For disc-based media, the KD HDR1 plays CDs and homemade MP3 and WMA discs. If the latter are encoded with ID3 tag information, that can be called up on the stereo's monochrome LCD faceplate. Only eight characters of any one tag (artist/ track/ album etc) can be displayed at once, though tags can be set to scroll via an option in the Select menu.
Using JVC's KS-PD100 module ($50), the KD HDR1 can also be used to play music from iPods via a full-speed or "intelligent" connection, which transfers control of the iPod's library to the stereo itself. Navigation of the standard iPod menus (artists/ albums/ songs/ composers/ genres) using the KD HDR1 takes some getting used to, but it is surprisingly user-friendly for a device with such a basic display.
JVC uses the KD HDR1's four-way interface to mimic the buttons on an iPod itself. Pressing the Up button takes users back to a higher menu level (equivalent to pressing the Menu button on an iPod; Back and Forward select through menu options; and Down confirms a selection). As with digital audio discs, the ID3 tag information for iPod tracks is limited to eight characters, making it sometimes difficult to recognize songs at a glance. Also on the down side, there is no generic auxiliary input jack to enable drivers to connect any digital audio players other than iPods.
The KD HDR1 comes with a built-in MOS-FET amp, giving it 20 watts of power through four channels. Like many modern car stereos it also has a two-line output (2.5 volts), and a dedicated subwoofer out for those wanting to connect it to their own bass bin. Other settings include the option for Circle Sound surround sound signal processing for HD programs encoded with CS II. Circle Sound works by attempting to reproduce 5.1 surround-sound acoustics using only four speakers. Users can also select different intermediate frequency (IF) settings to reduce interference noise between stations, and can set amplifier gain control, which enables users to select the maximum power output level for the built-in amp to avoid blowing lower-powered speakers.
The KD HDR1 is a bargain for those looking for an in-car stereo with a built-in HD Radio tuner. While its monochrome display is a little small for navigating audio libraries, its user-friendly interface and range of supported sources make it an appealing option for the price.