The Kenwood HTB-504: My Story (Long!)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Brian Harnish, Apr 18, 2002.

  1. Brian Harnish

    Brian Harnish Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2000
    Messages:
    1,216
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well, here's the review I promised of my Kenwood HTB-504! [​IMG]
    It all started during early March, Tuesday 6:30 pm. I headed over to Circuit City to purchase my own Kenwood HTB-504 -- my first foray into Dolby 5.1 sound. I unboxed the system and started putting together the speaker stands. Then, I hooked up the two mains, the center, and the sub. I inserted Beverly Hills Cop 2, turned on the receiver, switched to DVD/6 ch and...nothing. No sound. I discovered I had the cable connected to the wrong input on the receiver. No biggie. So, the correct connection was made. BAM. My reaction to Dolby 3.1:
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Okay, after picking my jaw off the floor and returning my eyes to their rightful sockets, I started noticing audio dropouts. I figured that since the surrounds weren't connected yet, that the fronts were being overloaded and that's what was causing the dropouts. The following weekend (since it was Tuesday when I got the system), I hooked up the surrounds at last. Finally, I was able to experience full, Dolby Digital 5.1 sound! I inserted Saving Private Ryan. My reaction to Dolby 5.1:
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Unfortunately, as I discovered, hooking up the surrounds did not eliminate the audio dropouts. I consulted the home theater forum, and even sent an email to Kenwood. I didn't receive a response from Kenwood until a couple weeks later (after I solved the problem), but that's okay. They're busy people. Anyways, I tried several different solutions proposed by my own brain and the HTF. I reconnected everything, made sure all connections were sound and correct. I replaced the speaker cable. And I even tried setting the receiver to manually switch audio formats. One solution proposed by Bob here was to replace the audio cable I was using with a digital coax. Well, I was using an audio cable from an audio/video cable kit (the left channel audio cable). Turns out that was a mistake. I installed the digital coax cable and everything seemed fine. After more extensive testing, it was determined that that in fact was the problem! Also,I noticed a slightly improved audio quality after installing the digital coax cable.
    So now, free of the audio dropout problem, here is what I think of the system:
    This is an incredible value. I never imagined that I would receive such great sound from a $500.00 HTIB. While it doesn't produce the sound that a $2,500.00 separates system would, it still produces sound that rivals Bose's $1,000.00 Acousti-Crap system. As someone else has stated, the sub is an 8" that acts like a 12". I was demoing speakers and receivers before plunking down the cash for this system. Erroneously, I thought I would have been able to afford a $2500.00 audio system. Alas, I couldn't. So I ended up settling for this one (and I don't regret it!) Among the speakers I demoed were: Bose (wanted to see how bad they actually sounded), Sony, Yamaha, JBL, Energy, Paradigm, Klipsch, and B&W. I liked the B&Ws and Paradigms the best. Of course, the Paradigms eclipsed the speakers on this system by far.
    While Kenwood did kind of skimp on the speakers, they put a lot of effort into the receiver. You get Dolby Digital 5.1 along with DTS, and various sound modes (ranging from Jazz to Stadium and even a Disco mode). Also, 100 watts per channel is very nice (and that speaks further volumes about the value on the HTB-504). The midrange sounds great on the speakers. The high end also sounds pretty good (but still kind of lacking; I haven't been able to demo much high-sounding stuff, though). Of what I was able to demo, the high end and midrange on these bookshelf speakers seems pretty accurate (on HT as well as music). How does it sound for Home Theater? Dolby Digital sounds awesome, and DTS sounds even better! I still can't get over the sound quality on this system -- especially considering the fact that I paid only $500 smackaroos for this baby.
    If anyone is considering purchasing the Kenwood HTB-504 as their first step into the world of surround sound, I highly recommend it. For $500.00, it's a great value and worth every penny. A few things you should keep in mind, though:
    1. Make sure all speaker connections are correct. This will greatly influence your sound quality. If the negatives and positives aren't right, you won't get the best sound quality and you might end up with slight interference as well.
    2. Use a digital coax cable! I can't stress this enough. It will save you a lot of trouble if you decide to skimp on the cable like I did.
    3. Calibrate your system using a Radio Shack SPL meter and either Video Essentials or Avia. This also makes a world of difference in sound quality. This step balances out the sound output on your speakers.
    4. Use QUALITY speaker cable. I also can't stress this enough. I use Monster 14 gauge (when I talked about this before, the label on the speaker cable package said 12g; I didn't notice it was actually 14g wire) speaker cable for my fronts and surrounds. The speaker cable will determine the difference between crappy sound and excellent sound (I noticed an audible difference when I replaced the default cables with 14g Monster speaker cables). The wires that come with the HTB-504 are flimsy and, well, for lack of a better word, CRAP.
    Anyways, that's it. If anyone would like to add anything to this review, please do so. I highly recommend this product! [​IMG]
    Rating:
    4.5/5 stars.
     
