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My review of the Kenwood VRS-N8100 networking receiver - Page 2

post #31 of 634
Hi Dan,

Is your network wireless also? If i get this i have to move my router to where my Tv is connected to the Kenwood and get a wireless Pci card for desktop my laptop has wireless already..Is this correct?
post #32 of 634
I'm a bit confused.

In the initial post you said this was a 7.1 receiver, yet there are only six speaker connections (i.e. only a single back speaker). True 7.1 playback includes stereo L&R back speakers. What gives?

I'm sorry but MP3 just dosen't cut it, and I'm afraid if it's using WMA and Winamp for lossless playback, then the PC is probably degrading the source signal by converting the original 44.1kHz CD signal stored on the hard disk or played from the CD-ROM drive to a 48kHz playback signal (definately not desirable). I could be wrong though.
post #33 of 634
I have the unit connected to the wired part of my network. But you can use an wireless adapter according to the directions that come with the unit.
post #34 of 634
Let's just say that software has never been Kenwood's strong suit.

That is a good price at Costco. Hopefully they fix the directory structure problem. That is a big one.

This silver fad is killing me. By the time I switch over to silver on all my components, they will be back to black.
post #35 of 634
Quote:


Originally posted by BruceD
I'm a bit confused.

In the initial post you said this was a 7.1 receiver, yet there are only six speaker connections (i.e. only a single back speaker). True 7.1 playback includes stereo L&R back speakers. What gives?

It has 6 built-in amps, but it has a 7.1 setting and Left and Right back surround preamp outputs allowing you to connect an external stereo amplifier for 7.1 speaker playback using DPL2x.
post #36 of 634
Thanks Daryl. I'm a dunce for not looking at the RCA connectors for preouts.
post #37 of 634
No problem. I have my VRS-7100 setup with an external amp for 7.1 playback also.
post #38 of 634
A couple of more observations.

This unit is not compatible with the two different in-wall source selectors I have tried. In my setup I have one set of speakers that can be driven by either my whole house audio system or by this unit. This unit shorts out when connected to two different A/B selector switches I tried. I presume this has something to do with the digital amp not using one of the legs to the speakers as ground. The Onkyo receiver I replaced had no problems with this same setup. I just ordered a new Russound source selector on-line which is supposed to completely isolate both amps from each other - I presume my other two source selectors assumed a common ground between receivers.

The manual talks about RDS - radio data service - the idea being that station names, song names and genre's come over the air via the FM signal. I presume this doesn't work in the USA as I can find no way to even turn the function on in the unit itself. Must be a bad manual.

One more software bad - the server software wants to convert all of your images to some intermediate format in batch when you register them on the server. It hasn't finished yet after running for an hour - It appears to be downconverting my 10,000+ photos into 640x480 jpg files - wasting lots of time and disc space by doing them all in advance vs transcoding on the fly when they are requested. It does not try to do this to video or audio.

This also implies the unit only supports 640x480 display of images which is a bit disappointing for HDTV monitors that can support 1024x768 at a minimum. Roku is clearly better here in terms of on-screen image quality and screen resolution.
post #39 of 634
More feedback from more playing with the unit.

I think I understand the UI design now. You just make the following assumption - the UI design folks at Kenwood had a small list of movie files, picture files and songs each stored in a single directory in their test environment. Each of these files has a very simple name - just the name of the movie/picture/track.

If this matches your environment then things are designed well.

However if for instance you have more than a handful of songs or nested directories then it all starts to fall apart. And god forbid you name your songs like I do - artist-album-song-track_number.mp3. The unit sorts songs by directory name, and then by full file name. It does not appear to decipher mp3 tags. So for just about all of my files I can tell what the album is (from the directory) but not what the song is - the name is long enough that the UI truncates it.

This is a classic case of engineering screwing up and not having a real world use case. Product works fine in the most simplistic use case - but they never thought of doing boundary testing or real world use cases.

So folks I am sorry to say that this is a basically unusable system in its current state if you have more than a handful of files on your media server.

I will call Kenwood on Monday and ask them what the deal is before boxing it up and taking back to Costco.
post #40 of 634
Thread Starter 
Sorry to hear about your troubles. Keep us posted on your conversation with Kenwood. I started ripping my music collection after I got this receiver, so my naming conventions and directory structure are built around the software. Maybe that's why I am feeling better about it than you are.

