Kenwood DM-3090 Review

Richard J Anderson ([email protected])
March, 1998

First impressions

Styling of the unit is very "quirky", being somewhat square and boxy compared to my Sony MDS-JE510, but it looks okay. (In fact it looks remarkably like a Sharp unit - more later...) The remote is very small and stubby and not to my taste at all! One major plus of the unit is it has an built-in clock which is displayed when the unit is in standby mode, and this enables the unit to make timer recordings (as long as the source is on) up to 28 days in the future - usefull if you go on holiday, but do you really want to leave the radio on for that long? Inputs are optical I/O, coaxial in and analog in/out.

I got a special deal on the unit, as I work part time in a Hifi shop, and got chatting with the Kenwood service rep when he came in, who just happened to have it in his van after collecting it from a Hifi mag where it was on review (it got 5 stars incidently). So he let me have it as an ex-service model for GBP 100 (well actually he billed my bosses for it and I have to pay them back :-( )

I mentioned to the rep the remarkable similarities to the Sharp MD-R2 unit we had in stock, such as the case styling, display, the fact that the inputs/outputs and the whole back plate were identical, that the remotes interoperated on the two units, the serial numbers had the first seven digits the same, and he informed me they were "sister machines" - apparently they don't like the word "clone", but they were in fact both manufactured by Kenwood. Hmmmmm..........

To prove a point he opened up the Sharp (he's allowed to, boys and girls...) and what did I see, but lo and behold a Kenwood - logoed circuit board ! It seems that the MD-R2 uses Kenwood's D.R.I.V.E system and is assembled by them in Malaysia. So the Sharp unit is really a Kenwood? No, final assembly is done by Sharp, who add their latest ATRAC chip to the R2 and put the previous generation in the Kenwood, so that there is a difference. (But, as I mentioned to the service guy, if I could get a Sharp ATRAC chip, I could put it in my Kenwood, and it would "upgrade" it, to which he replied "you'll NEVER get a chip unless you take it from a machine - I can't get replacement chips, I only get boards, so how could you?", to which I countered " so you can get me a Sharp board for it, then?" to which he replied " No".)

He also told me that if any Sharp unit in this country needs servicing, the Kenwood service agents do it. At least, they do the decks, and Sharp do the portables, as Kenwood sell the Sharp MD-MS200 clone here in the UK, as well as the play only machine (DMC G3?) that is reported to be poor quality and need servicing constantly. (?)

Anyway, the moral of this (long) post is "nothing is always what it seems" , and "buy as many minidisc machines as you can personally afford, and the world will become a better place..." - ( I now have 5....)

P.S - Kenwood are going to price the DM-3090 to go head to head with the Sony MDS-JE510 in this country - it's going to go for about GBP 199 but you should be able to haggle more off that price!

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