  2. RobertCharlotte

    RobertCharlotte Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2002
    Messages:
    660
    Likes Received:
    0
    Brian, are you still using the OEM subwoofer cable or have you replace that, too, and if so with what?
     
  3. Jeffrey R

    Jeffrey R Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2002
    Messages:
    199
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'm right there with you on the HTB-504. I purchased the HTB-544 (with the VR-509 receiver, same speakers) a couple of months ago for $400, and it is truly an incredible value. By starting out with a full-fledged home theater receiver with DD, DTS, DPLII, Circle Surround 5.1, Cinema ReEQ, etc., Kenwood really stepped up in the HTIB market. Then, they threw in an 8", 100 watt powered sub that is a very good sub. Finishing up with the 5-speaker set, the speakers are by no means top-notch speakers, but anyone who has heard the system can vouch that for some reason, they sound very good. They're not high quality, but they can really produce clean sound for music and home theater. All in all, for $400-$500, it's a very good entry into home theater. Of course, other people will still want to go the separates route, which I considered, but you won't feel slighted getting this system. And you definitely need to toss the cables that come with the system and use quality cables and speaker wire. I've heard they are coming out with the new model for the 504 soon, so that should be interesting.
     
  4. JasonDG

    JasonDG Extra

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2002
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    0
    I also just purchased the HTB-504.

    I had been wanting surround sound for a very long time, but it just never made it very high on our priority list. But, then we visited my wife's younger brother (he's only 19) who had just moved into his own place. We watched Cast Away with surround sound and it was awesome. My wife's competitive nature kicked in and she authorized the purchase, but with a limited budget. So, I spent a week doing some research, and HTF pointed to only one HTiB, the 504.

    So that's what I bought and I love it. As Brian mentioned, the speaker wire they included was laughable. I bought monsters flat white paintable speaker wire that was very easy to route, it's very flexible.

    I thought the speakers were decent. They were much bigger than the other system I was considering (a sony). I've never had a surround sound system before so I can't really judge the speakers with any real comparison, but they sound good to me.

    The receiver is great. I was very happy with the number and variety of inputs. I supports the maximum performance from my other components. This was one of the main reasons I went with this system. And the remote works great for everything except my satellite receiver.

    So far I am very pleased.
     
  5. Todd Henry

    Todd Henry Second Unit

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Messages:
    324
    Likes Received:
    0
    Let me add my endorsement of the Kenwood systems. A month ago I got the HTB-544 when I realized for my needs, mostly TV and a little bit of movies that it was the most cost effective solution to my home theater needs.

    Just the another night, I saw how nice that system was for me. I had left the TV on when I went down to use the computer for a little bit. The movie, The Craft, came on HBO while I was downstairs. From my basement, the steps are right near the speakers, I could truly hear the Dolby Digital 5.1 impact. I was really impressed.

    Thanks to everyone for their feedback and opinions during the research phase and while setting it up. The next step is a better TV with component / S Video inputs so I can stop using composite.

    Todd
     
  6. steve nn

    steve nn Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2002
    Messages:
    2,418
    Likes Received:
    0
    I here you loud and clear. I bought mine the day after Christmas for $388 and the Sony WM40 for $135. Wow! I can't believe how good this sounds. Even with out the extra sub it's just one fine sounding unit for the money. It has bit me so hard I just can't quit upgrading though. This Home Theater Forum is the culprit. I now use the Velodyne ct-150 and am looking at speakers. I definitely do not need to do the upgrades! but hay I'm 42 and I do need to have some fun to. When I compared the 504 to other systems in the same price catagory or even double, the 504 just blew them away in my opinion. Even though I do not use the sub it came with, it is a good, heavy, sturdy, well build and good sounding sub for the money. Lets break it down-mmmm, I guess I pay-ed about $44 for the sub, $44 for the speakers and we will say $300 for the receiver to make my buy sound the best we can. Darn close anyway. I bought a DVD at the same time to and man what a difference that makes to.[​IMG] [​IMG] . VHS is [​IMG] [​IMG] . This all started when I won a big screen at work and things around here have not been the same. Your review hit the mark. One thing you did not mention was the manual. What did you think of it? I thought it did great at showing me how to hook up speakers and sub but the rest was lacking. I think they need to be a little more expletive for us rookies. I did have it up and running though in 2-3 hours except the VHS picture. The DVD was easy for me. I was lucky.
     
