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Experience with Kenwood VR-509 and JBL SCS135 (Long) (1 Viewer)

Craig Louie

Dec 26, 2001
I purchased a Kenwood VR-509 Receiver and a JBL SCS135 6 Speaker Home Theatre Set on Boxing Day at Future Shop in Canada for $450 CDN and $500 CDN respectively (before taxes).

I chose these components to go with my Panasonic Tau 36HX40 HD-Ready TV, Pioneer Elite DV-37 DVD Player, and Digital Cable Motorola DCT2000 Set-top Box to complete the Home Theater System. I did my primary research for the receiver and speakers on this site, crutchfield.com and on audioreview.com.

Overall, I am very, very happy with the whole system.

It took me the better part of a day to get the receiver/speaker combination setup however; this was much longer than I would have expected. I am a relatively experienced mechanical systems engineer; and although a relative newbie to home theatre systems, I had alot more trouble with the setup than I would have liked. One of my primary issues IMHO was with the manuals. They could be improved significantly, which I would suspect help a large cross section of primarily newbies to home theater setups.

My DVD player video is hooked directly to the TV using component video cables. I primarily purchased the VR-509 over the VR-507 to get the "advanced" remote; the component video switching feature of the 509 is not something that I think I will be using in the near future. Component cables are not cheap and I could not get a real definite sense whether running the component video through the VR-509 would degrade the signal quality [something for Kenwood to address in their marketing material]. I purchased a Toslink optical cable to connect the audio from the DVD to the receiver. I was somewhat unsure whether I also needed to connect the DVD analog audio using the 2 RCA composite cables to the receiver as well as the Kenwood manual stated [get this paragraph]

"To enjoy Dolby Digital surround (as well as other listening modes) from a single component, be sure to use Dolby Digital compatible source component's Dolby Digital format audio signal to one of the DIGITAL INPUT jacks on the back of the receiver. Connect the normal audio signal correctly to the respective component's AUDIO jacks."


I ended up with a problem of not being able to get any surround sound coming out of the receiver. I was able to get the DVD player to output digital audio in either Dolby Digital or DTS, but whenever I switched the unit to "Digital Auto", the unit would always switch to "STEREO" and "DOWNMIX" and only play out over the L and R speakers. However, the test tones would come out properly over all 6 speakers (eventually - I'll get to that later) so I knew that the receiver was capable of outputting to all 6 speakers. After much trial and error, resetting the software, working at the system to even get Pro Logic II to play from an analog stereo source, I finally determined that the Speakers ahould be set to "A ON" to get surround sound as opposed to "A + B ON". With "A + B ON" which the manual gives me every indication that it should be for my standard setup, I get the problem of the unit going to "STEREO" and "DOWNMIX" and only play out over the L and R speakers. For other Kenwood receiver owners, is "A ON" the right setting? Again from the manual:

A ON: Sound from the speakers connected to the SPEAKERS A terminals on the rear panel

A+B ON: Sound from both the speakers connected to the SPEAKERS Aand B terminals on the rear panel

[Then there is a little diagram showing A and B speakers lit up and a note:"The indicator for the speakers you want to use should be lit" which I took to be a guide as the default setting - obviously wrong however]

For those of you unfamiliar with the Kenwood receivers, the Front L, R, and Centers are connected to the A terminals and the SR and SL are connected to the B terminals.

Compounded by the very short definition of DOWNMIX in the manual "If Dolby Digital or DTS signal having more channels than the maximum number of playback channels available using the receiver's current settings is input, the DOWNMIX indicator on the front panel lights up and downmixing to match the available channels." and no other mention of my problem in the troubleshooting section. As well, the connection digrams from DVD to receiver only showed the setup from DVD's that have the 6 output channels already included, which I think are in the minority. I would have hoped to see connection digrams and clear instructions how to set up universal setups and/or the kind of setup that I have, which I expect is not uncommon.

After a short time with the remote, I am so far dissappointed, as I am unable to control my TV or Digital cable (Motorola DCT2000) box with it. I was hoping to get away with 1 remote. Instead, I have 1 for the TV, one for the Digital Cable, and 1 for the receiver that can control both the DVD and Receiver. Still too complicated to just watch normal TV. I was hoping that there would be some way of upgrading the software in the remote so it has other codes - or am I dreaming? More research required here. Every remote I have claims to be programmable and can control other equipment. So far, I have not been sucessful. Even when I get something to control another component, it can leave off a critical function.