I am using the unit on an 802.11b network. high quality Mpegs don't make it over the wireless so well, basically not smooth. Just to make sure, I did a wired connection to the reciever and it was fine. An 802.11g network is a necessity if you plan on streaming videos via wifi.
post #41 of 634
I just found this thread, so I guess I'll just jump in with both feet.

I work for Kenwood as a Home Audio Product Trainer. I will attempt to answer any questions you might have, and correct any incorrect info I see.

DDRucker - The server software will drill down as deep in the directories as you'd like to take it. If you were to select the My Music folder on your PC, click it, click select all, click import, it will register the entire folder (all levels) at once, although into a single genre folder. To import the various genres, click the genre in the Music Library, then select the albums in that genre using the control key with your mouse click. Once you've selected all the albums of that genre, click Import.
It does list each folder on the GUI. When you select that folder, it shows the titles in that folder. However, as you name your tracks, it does make it difficult (impossible?) to use the GUI.

The RDS capability is for Europe only, and is noted in the manual as such.

sgroer - You're right - 802.11G is best for high quality video.

Slocko - Sorry about the silver. The Kenwood FineLine series is designed to fit into today's lifestyle. With the major trend to flat-panel monitors and TVs, this system is designed to blend in with that look, without sacrificing HT performance.
post #42 of 634
Tgaut - thanks for that feedback. I already did a big control-select on my 1000 or so directories and got it to import that way. Didn't think of "select all" as that does not usually imply selection of subdirectories of a single parent in the world of standard software UI.

Question - what is the best mechanism to provide feedback to Kenwood on enhancement requests for this unit? Through you or through the tech support department. Do you have a sense of whether they are actively developing the software and firmware for the unit to improve it and what the release plan is?

I think we could easily come up with a top 10 list of bugs and enhancements here, but I wouldn't waste the time to do so if I didn't know there was a path to Kenwood engineering.

If I knew obvious features like MP3 ID tag support were coming it would make me more interested in being an advocate for the unit.
post #43 of 634
Nice to have Tgaut on this thread..hopefully he can provide more insights to 8100..I would like to pick this up but if more people report problems it will be down to 7100, panny xr70 and Denon 3805 before x-mas. So keep the reviews coming!! thanks all...
post #44 of 634
Tgaut, maybe you can answer a question with regards to my 7100 (i posted this ? on the 7100 thread but no responses) anyways I have had my 7100 for about 2 months and within the first week the unit would not respond usining the remote on one instance until I unplugged the unit then everything was fine once i plugged it back in. It happened again a couple of weeks ago as well and the other day my father in law called me with the same problem, it also happened to another members unit when i borrowed it a few months ago to demo it


any thoughts?


thanks, bob
post #45 of 634
Quote:
Originally posted by ultra 150 pilot
Tgaut, maybe you can answer a question with regards to my 7100 (i posted this ? on the 7100 thread but no responses) anyways I have had my 7100 for about 2 months and within the first week the unit would not respond usining the remote on one instance until I unplugged the unit then everything was fine once i plugged it back in. It happened again a couple of weeks ago as well and the other day my father in law called me with the same problem, it also happened to another members unit when i borrowed it a few months ago to demo it


any thoughts?


thanks, bob

I haven't heard of that issue. I do most of my "playing" on the 8100, which is identical to the 7100 except for the networking capability. Can you give me more details? What input? No functions working or specific functions? Controls on the front working?

I have an 8100 at my desk, and find it easier to punch the buttons on the front of the unit. I would occasionally find the up and down buttons wouldn't work on the remote while the left and right buttons worked. I was getting frustrated until I realized that I hadn't pushed the Network Server button on the REMOTE. Pressed the button, everything worked fine. Duh.

Post any requests/complaints on the unit. I am 15 feet away from the Product Development Manager and am happy to dump it on his desk. Know that we are aware of some issues and welcome any feedback. We're excited about this product and want that excitement to be reflected out there.
post #46 of 634
OK TGAUT:

My Top 10+ N8100 Enhancement List Request:
---------------------------------------------------------
1) Publish a list of known things you are working on and known enhancements you are working on (a statement of direction) plus your best guess at a schedule. This gives us all hope and prevents us from spinning our wheels. This is where Roku is getting killed by their users - for providing no visibility.
2) Server: Read the metadata already present in files (such as MP3 ID Tags) and use this to populate fields in the client. For instance for music Track Name, Artist, Genre, Year, etc. Drive the UI off this metadata as the default and fallback to filenames if the metadata doesn't exist.
3) Server: Turn the thing into a service or a windows Tray item - never a foreground application. Make the default for the thing to be to run at system startup.
4) Server: Make the default behaviour when you choose a default directory to automatically include all files at or below this directory, not just one level down.
5) Server: Transcode images on the fly- Currently you downconvert and store every image in advance to 640x480 jpgs. This is a huge waste of space- in my case something like 20,000 new files on my hard drive, 99% of which I will never look at. It is also not clear you provide a way for the user to control where these go =- most people will not want them in their /program files directory.
6) Server: Automatically scan the hard drive for changes and update the libraries automatically
7) Client: Allow for higher photo resolutions if your chipset can handle it - 640x480 does not shine on an HDTV monitor that can handle 1024x768 or better. Roku looks a lot better here.
8) Client: Music: Allow for sorting by artist, album, genre, title, etc.
9) Client: Music: Render the metadata from MP3 ID tags first,filenames second
10 Client: Music: Allow the user to search for new tracks, queue up new tracks etc while a song is playing
11) Client: Overall: Work on UI consistency. Right now the UI is a wierd mix of radio buttons which are used as menu items, horizonal as well as vertical boxes, etc
12) Client: Photo: Get rid of the hokey split screen transition in the slideshow or make this a user preference.
13) Client: Music / Photo: Allow slideshows while playing music and make it easy to go back and forth between photos and music.
14) Client: Music: Support Winamp Playlists and have a separate category in the UI for these
15) Client: Wierd UI: Why the heck is the main setup underneath network setup?

That's a start.... Look to the more recent Tivo's for the cleanest, easiest client user interface and most consistent / robust set of features for this kind of stuff.

I would also suggest you check out the Roku forum at Roku labs - there are lots of lists of enhancements for media players there.

If I could choose one thing on this list to ask your product manager to focus on - it would be item number one. Communicate your plans with your enthusiast community...
post #47 of 634
Thread Starter 
ddruker -
Great list, and I think you have echoed my sentiments. I am not displeased with this product, but I think there are a few places for improvement. FYI, I am using Windows XP and the software runs as a background service. I don't have to even start the server software for the recevier to access the files... I love this feature.

Tgaut -
I couldn't agree with ddruker more about publishing a support page and schedule. It's amazing to me that I had to go to www.kenwood.jp and translate the page using babelfish to get support for this receiver over the web. There's a clear disconnect between the national sites, and there is absolutely nothing specific on the US support page specific to this receiver. In addition to DDruker's comment, a FAQ similar to the Japan site, as well as a place to download the most recent firmware and software would be great.

The random / shuffle feature seems to be very concerning to many on this board. I never use it anyways, but many see this as a dealbreaker.

I would love an itntuitive way to make playlist using the remote. I must say, this was something I assumed the receiver could do before purchase, and it can't.

The ability of the receiver to read MP3 ID tags is also on my short list of things I think would greatly benefit this receiver.


The fact that you showed up on this thread soliciting input from us, as well as the very high quality of support I received over the phone is a good sign that you are commited to supporting this device and making it successful.
post #48 of 634
Quote:
Originally posted by ddruker
OK TGAUT:
*** Wow! What happened to the top ten? Oh well, that'll teach me!

My Top 10+ N8100 Enhancement List Request:
---------------------------------------------------------
1) Publish a list of known things you are working on and known enhancements you are working on (a statement of direction) plus your best guess at a schedule. This gives us all hope and prevents us from spinning our wheels. This is where Roku is getting killed by their users - for providing no visibility.
*** In the next two weeks, we'll be releasing the first upgrade. It will be downloaded off the Kenwood site, and will update the Kenwood Server software to allow firmware updates to the 8100. This will be housekeeping, no changes to the functionality.

2) Server: Read the metadata already present in files (such as MP3 ID Tags) and use this to populate fields in the client. For instance for music Track Name, Artist, Genre, Year, etc. Drive the UI off this metadata as the default and fallback to filenames if the metadata doesn't exist.
*** See below

3) Server: Turn the thing into a service or a windows Tray item - never a foreground application. Make the default for the thing to be to run at system startup.
*** The server automatically loads on boot, but doesn't appear in the tray.If you CTL-ALT-DEL, select Task Manager, and click on the Processes tab, you should find "kwdservice" running.