  7. Calvin Watts III

    Calvin Watts III Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2001
    Messages:
    916
    Likes Received:
    0
    I have had 2 Kenwood receivers,most recently the Kenwood VR-509, & I love it [​IMG]
    With my modest HT setup, I still blow the doors off of any of my family & friends. (Besides, I live in an apartment & can't play DVD's at ref. level anyways)
    While I don't have KW speakers,taking the time & spending a bit of money here & there has paid dividends for my setup.
    Kenwoods are a great way to break into home theatre.
    Calvin
     
  8. eric sr

    eric sr Auditioning

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2002
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    where can i go online to buy kenwood504 htib.
     
  9. Ian Montgomerie

    Ian Montgomerie Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2002
    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    0
    This past Christmas, my father was looking to set up a surround sound solution (since he had just got his first DVD player). I suggested the HTB-504 (based on the fact that a lot of people recommended it on the Internet, and also because unlike a low-end Home Theater Direct system or such, he could buy it locally). I visited at Christmas and set it up for him.

    I was quite impressed. It sounded really nice. Now it was quite obviously a 500 dollar HTB, not a 5000 dollar setup. But I was actually pretty amazed at how good such cheap speakers can sound (and the speakers obviously must have been pretty cheap to make, because the 500 dollars did include quite a nice low-end receiver). My dad really liked the 5.1 sound on DVDs. He also liked the Prologic II for CDs (he is not exactly an electronics guru, and didn't know that the DVD player could even play CDs until I showed him).

    The HTB-504 is definitely the best system to recommend to people who want cheap, convenient, but also decent quality home theater. For a more technical person willing to mail order their own system, they could do somewhat better for a bit more money by buying a receiver and some Home Theater Direct speakers. But this definitely compares with much more expensive systems from the likes of Bo$e. It's my stock recommendation for non-audiophiles wanting HT, unless they really want to spend a lot more money.
     
  10. Brian Harnish

    Brian Harnish Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2000
    Messages:
    1,216
    Likes Received:
    0
    Robert- I am still using the OEM subwoofer cable. I haven't gotten around to replacing that yet. Once I do, I will probably go with a Monster Subwoofer cable.
     
  11. RobertCharlotte

    RobertCharlotte Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2002
    Messages:
    660
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks, Brian.
     
  12. Wes C

    Wes C Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2002
    Messages:
    709
    Likes Received:
    0
    I use a monster subwoofer cable with my Kenwood 544. But I never listened to the system with the factory cable so I can't compare the two.
     
  13. eric sr

    eric sr Auditioning

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2002
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    where can i find this kenwood htib online.
     
  14. TommyB

    TommyB Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2002
    Messages:
    60
    Likes Received:
    0
    Eric...check out Sears, or their online store...they are closing the HTB-504 out for $430. If your local store does not have any in stock, you can order it from their website and have it delivered there. Many of the other websites that had the system listed were out of stock, but do a Google search and see if you can find a lower price...Sears may match the price.
     
  15. Rob Lutter

    Rob Lutter Producer

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2000
    Messages:
    4,523
    Likes Received:
    1
    I bought the HTB-504 a couple of months ago and I LOVE it. Properly calibrated (with a trusty Radio Shack SPL meter)... this system will give you 90% of the performance of a $4000 system for 10% of the price.
    [​IMG]
     
  16. eric sr

    eric sr Auditioning

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2002
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    thanks tommy
     
  17. DavidCannon

    DavidCannon Auditioning

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2002
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    Does the 504 system do ProLogicII? The item description at sears.com said so, but I thought it didn't. I would check kenwood's web page but I think its down. Thanks in advance.
     
  18. Brian Harnish

    Brian Harnish Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2000
    Messages:
    1,216
    Likes Received:
    0
    David- It most certainly DOES do ProLogic II. [​IMG]
     
  19. DavidCannon

    DavidCannon Auditioning

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2002
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks Brian,

    I just have one more question before I drop the hammer and upgrade my current 2 channel Jambox "home theatre". Does it come with speaker stands, or did you have to pick them up seperatly?
     
  20. Brian Harnish

    Brian Harnish Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2000
    Messages:
    1,216
    Likes Received:
    0
    David- I picked up the speaker stands at the same place -- Circuit City. They match perfectly and are gorgeous at the same time. I don't remember the name of the manufacturer of the stands or the model #. If you like, I'll check the box I still have and let you know. [​IMG]
     

Share This Page