HTB 503DV Integrated
Components included: VR-407 receiver, DV-403 DVD player,
KS-401HT speaker system, SW-32HT subwoofer
Price: $700 USD
Warranty: Two years on receiver, speakers,
and subwoofer, one year on DVD Player
- Rated Power: 100Wpc into 8 ohms
- Dolby Digital and DTS processing
- S-video switching
- six-channel inputs
- Includes all necessary wiring
- Available without the DV-403 DVD Player as the HTB 503
system for $500 USD
The recent growth of the home-theater market
has resulted in the proliferation of new products such as digital multichannel receivers,
DVD players, and surround-sound speaker systems. Many manufacturers have responded to this
by offering packages that combine the receiver with the necessary speakers required for
home theater. Some have even integrated the DVD player into the same unit as the receiver,
while others package it along with the receiver and speakers. These packages are known
collectively as "home theater in a box" or "integrated home-theater"
systems, and nearly all manufacturers, including Kenwood, whose system is the subject of
this review, have at least one in their product lines.
Kenwood is a name that many may associate with car audio
products or budget-priced home audio gear. However, it should be noted that Kenwood was
one of the first manufacturers to offer reasonably priced THX-certified home-theater
components as well as one of the first to include Dolby Digital processing in their
modestly priced A/V receivers. And they continue to offer many high-value components, such
as inexpensive receivers with both Dolby Digital and DTS processing as well as produce
high-end receivers and DVD players.
So whats in the box?
The Kenwood HTB 503DV system consists of the VR-407 Dolby
Digital/DTS receiver, DV-403 DVD player, KS-401HT speaker system (fronts, surrounds, and
center) and the SW-32HT subwoofer. The system is also available without the DV-403 DVD
player as the HTB 503 system. Even though this is an entry-level system, it features Dolby
Digital and DTS decoding as well as a rated 100Wpc for each of its five channels and an
output for the powered subwoofer. While there are a few nice features to this package,
given that it's a budget system, there really is not much surprising in either the design
or operation of any of these components.
The DV-403 is your typical budget DVD player. It features
one each of component, S-video, and composite video outs as well as a single set of analog
audio outputs and an optical (TosLink) and a coaxial digital output. There is also an
additional analog audio output labeled "Subwoofer," which can be used in
conjunction with the analog audio outputs. The remote control is basic, with the menu
system fairly straightforward and easy to navigate. The DV-403 can play VCDs, but not
The VR-407 may be an economically priced
receiver, but it sports some useful extras for the budget-minded consumer. Not only does
it offer the option of DTS decoding, but it also has S-video switching and a six-channel
audio input for any future formats such as multichannel DVD-A or SACD. It has two coaxial
and two TosLink optical inputs for receiving signals from digital sources that are
preassigned to particular sources/inputs. There are a total of five video inputs
(including one that is a VCR loop and one on the front panel) all with S-video and
composite RCA jacks as well as an audio-only tape loop for cassette decks, and even a
phono input. There are two switched AC outlets on the back panel, binding posts of average
quality (which will accommodate banana plugs) for the front and center channels, and
spring clips for the surrounds. There is also an AM/FM tuner if you want to listen to the
radio. The VR-407 offers enough connectivity and features to make it a worthy centerpiece
for an entry-level home-theater system.
The KS-401HT speaker system is the weakest part of this
system. The left and right speakers are a two-way design utilizing a DAppolito
configuration, while the center and surrounds each have only a single full-range driver.
The cabinets are not very solid, the speakers are fairly light in weight, and the
terminals are spring clips. None of this should come as a surprise considering the low
price of this system. Finally the SW-32HT subwoofer is included to handle bass duties. It
has a single line-level input and lacks high-level (speaker) inputs. The high-pass filter
is adjustable from 60Hz to 200Hz and has a bypass switch to disable it when used with a
processor or receiver with its own crossover.
Opening up the box
The first thing that you will notice about the Kenwood HTB
system when you open the box is the very large instruction sheet that is packaged on top.
This provides simple-to-follow diagrams and directions for the installation of the system.
With these instructions and all of the required wiring provided (including color-coded
speaker cable), the HTB system was a snap to install. However, the provided wires for the
surround speakers and subwoofer were a little short, requiring that I replace both with my
The VR-407 provides the requisite level settings and delays
for the center and surround channels. The levels of the center and both surrounds are
independently adjustable in increments of 1dB. Delay settings are adjusted by simply
entering the distance of the speakers from the seating position rather than trying to
calculate delays in milliseconds or differences in distances, as with so many other
receivers and processors. Bass management is a bit confusing. The front speakers can be
set to "large" or "normal." If they are set to large, then the center
can be set as large, normal, or no. If they are set to "normal," then the center
can only be set as "yes" or "no." The settings for the surrounds are
similarly affected by the setting chosen for the center channel. While this type of bass
management makes a certain amount of sense for some users, some may find it too limiting.
