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REVIEW: JVC KW-XR811 CAR STEREO

King of the sensible Double-DIN stereo’s?

These days it’s becoming more and more likely that you could install an aftermarket stereo in your new car. It might require a fascia adapter and a wiring loom adapter, but once you’re past these hurdles the possibilities are endless.

A lot of cars will require a standard DIN sized unit, but more and more models are able to accept Double-DIN units, which are double the height of the standard ones.

The advantage to a Double-DIN unit is that you have more space on the front for screens, buttons and dials, as well as double the space inside for electronics.

The result of this is that a lot of car stereos are now being produced that feature DVD drives and LCD screens which allow you to playback movies while driving.

This unit can’t.

JVC have taken a more sensible approach to the car stereo.  The XR811 can’t play back video, but it can do a whole lot more.  Read on to find out what.

Out of the box

There’s no shortage of accessories included with the XR811, when delving into the box I found the following:

  • The KW-XR811 head unit
  • A remote control
  • A mounting cage and bezel
  • A wiring loom adapter
  • A Parrot wired microphone
  • An installation guide
  • A multilingual instruction guide

The installation guide was pretty basic.  I guess that JVC assume that you know the basics of swapping out a car stereo.  If you don’t then I’d recommend getting your local car parts retailer or workshop to fit it for you.

The front of the unit features a high-gloss black look, with control buttons down the left and right sides.  The center of the unit is dominated by an LED backlit display and a decent sized rotary dial.

The dial is used to control volume as well as to scroll through options and your music library on the screen, more on that later.

The screen is a simple monochrome display – no colour here – but it’s far from the 7-segment displays that you used to get on after market stereos.  Instead it’s more of a dot-matrix display which can show a lot of information given the chance.

Connectivity for everyone!

JVC have clearly given some thought to connectivity when it comes to the XR811.  As well as a CD drive that will play standard disks and MP3 disks, you also get connectivity via:

  • MP3 or WMA playback via USB
  • iPod connectivity
  • 3.5mm audio jack input
  • AM/FM radio
  • Bluetooth audio playback and calling.

The only thing missing is an SD card slot, but with tons of other options available I can forgive this omission.

Sound Quality

I’m only using this head unit with the stock speakers in my Peugeot 307, but there’s still a drastic improvement over the stock head unit.

Truth be told, my original speakers are probably not doing the XR811 any justice, upgrading the speakers would probably yield even better results.

That being said, as a straight swap for a factory unit you can expect to see significant improvements in the clarity of your audio.

On the “flat” equalizer setting you get a nice even sound, though bass and mid sounds do tend to suffer slightly.  However, switch the equalizer to “Dynamic” mode and it’s a completely different story.  Bass sounds will come through powerful enough to shake your speakers (if you’re not careful), while at the same time mids and highs are produced brilliantly to create an all round decent sound.

There are other equalizer settings available, but to be honest I’ve found that “Dynamic” usually sounds the best no matter what kind of music you’re listening to.

JVC and the amazing technicolor head unit

The XR811 has one other trick up it’s sleeve that I should mention; it’s capable of changing the back lighting to match pretty much any cars dashboard lighting.

In fact, the button back lights and the screen back lighting can each be set to one of 30,000 different colour settings.  As well as this, there are around thirty presets which have been pre-configured to match the majority of car dashboards.

You can also set the unit to rotate through one of a few different colour blends, should you be into that, which will turn the inside of your car into a mobile disco of sorts.

You can also set the colour scheme to change (or just dim) depending on the time of day, so that you’re not dazzled at night, or if you find the stock colour too difficult to read when immersed in strong sunlight.

Finally, you can set the Bluetooth calling feature to change the head unit colour (rather than stop the music and start ringing).  That way if it’s a cold caller, or you just don’t fancy taking the call, it won’t interfere with your music.

Conclusions.

I’m not new to fitting after market equipment in my cars.  Over the years I’ve had head units from Pioneer, Alpine, Sony, Clarion and even a few unknown brands from the Far East.

This JVC unit is the first double DIN stereo I’ve ever fitted, and I must say I’m impressed.  The sound quality is nothing short of what I’d expect from JVC, and the unit blends flawlessly with the rest of my dash without having to sacrifice functionality.

The sheer number of different inputs available will please almost every user, but the decision not to include an SD card reader is a little strange.  That being said, if you’re hell bent on using an SD card to play back music then a USB card reader should function fine and won’t set you back more than a tenner.

Having spent a few weeks with the XR811 I’m confident that it’s one of the best car stereos I’ve ever owned.  Audio playback via any method is flawless and easy to control using either the head-unit or the remote control.  Bluetooth phone calls using the built in Parrot calling system come through loud and clear, even when driving at high speed.

If you’re an iPod user then this head unit is probably one of the best choices for you.  Unlike other units there’s no need to purchase an additional interface or cable in order to enjoy your music collection; you just need the white USB lead that comes with any iPod or iPhone.

At well under £200 it’s also one of the best priced units available for those with double DIN apertures.  Just make sure to check whether you will need any wiring adapters or face plates before deciding to upgrade your factory unit.

Author

Matt

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