this before, but it makes a lot of sense.

    the best, most neutral sounding, detailed speaker will sound 'flat' to most people. B&W's / Dynaudio come to mind...

    Haven't heard of the brands, but have heard that before.  Polk and Boston tend to be natural - I've heard them called flat.  Pioneer tends to enhance the bass - I've heard people like it better and people complain about it.  Infinity tends to have really bright highs - again some people think they are too bright and/or harsh, some people love the sound. 

    2002 Ford Focus JVC KD-A815 Sony CDX-GT410u Sony XT-100HD HD Tuner Stock speakers, no amp, no subs

  • What stinks is where I'm located here in N.C., I don't have really any place where I can test out and listen to the speakers I'd like to audition.  There is only one local audio shop and they predominately sell Diamond Audio and then other brands I don't care for.  The next best thing I have is Best Buy and Circuit City Tongue Tied There stores are so hit & miss even if they have the gear you want to try out.  Just this week I went to B.B. to check out the Kenwood 5120 Nav unit as it was on sale in the circular but they didn't even have a unit out to sample...Shocker! I think I'm going to just have to go out on a limb and purchase a set of speakers and hope they are to my liking, otherwise I'll have to return them.

     I definetely am a fan have flat or neutral sounding speakers.  I don't like super bright tweeters like my old Infinitys had, nor am I a fan of bassy mids.  I haven't personally haven't been able to find many reviews of the Alpine Type-X's, so I don't know what is making me attracted to them but for some reason I am.  I'd love to get the Polk SR's but yea, those are a little out of my budget. 

     

     

    What advantages does a HU have when one unit has 2v output connection vs 4v?  I've heard it helps efficiency but I'm not sure I understand.  What I hear a difference in my music versus the two different ratings?

  • Rusty12:
    I think I'm going to just have to go out on a limb and purchase a set of speakers and hope they are to my liking, otherwise I'll have to return them.

    That's a pretty common problem everywhere.  I would read as many reviews as you can first and then the good thing with buying from CF is you have 30 days to try them out and decide if they are what you want.

    Also - don't be afraid to take advantage of that - there have been a few times when I bought gear and it had some "minor annoyance" and I thought I could live with it, and kept it over the 30-day limit and then it bugged me for years and I wished I had bought something else. 

    What advantages does a HU have when one unit has 2v output connection vs 4v?  I've heard it helps efficiency but I'm not sure I understand.  What I hear a difference in my music versus the two different ratings?

    It's not really efficiency - it is sending a higher signal to the amp.  The main effect of this is that it reduces the chance of noise being picked up in your RCA cables.  However, if you don't have noise in your RCA's at 2V, it's doubtful you will hear a difference at 4V.  The other advantage is you can set your amp's gain (sensitivity) lower (higher voltage number = lower overall gain setting), which reduces the likelihood of the amp producing distortion.

    However, keep in mind speaker level outputs as opposed to RCA's do the same thing.

    Extreme example but - cheap Audiovox HU with it's internal amp increasing the pre-out voltage to 4V and feeding a high-quality Rockford amp is likely going to be noisier than a clean Alpine HU providing 2V pre-outs to a decent Profile amp.

    See this post also. 

    2002 Ford Focus JVC KD-A815 Sony CDX-GT410u Sony XT-100HD HD Tuner Stock speakers, no amp, no subs

  • Thanks TigerHeli & junior77 your input has been very informative and valuable.  I am keeping CF in mind when I purchase because of their awesome support and return policy even though they are a some what more expensive than other retailers. 

     Do you know of any tips or sites that I could use to help me locate some reviews of the products im interested in?  I've read all of those on the CF site and I've googled(with little luck).  I can't find much of any besides the CF reviews to be honest.