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JVC’s KD-AHD39 Packs a Punch

So far I have had zero problems with this radio. I have been pleased with how it works. The audio quality is great.

(click thumbnail)As you may remember, I bought a Dual XHD6420 late last year.

This was a good HD Radio, and in my opinion that’s about it.

I also wrote about having issues with the CD player not working properly. After the article in Radio World was published in the March 12 issue, more things happened. I ended up calling Crutchfield, and they allowed me and my fiancé to return our radios and get full credit back.

By this time, I had been looking around for a new HD Radio. I like Kenwood the best; however, they have not made a radio yet with a built-in HD Radio tuner.

I noticed a JVC KD-HDR30 radio. It is the upgrade to the KD-HDR1 that Ed Dulaney, chief engineer here at Crawford Broadcasting’s Denver cluster, owns. This radio had everything I wanted: an auxiliary input on the front panel, easy display buttons and MP3/WMA compatibility. The only problem was, it was sold out at Crutchfield.

It had been for a month when I finally started talking to Chad Vogelsong, general manager of marketing for JVC. I was surprised he took the time to talk to me via e-mail. I am sure he had more important things to do than talk to some woman in Colorado who wanted a radio.

He told me they were making the HDR30s, but demand was too high for them to keep up. He sent me a link to JVC’s Arsenal line and told me about the KD-AHD39. It was basically the same radio as the HDR30, except it was slightly better thanks to a few enhancements.

Product CapsuleThumbs Up

  • Easy-to-use display button
  • Easy-access SRC button
  • Input level control
  • Removable faceplate for added security

Thumbs Down

  • Treble/bass controls confusing
  • Remote control too small

$199.95 MSRP

Info Click on “HD Radio”After doing some research, I realized the Arsenal line was for higher-end cars. I own a Ford Escape — nothing fancy. This radio, at the time, was only $159.99 through Crutchfield.

Simple installation

The unit hadn’t been released just yet, but he said JVC had recently shipped it to Crutchfield. I didn’t see it on their Web site, so I called.

Crutchfield told me they did not have it but gave me the price. I went ahead and paid, not expecting to get it for a few more weeks.

That very day, Crutchfield must have received the shipment. The next day I got my shipment notification and before I knew it, I finally had a new HD Radio.

The installation of the radio is simple. Connect the Crutchfield-supplied vehicle-specific wiring harness to the harness supplied with the radio, then just put it in the hole left by the other radio.

I was eager to play with it to see how it worked. I will admit I have never liked JVC all that much because I find the radios confusing.

I would play around with Ed’s radio every once in a while and just get confused. I don’t know if it is the “blonde factor” or just because the radio isn’t logically laid out. So, yes, I got the book out.

I did not see anything anywhere about bass and treble controls as you would find on most radios. I found the balance and fade controls easily. I showed my dad the book and he found it quickly. I’d been looking for the wrong thing.

JVC does their treble/bass controls with what amounts to a seven-band graphic equalizer. I am still not entirely sure how the frequency bands provided correspond to the sound I am looking for. I tend to tweak my settings from time to time to get just what I want.

I have had the radio now for a little over a month and I must say I love it. No problems yet. The AHD39 has an easy display button. You just push it and it comes up with what you want: time, station frequency, title.

HD2, HD3 presets

The thing I really like is when an artist tags their CD with the music info, the CD player will read that information and the text will scroll just like it would for an MP3 CD. There is an AUX jack on the faceplate to make for easy connection of an MP3 player.

There is also an easy-access SRC button to switch between the radio, a CD or the AUX input. There are 18 FM presets and six AM presets. This radio, unlike the HDR1, stores HD2 and HD3 presets.

The faceplate is detachable so you can keep your radio secure when you are not in the car. There is also a surround sound decoder for HD Radio for those stations that transmit surround. It certainly makes the sound fuller, even if you only have four speakers like I do. The radio also comes with a small remote control, but it’s so small that it could easily get lost.

One other thing I have found that I like about this radio, since my MP3 player audio is low when connected, there is an input level control that you can set from –10 to +10. By adjusting this control, I was able to make the audio from my MP3 player the same as the rest of the audio from the radio.

There is a “Hold” button that you can use when the station you are listening to switches back from analog to digital constantly (such as in a transition area). You can have it set on “Auto,” which means if there is an HD-R signal it will decode it; “Analog,” which locks the analog signal only, so if the digital is weak, it won’t switch back and forth; and “Digital” which — you guessed it — locks only on digital signals and keeps it from going to the analog signal.

This feature has proved useful for me as there are a few places around Denver where the signal jumps back and forth due to power lines and terrain.

The radio has some optional add-on features such as the JVC iPod adapter, a Bluetooth adapter, satellite radio and a CD changer.

So far I have had zero problems with this radio. I have been pleased with how it works. The audio quality is great. Everything was relatively easy to figure out.

I would definitely suggest anyone who wants a good HD Radio and is willing to spend a little extra cash to go out and buy the JVC KD-AHD39. I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.