Comments on the
Kenwood 1050MD player/recorder deck

Derek Fong ([email protected])

Robert B. has a scanned advertisment for the unit.

I thought it would be helpful to summarize my purchase since it might help other buyers, especially since it is one of the newer Kenwood units which people probably know less about. I paid $399 at a local stereo store, compared with $299 for the Sony JE-510.

Major selling points on Kenwood:

  1. I needed a deck with coax input since my Parasound CD player has only Coax or AT+T glass optical output.
  2. Using a set of Grado SR60s in the store, the Kenwood sounded better. Not a *huge* difference but the Kenwood had more body and the voices were a bit more palpable and less etched in comparison with the Sony. I assume this probably has a lot to do with Kenwood's digital filtering versus Sony's, plus the quality of the headphone amps on the two units.
    Note: this wasn't a vigorous test using recordings from a known source nor on my own Hi-fi. In fact, as an audiophile, these were one of the worse "listening test" conditions I've been in since the store was fairly noisy and I was using open-aired phones. The store had a demo MD with a couple tracks I was very familiar with: Rebecca Pidgeon's Spanish Harlem and Shawn Colvin's Sunny Came Home. The former is a audiophile standard recorded by Chesky and I've used it on countless occasions to compare other hi-fi gear.
  3. The Kenwood seems to be much better build quality... metal front plate... much heavier unit.
  4. The Kenwood uses Sony's ATRAC 4.5. This is a minor selling point but interesting since only the top end 50ES Sony deck uses this latest chip.
  5. I have been a bit skeptical of quality control in Sony's consumer products in recent years.

Final verdict: I bought the Kenwood since it has coax input. If the Sony had a coax input, I think I very well may have took the Sony unit home and saved the $100 for blanks or possibly towards a portable unit (and bought the bundle4). This MD player was not meant to replace my CD player... but rather my 2nd tape deck which recently died (I still have good 3 head tape deck with Dolby S), so I could archive old tapes and LPs, plus have a high quality, durable medium to eventually use in the car and on the go.

It should be noted that this my first MD purchase. I always thought it was an attractive format, but for a while thought the prices were a bit unreasonable match for my budget and needs.

Bringing the unit home ...

OK, here are impressions after having had it home for less than a week. I've been quite, these are very early impressions although I don't expect them to change too much.

  1. The recordings are quite good digital->digital, and this is using a $5 radio shack cable. (let's not start a flame war about cables here!) I can discern some subtle difference between the source and the copy like a shallower soundstage, but the sound is very pleasant and retains most low level detail. in very quick comparison, I thought it sounded *better* than my cheap Sony carousel changer, but not quite as good as my Parasound player (these were sighted tests...).
    The MD lost some ambience and "area" around performers on good recordings; eg, Spanish Harlem. for critical listening, I think I'd miss having the CD player, but the MD is very impressive and I'm surprised that the ATRAC is so close to the source. If and when I update to an external DAC, I think that will be the most interesting comparison. I have a feeling that the differences will shrink further. (I assume that my Parasound DAC is superior to that in the MD unit and may account for the majority of the sound differences)
  2. I like the 13 segment recording level meter... it will be especially useful when I do analog recordings.
  3. The manual and "user friendliness" leave something to be desired. I've figured everything out but the manual is pretty poorly written and organized. Also, I think the Kenwood is lacking some the "useful features" that the Sony unit has (or I was led to believe reading the reviews on the minidisc home page):
  4. Nice build quality for such a reasonably priced unit although the fit and finish isn't perfect (like one of my keys is a bit askew... I'm just fussy about such things). But overall, a good job for a "economy" unit.

    Overall, I'm pleased. Although I in general think Sony's quality control has gone down the toilet in recent years, I would have been happy spending $100 less if the 510 had a coax digital in. Then again, for the slightly better sound and coax, I think I can easily justify the expense and live with the few convenience nuisances I've mentioned above.

The bottom line: I'm impressed by the MD format itself and am glad to finally have "dove into the pond."

Hope this helps someone.

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