When I work on music, I like to test a mix by taking it out to the car and playing it on the car stereo… so I thought this review was appropriate here. I just bought the JVC KD-LH910 receiver for my car, and after living with the stock VW stereo for nearly ten years, it’s a major improvement. It sounds great, plays CDs, and can play CD-Rs full of MP3s—as can most car stereos these days. The big difference with this model is that it can also play MP3s from an SD (flash memory) card.
This unit has the usual detachable face, and the Eject button moves the faceplate out of the way to make way for the CD slot. The controls are straightforward, except for the surprising lack of Play, Stop, and Pause buttons. As it turns out I don’t miss them much. If the unit is turned on it’s playing, and it turns off and on quickly enough to work as a pause. It resumes playing where it left off when you turn it back on.
This model has a nice OLED display, and unlike some others I played with, actually makes good use of it. It displays album, artist, and song titles from the MP3 file’s ID3 tags, and smoothly scrolls items that don’t fit on the screen. The screen defaults to a funky shifting background color, but thankfully you can turn that off, and even set your own RGB color.
I’m not a world-class audiophile so I can’t say much about the audio quality except that it sounds great to me. There’s a built-in true 3-band equalizer where you can select the center frequency, level, and bandwidth for all 3 bands. Adjustable levels for CD, SD, and external input make transitions smooth by eliminating sudden volume shifts.
The MP3 support is excellent. If you set up an MP3 CD with a folder for each album, it will play an album in order and lets you cycle through the tracks, switch albums, and fast-forward and rewind. Just like a CD changer but better—an MP3 CD will hold 6-10 albums at very good quality (160 K). There’s a 1-2 second delay between tracks when playing back MP3s, which is disappointing, but very few MP3 players achieve gapless playback.
Best of all, there’s an SD card slot hidden under the faceplate. SD cards work just like MP3 CDs, but better—The gap between tracks is very short (about half a second) and you can drive on a bumpy road with no chance of skipping. I bought a 1 GB SD card to use with the JVC, and it easily holds a dozen albums with room to spare for a few tracks I’m currently working on.
It also plays normal CDs, AM and FM radios, and optional Sirius satellite radio. One nice feature for radio: you can enter a name for each preset station. It supports an optional CD changer, although MP3s make this of little value. (JVC does make a changer that supports MP3 CDs.) A remote control is included. I have no idea why.
As for the wiring, there are two sets of preamp outputs and a subwoofer output along with the usual wiring harness. An external input is not included, but an optional adapter adds a headphone plug input that works perfectly with my iPod.
All in all, this is a great stereo, and the SD card support makes it great for taking mixes out for a listen. I can also play the SD card on my Treo when I’m not in the car, which makes it a very versatile music source.