4) Server: Make the default behaviour when you choose a default directory to automatically include all files at or below this directory, not just one level down.
*** Using the Select All button does that.

5) Server: Transcode images on the fly- Currently you downconvert and store every image in advance to 640x480 jpgs. This is a huge waste of space- in my case something like 20,000 new files on my hard drive, 99% of which I will never look at. It is also not clear you provide a way for the user to control where these go =- most people will not want them in their /program files directory.
*** See Below

6) Server: Automatically scan the hard drive for changes and update the libraries automatically
*** I have no idea if this entered into the decision to not scan the drive automatically, but I have had many people comment in training sessions that it's preferable to not scan. Apparently, there are some people who have video or photo files on their computers that they would prefer not show up automatically. Compound this by having it scan all computers on the network, and there could be some discord generated in families. The current Home Media software on Tivo operates the same way. You must select the files you want streamed.

7) Client: Allow for higher photo resolutions if your chipset can handle it - 640x480 does not shine on an HDTV monitor that can handle 1024x768 or better. Roku looks a lot better here.
*** See below

8) Client: Music: Allow for sorting by artist, album, genre, title, etc.
9) Client: Music: Render the metadata from MP3 ID tags first,filenames second
*** See below

10 Client: Music: Allow the user to search for new tracks, queue up new tracks etc while a song is playing
*** See below

11) Client: Overall: Work on UI consistency. Right now the UI is a wierd mix of radio buttons which are used as menu items, horizonal as well as vertical boxes, etc
*** See below

12) Client: Photo: Get rid of the hokey split screen transition in the slideshow or make this a user preference.
*** See below

13) Client: Music / Photo: Allow slideshows while playing music and make it easy to go back and forth between photos and music.
*** Ah! One I can answer! The Background Music buttom (BGM) in the server software allows you to select specific audio files to play while viewing a slide show. Easy to go between is another story, so See Below.

14) Client: Music: Support Winamp Playlists and have a separate category in the UI for these
*** See below

15) Client: Wierd UI: Why the heck is the main setup underneath network setup?
*** Good point.

That's a start.... Look to the more recent Tivo's for the cleanest, easiest client user interface and most consistent / robust set of features for this kind of stuff.
*** I agree that Tivo has a smooth user interface, but they didn't perfect it on their first time out. They've taken customer feedback and worked to come up with their current interface, and that's what we're working on. The 8100 is the first, and still only, Home Theater receiver on the market with the ability to stream music, photos, and videos. We think it's a breakout product, and this segment of the Home Audio market is poised for tremendous change and growth.

I would also suggest you check out the Roku forum at Roku labs - there are lots of lists of enhancements for media players there.

If I could choose one thing on this list to ask your product manager to focus on - it would be item number one. Communicate your plans with your enthusiast community...

*** Consider it dumped on his desk. I'll communicate any and all information that I *CAN*. As this dialog continues, please understand that I cannot talk about any future products that haven't been annouced to the general public.

****** Below******
All of these suggestions will be passed on, and looked at seriously.
post #49 of 634
Sgroer - Not only do you not have to run the server software, you don't have to be logged in. You only must have the computer powered on.

Sometime between January 11th-14th Kenwood would like to visit the home of an 8100 owner. The visitors will be engineers from Japan, and are wanting to see how the 8100 is being used and to solicit feedback and ask questions. There is no $$ involved, but is an opportunity to be involved in the evolution of this product line.

If anyone is interested, please PM me with your location.
post #50 of 634
Tgaut,

Add to the wish list a Mac OSX client. If it had one, I'd have bought it.

Cheers,
JnC
post #51 of 634
TGAUT - I updated my earlier comments to reflect your clarifications - especially the bits about directory selections and the background server process. Thanks for your participation in the forum.

If your engineers are going to be in Palo Alto I suppose they could come by - but I don't think I am probably an average user... The Kenwood box is in our master bedroom connected to a Panasonic Plasma more as an experiment in how network receivers are coming along (I replaced the Onkyo NR-801 network receiver with it if anyone wants to buy a slightly used Onkyo) and not in our primary viewing area which has a Roku-HD1000, a Denon receiver and an HD-Tivo. I have a server out in our garage with about 1/2 terabyte of storage, connected to a wired gigabit network that runs throughout the house. The catalyst for me for purchasing the Kenwood unit to replace the Onkyo was primarily form factor first, and second because I made a mistake and should have bought the NR-901 (I hated that the GUI on the NR-801 didn't work over the component outputs)

This is what happens when an former engineer goes on leave from work for a year to work on building his new house.... Many miles of cat 6 and coax later we are extremely wired compared to your average consumer.
post #52 of 634
[quote]Originally posted by tgaut
[b]I haven't heard of that issue. I do most of my "playing" on the 8100, which is identical to the 7100 except for the networking capability. Can you give me more details? What input? No functions working or specific functions? Controls on the front working?

