Let’s talk about touchscreens for a second.
More and more often, people are bringing home touchscreen laptops to go with their touchscreen smartphones.
Does that mean it’s time to upgrade our car audio to a touchscreen?
If you’re considering going down this path, Kenwood’s DDX26BT DVD receiver could be on your radar. Checking it out through Kenwood’s U.S. site, it boasts some impressive features and user-friendly capabilities.
Listing a bunch of high-end features—glossy 6.2” touch display, remote app, drive equalization, and Bluetooth pairing for up to five devices at the same time—is one thing. What we really want to know is: does it deliver?
So, we’re going to get this unit unboxed. We’ll check out what it can really do, how well it does it, and where the DDX26BT might have an edge over the competition.
Following a no-frills installation, this Double-DIN receiver rewards you straight out of the box. The 6.2” display is responsive and easy to navigate. CD and DVD are catered to. The unit also plays high-res music files, and has built-in support for FLAC, WAV, MP3 and WMA.
Something to note with the display: the clear resistive touch functionality gives a nice amount of drag, making navigation feel smooth and easy to control on the move.
Operating the receiver from a smartphone is simple, too. It took about two minutes to download Kenwood’s remote app, which you can use to cover navigation controls from any paired device.
Both iPhone and Android are catered to through the DDX26BT’s wireless Bluetooth connection or wired USB. The unit’s USB port is back-mounted—presumably so as not to muddy up the slick display.
While we’re on the topic of Bluetooth, Kenwood makes it easy to switch between devices when you’re on the road with family or friends. Pairing up to 5 devices to the receiver at one time means you can stream music from anywhere in your car. You can also switch between two phones—making the DDX26BT perfect if you need to make calls from different devices.
From the outset, the Kenwood DDX26BT is pretty flexible in its performance. If you want to run it as a basic unit for music playback and easy communication while you’re on the road, it delivers. But if you want to take some time to stretch its legs, the receiver offers more advanced features. You’ve got a selection of button illumination options if you’re an all the pretty colors type of person. The unit offers support for JPEG and PNG files if you want to customize your background. There’s also support for eighteen languages.
Treble and midrange notes are clear and—despite testing with factory speakers—there was very little distortion at high volume. The system output a good low-frequency response. There is a Loudness function, which gives a noticeable power boost across the bass and upper ranges. The DDX26BT model also offers solid tone control through the remote app and user interface.
If you prefer to have a little more control over your audio, this model boasts a 13-band EQ. It also comes with eight EQ presets—including Natural, Pop, Top 40, and Jazz—if you lose interest in setting up your sound profiles.
Kenwood has also added Digital Time Alignment to the mix.
If you’re not familiar with DTA, it’s a pretty nifty technology. DTA digitally delays the speakers closest to you—if you’re creating a profile for the driver, anyway—so that the sound from every speaker reaches your ears at the same time. The things engineers can come up with these days.
And one last thing when it comes to the DDX26BT: Kenwood’s Drive EQ. Is your car loud? Do you go off-roading, or spend time driving the unsealed wilderness? Then this unit could hold massive appeal for you. Drive EQ—one of the receivers built-in presets—has the ability to boost specific frequencies, to give a level listening experience regardless of road noise changes.
Kenwood gives pretty even support for both iOS and Android users. The remote app performs equally well across both devices, and the USB port allows rapid charging for Android smartphones, newer model iPhones (via lightning cable), and iPods or older model iPhones through the classic 30-pin connector. Regardless of your operating system, voice and video calling will pause music and auto-resume when you end the call.
If you’ve got an Android device connected via USB, you can switch between two AOA2 playback modes: Hand mode and Browse mode.
Hand mode is what it sounds like. Your device (which you’re holding in your hand) displays music info and allows you to control playback. The DDX26BT display doesn’t scroll through song info or allow navigation other than play, pause, back, and next. If you prefer to control your music from your phone, Hand mode is your guy.
Browse mode, on the other hand, allows full functionality through the receiver. You can browse your music library, navigate through playlists, and see song info on the unit display.
Neither way is correct—it just comes down to personal preference.
Kenwood, like most car audio manufacturers, doesn’t guarantee operation and compatibility of its products with Android devices.
As is normally the case, things are a lot more straightforward for you guys. Connecting to the rear-mount USB port lets you control playback, navigate stored playlists, stream content, and view song info directly on the DDX26BT.
Kenwood has designed the DDX26BT to be compatible with any iPhone capable of running iOS 8 and above.
Kenwood doesn’t offer a car fit guide, like some other manufacturers do. The system size is 7 x 3.7 x 6.3 inch, so you can check with your local retailer to see if it will fit in your car.
Kenwood recommends that installation of its products be completed by a professional. The process is pretty straightforward however, and most of the hardware you need for a clean install is included in the box.
Accessories will come into play if you decide you want to take advantage of the DDX26BT’s extended features. You would need a rear parking camera if you wanted to use the parking guide on the display, for example. If you wanted to run video to monitors in the back seats of your vehicle, you’d need to buy those.
If you want to use steering wheel controls, you’re going to want to pick up a steering wheel adapter.
The unit comes with basic hardware, including a wiring harness. Interestingly, this model didn’t include a radio removal tool in the box, or a mounting sleeve, so you may need both of these items.
Test driving the Kenwood DDX26BT DVD receiver is enjoyable, and there’s a lot to admire about it. The glossy six-plus inch display is glossy. The clear resistive touch screen feels good, and the user interface is slick and functional.
Sound output from the unit is punchy, customizable and smooth.
The model delivers on the capabilities Kenwood promises, but still gives you some flexibility to make it better. This is the kind of unit that you can grow with, if you’re starting out on your foray into car audio madness.
Got the DDX26BT already? Tell us your thoughts about it in the comments below.