As for getting the speakers working (and do I feel somewhat stupid, although I feel I was somewhat led down the wrong path by the manual), when I connected the speakers to the receiver, I was getting intermittent performance out of the SR and SL speakers, although only infrequently with the test tones but more often when in operation. The speaker wire ends as purchased were bare of insulation and "hard and silvery". I read in the manual that the ends need to be stripped, however, I thought that they were already stripped as the insulation was already off the last half inch. After awhile, because the intermittent operation (the speakers would cut out at higher volumes) I figured that the resistance must be too high and maybe the speaker ends were soldered (which they were). So I stripped one properly and found nice stranded copper wire. So I ended up properly stripping the ends. The intermittent problem went away. Again, I think the manual should be more explicit for us electrically challenged types on what to do. The speaker wire is quite thin (16 gauge?) is this adequate for the SCS135?

Now that everything seems so far to be working, I am happy. The downfiring powered subwoofer is very nice. The calibration of sound level to each speaker works well. Dolby Pro Logic II is very nice, I have to agree with many others, it is one of the features of the receiver that I like the most, which can be found relatively inexpensively only on the Kenwoods in my area (harmon kardon 120/220/320/520 are the other systems that have this feature, however they are a fair bit more expensive than the Kenwoods).

In summary:

1. Very nice units once they are setup right

2. Kenwood and JBL: better manuals please

3. Kenwood owners: do you run on the speakers "A ON" setting only for surround sound?

4. Need to figure out how to simply remote control the whole system

5. Need to find out whether better speaker wire would be beneficial.



David X

Stunt Coordinator
Dec 2, 2001
Looking at the back panel of the VR-509 it looks like you have 5-way binding posts for the front mains and center channel and there are 2 sets of spring clip speaker terminals for the B l+r speakers and below them you have 2 sets of spring clip speaker terminals for the l+r surrounds.
You would only turn on the "B" speakers if you have a second set of mains run to a second room. I'm assuming you don't have a second set of main speakers run to a second room, so you would not turn on the "B" speakers.
I don't have this receiver, but, yes, at this price range, it's quite possible that you can only drive the rear surrounds with the "B" speakers off.
If your cd/dvd player is capable of emitting a pcm stream on the digital output, and the receiver is capable of decoding a pcm stream (the vr-509 decodes pcm) then you probably don't need the audio l+r outputs from the cd/dvd player connected to the receiver. Just configure the dvd player to emit everything in digital form, including the pcm stream. (Somebody might have a good reason for doing this, especially if your dvd players dac is better than the receivers dac for normal 2-channel music, I suppose.)
Keep in mind that there are dozens and dozens of ways to wire components up and these manuals only give you a few basic configurations. Sure, they can be written better, but at the price you paid, you got a nice receiver. :)
I also agree with running the dvd component outputs directly to the tv. Unless you have a reason to switch them (more than one component video device and only one component video input on the tv, for example), you are probably better off not putting another device in the signal path. Keep in mind that the Kenwood's switching frequency for the component video inputs is only 10Mhz which might be ok for dvd, but may not be good enough for some hdtv signals. I don't know what frequency is necessary for hdtv switching.
It sounds like your surround speaker wires had 'tinned' ends, which isn't a bad thing in itself as long as they make a good connection at both ends. 16 guage is probably ok for this setup as long as your speaker wire runs are less than 20 feet or so. If they are longer, go with a bigger wire (14 guage).
At any rate, congratulations on getting it all up and running!

Mike LS

Supporting Actor
Jun 29, 2000
Yeah...Kenwood is notorious for badly written manuals. They read like the person who wrote it didn't speak very good english. But Kenwood components are usually very simple to set up, so the first order of business is usually to throw the manual in the trash.

The deal with the A and B speakers is the amps. There are only 5 amps in this receiver, so since there's 7 speaker outpus, there are some speakers that have to share amps with others.

The B speaker outputs can only be used in stereo mode because they share the same amps that the surround channels use. If you have the B speakers activated and the receiver tries to go into a surround mode, it automatically kicks into stereo mode because there aren't enough amps to go around. I've always thought it would make more sense for it to kick the B speakers off automatically since this seems to be a major cause for confusion for new owners.

At any rate, if you have no second set of front speakers connected, always leave it as A only or you'll have more problems.

As for the remote.....my current receiver uses the same remote that you have and I've never had a problem with it not controling all my equipment. I rarely ever have to pick up another remote since I got the Kenwood. Of course there are certain things that I can't do with it, but all normal use functions are covered.

Granted, I don't have a cable box in my setup, but I would think that your TV would be in there somewhere. Be sure to try out all the codes that are given for Panasonic TV's. There are usually 4 or 5 codes for each manufacturer and it's usually the last one you try.

Martin Fontaine

Supporting Actor
Aug 15, 2001
I have the same unit. The B Left-Right Speaker Connectors and the A Left-Rear and Right-Rear are just next to each other. You connected them in the wrong place.

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