Other than the rather small, hard-to-read buttons on the remote and the restrictive bass
management, setup and calibration of the HTB system was straightforward.
The sound of the HTB system was enjoyable and remarkably
good considering its price. The presentation did lack some dynamics and soundstage depth
in an ultimate sense, and the treble was a bit bright. However, the front speakers were
able to image amazingly well with instruments and vocals, with sound effects floating
nicely between them. For instance, on the CD Mercury Falling [A&M 3145404832],
Sting's vocals imaged well, but were slightly hardened, especially at high volumes. The
bass was quite good, but the lowest registers not surprisingly, were missing. The bass on James
Taylor Live At The Beacon Theater did not quite integrate as smoothly as I would have
liked, but these are minor quibbles.
The atmospheric bass on American Beauty added
significantly to the enjoyment of the film with this system. CDs such as Sarah
Brightmans Time To Say Goodbye [Angel 724355651129] sounded quite pleasing
and would keep anyone happy who simply loves music and does not expect audiophile
performance. Whether it was the raucous soundtracks of Saving Private Ryan or The
Matrix, the Kenwood HTB system could play quite loud and sounded very satisfying until
pushed past its limits. More subtle soundtracks such as Apocalypse Now,
specifically where the helicopter rotors and Martin Sheens throaty voice move from
speaker to speaker in the opening scene, were nicely reproduced as was the Doors
performance of "The End." In Chapter 6: "The Helicopter Attack,"
imaging was good, but it lacked some depth, and Wagners "Ride of the
Valkyries" was a little lean.
To get a better idea of how good the VR-407 receiver is, I
used it in two-channel mode with a pair of NHT 1.5 loudspeakers (probably as good a pair
of speakers as anyone would use with this receiver). Substituting the 1.5s increased the
dynamics and added depth and body to the sound. Even though the NHTs are not an extremely
easy load like many home-theater speakers, the VR-407 was able to drive them quite nicely
and was even able to produce some substantial bass on CDs such as Peter Gabriels Ovo
[Real World PGCD9]. The VR-407 created some fine music with the NHTs, with its
limitations only being exposed when played back at very high volumes.
How does it look?
The picture quality of the DV-403 DVD player was comparable
to competing models, meaning that it was quite good. Colors were rich and warm, which
resulted in a pleasing picture. It may have been a little softer than I would have liked
and the colors perhaps a little less accurate, which made the presentation less
eye-popping than with some other players, but the differences were subtle. Using the
VR-407 to pass the S-video signals from DVD player to the TV monitor led to some
degradation in the signal, but again this was very subtle. The loss of picture quality was
so minor that I would not hesitate in using the VR-407 to switch S-video signals.
How did it stack up?
I did not really have any components that I could compare
directly to the HTB 503DV system. The discontinued Technics SA-AX6 that I own is
also a surprisingly good-sounding budget receiver, but it requires an outboard processor
for Dolby Digital and DTS decoding making the VR-407 a much better value. I did not have
anything to reasonably compare with the KS-401HT speaker system. And to be fair,
considering the systems price, these speakers cannot be expected to compete against
more expensive speaker systems from the likes of Paradigm, API, PSB, NHT, etc.
The DV-403 DVD player works and functions much like most
other entry-level DVD players from major manufacturers that use the same or very similar
video and audio digital-to-analog converters. The DV-403 did a good job of delivering
high-quality picture and sound.
Closing the box
While I was not thrilled with the speakers that came with
the HTB 503DV system, I can't say they are bad by any means. Their strongest attribute is
their excellent imaging. The DVD player included in the package is an admirable performer,
as are most brand-name DVD players in this price range. The real standout in this package
is the DV-407 receiver. With many useful features and performance that will allow it to be
used effectively with even much more expensive speakers, this receiver should easily
fulfill the needs of any low- to moderately priced home-theater system.
You could purchase the VR-407 receiver and DV-403 DVD
player individually, but the savings would only be about $200. And where could you find a
home-theater speaker system that includes a subwoofer for only $200? Add to this the
convenience of having all the necessary cables thrown in and installation instructions
that even a small monkey could understand and you begin to see the Kenwood HTB 503DV
systems merits. Even a snobbish home-theater reviewer like myself can appreciate the
value and convenience of a system such as this.
|Speakers - Infinity
Compositions Prelude (mains), Boston Acoustics 555x (center), Definitive Technology BP-10
(surrounds), Paradigm PW-2200 subwoofer, NHT 1.5
- Blue Circle BC32, Anthem MCA5
|Processor - Sherwood
- Pioneer DV-626D
|Cables - Nordost, Sonic
Horizon, MIT, AudioQuest, Monster Cable, Straight Wire
- Toshiba CX32H60