JVC Mobile's EL Kameleon: The KD-AVX44 - Review Head Unit
Some twists for the current decade
MSRP: $549.95 You've got to hand it to the team at JVC Mobile. They certainly know how to produce a radio with knock-your-socks-off aesthetics. Back in 1999, the electronics manufacturer introduced a receiver with a black-out faceplate. The original "El Kameleon" was cool, but the 1990s didn't have the impressive technologies available today. This year, JVC reintroduced El Kameleon with some twists for the current decade, such as a built-in 3.5-inch monitor and DVD-playing capability.
The Basics The KD-AVX44 is a single-DIN CD/DVD receiver with a detachable faceplate. When not in use, the face of the unit appears glossy, black, and otherwise unremarkable. But when you wave your hand near it, a proximity detector illuminates the panel in red light. Presto! You have controls.
In addition to a variety of CD and DVD formats (no DVD-Audio, however), El Kameleon supports ancillary devices such as HD Radio and satellite radio tuners, CD changers, a rearview camera, and iPod video (the adapter cable is purchased separately for $49.95). You can even feed video content from a navigation unit. Built-in media options include USB connectivity (for thumb drives, MP3 players, and iPod) and Bluetooth for phones and other enabled devices.
At specialist retailers, another version of El Kameleon is available for the Arsenal line: the KD-ADV49. This version has a two-year warranty (versus the one-year) and features blue illumination. It also costs $30 more at $579.95.
Installation And Manual The KD-AVX44 comes with a foldout installation guide and wiring diagrams, so DIYers with wiring knowledge and an aftermarket kit can set themselves up with few problems. Since the unit has an embedded screen, the parking brake wire must be connected in order for video to display.
The manual spans several languages and has some heft. That's a good thing as operating El Kameleon blind (i.e., without reading the manual first) can be frustrating. In an attempt to keep the faceplate sleek and minimal, controls are often unmarked (such as the source button on the upper left corner) and unintuitive. You can wallow through with trial and error, but that manual was made for reading, so use it.
User-Friendliness The black-out faceplate controls-the aspect of the KD-AVX44 that makes it so desirable-also makes it a bit difficult to use. With the paucity of actual buttons (there's one on each corner of the unit), most commands need to be inputted through the smart panel. Once you get a hang of it you'll be fine, but otherwise, answering a phone call, skipping a track, or even raising the volume can be frustrating.
Fortunately, JVC Mobile threw in a remote control for those who want a more tactile experience. Following the simple trend of few buttons on the unit's actual faceplate, the remote keeps it basic. For some functions (e.g., hands-free phone use), the remote is highly recommended.
Functionality Audio features include a seven-band iEQ, 50 watts x 4 of power, 5-volt line and subwoofer preouts, and gold-plated A/V input and output terminals. The unit supports a center channel and Dolby and DTS surround sound sources. For two-channel audio, Dolby PLII will simulate the surround sound experience.
CD and DVD playback works well with the unit automatically detecting the type of media and accessing it. Four levels of tilt make avoiding glare on the screen more doable but in full daylight, it may be impossible. The main limitation, of course, is the screen's small size. For anyone wanting a discreet, sleek look, El Kameleon definitely has it; moreover, the bright screen has an attractive jewel-like quality.
We are your local, experienced car technology customization specialists. We specialize in alarms, audio/video, multimedia, custom fabrication, and all other car technology customizations. on our staff, we have the skills, assets, and over 60 years of combined experience to accomplish any size project.