What I found is the remote works fine with every function and on a few occasions then I try to change the volume and no response then I try to play with all the buttons and no response until I unplug the unit and everything works fine.

Its not a huge deal to me! Btw this piece is amazing for the money I had a B&k ref 50 and rotel 1075 amp until my buddy brought his 7100 over and we were all blown away at the sound. I ended up selling my gear and buying the kenwood and had enough money left over to buy a niles whole house system and upgraded my ht at the same time

pass that on to your associates that should make them feel good about what they are doing



thanks for contributing to the forum, bob
post #53 of 634
Ultra 150 Pilot,

I talked to our tech support manager, and he said he hadn't heard of that problem with the 7100. He asked if you had noticed the range on the remote getting shorter before it happens, possibly indicating a problem with the sensor.

When you unplug it, you are performing a "soft" reset of the processor. If you'd like to hard reset, unplug it, then hold down the power button while plugging it back in. This will clear any settings you have, taking it back to factory defaults. Don't know if it'll help, but it can't hurt.

You've indicated that it isn't a big problem, but he suggested you contact customer service (1-800-kenwood) to log the problem. That way if it should become a bigger problem in the future, there will be a record of it.

BTW, thanks for the good words! I'm always happy to pass on something that might make someone's day.
post #54 of 634
what about adding a web browser interface?

that way we can queue up music or photos from any wireless computer in the house without having to install a client on every computer.
post #55 of 634
slocko,
I'm not sure I understand exactly what you're asking for, but let me take a shot.

You can have up to 16 PCs on the network and be able to stream from any one of the sixteen. When you select network server on the 8100 it will display all computers on the network that are currently up. You select the computer that you'd like to stream from and start enjoying the entertainment.

You can have up to eight 8100s on the network. Depending on the number of 8100s/PCs on the network, you can run up on network limitations as to bandwidth and throughput. Unfortunately, most of us won't have the opportunity to push the network limits.
post #56 of 634
What I mean is to make the server accessible via a web browser so I configure, create playsists, play music from any computer on the nework.

Just imagine that you are sitting on your computer doing some work, let's say paying bills, and you decide you want to listen to some music. You fire up your browser, plug in the address, and voila you can create a playlist and say play.

That will fire up the receiver so it begins streaming the music. Now if it could automatically switch to the right input, that would be icing on the cake. But if I have to get up and use my universal remote, that's okay.

The people you are targeting have computer networks with several computers. So offering another way to control the unit would make it more attractive. It solves the problem of having to be close up to see the display on the receiver.
post #57 of 634
OK Got it.

I'm not an engineer, but I suspect that would be beyond the capabilities of the hardware as it currently exists.

I will pass it on. Maybe it could be implemented in a future product.
post #58 of 634
Thread Starter 
Tgaut... PM sent... I am in Atlanta.
post #59 of 634
It would also be great to have a SAMBA share so that we can link up to non-windows based directories. That way I could access the 300gigs of files on my XBOX Media Center. I'm sure unix/linux/mac users might want the same, although I suspect the mac network access is already covered somehow.
post #60 of 634
Some of you may have noticed that all configuration performed by the Kenwood PC Server is stored in a collection of XML files stored in the "C:\\Program Files\\Kenwood\\kenwood_library" folder.

This has me thinking that I'll design my own program to maintain these XML files (I'm a .NET programmer)...This may allow us to add functionality on our own that we are not happy about in the Kenwood software.

I'm already considering a way to add a "Shuffle" feature to the playlists that are stored in these XML files. The "C:\\Program Files\\Kenwood\\kenwood_library\\contents_db\\music\\music_c ollections.xml" file contains the entire music collection. A simple program run as a Windows Service could randomize the contents of this list and give the appearance of being "Shuffled".

I'm sure other people can think of other features we as the user base could add...

Another feature I would like to see added is support for "streaming" audio (Realaudio/streaming mp3, etc).
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