In my quest to bring my vehicle’s audio system up to 2013 standards, I started out with a search at crutchfield.com with the criteria of Bluetooth Playback and no CD Player. My specific use-case is playing Google Play Music All Access over Bluetooth through my HTC One (M7) to the Car Stereo. The search returned a few “Digital Media Receivers” (DMRs) and the first unit that I ordered was the JVC KD-X250BT. Here’s my review after spending a month with the JVC KD-X250BT.
The JVC KD-X250BT is a feature-rich Digital Media Receiver (DMR from here on) that has a lot of desirable qualities. Let’s start with the important specifications:
- Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
- Official Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry support
- Pandora support on Android and iPhone
- USB Playback for iPhone, USB Flash Drives (only USB Charging for Android, no playback)
- all of the standard radio stuff…
The DMR’s general features work well. Menus are intuitive enough to figure out without having to use the manual. Different display modes can be toggled with the “Disp” button and allow for the clock to be displayed while music is playing. The clock also displays when the unit is in “Power Off” mode, which is nice. There is no clearly labeled “Play/Pause” button which is annoying, however, one tap on the Menu button will provide this functionality.
Phone calls are clear on the KD-X250BT, although I did have to speak louder than normal for others to hear me well on the included microphone. My one complaint about the included microphone is that it is one piece so the adhesive has to be un-stuck every time I pull the radio cover off.
Bluetooth Audio and Pandora Playback
My HTC One would connect automatically and the unit would wait for me to start my music app of choice and press play, as opposed to automatically playing the first song in my default music app. Bluetooth audio playback was decent, however there were times when the quality sounded poor. There were also times when music playback would become choppy and cut in and out a couple times a second. I think this may have had something to do with a poor Bluetooth connection. In order to remedy the problem sometimes I would need to reconnect, while other times it would fix itself after about 30 seconds. This would only happen once out of a few 20-minute car rides and my phone was never more than 3 feet from the DMR.
The Pandora feature was well done. JVC has a custom implementation here that allows the DMR to control Pandora completely through the unit, including up/down voting songs. The Pandora app simply had a black screen with a Pandora and a JVC logo on it during Pandora playback. I, like most, do not have an unlimited data plan so I don’t have the convenience of being able to stream music on car rides. I do not have much of a use for the Pandora integration in the car, but if you do, the JVC KD-X250BT is probably the DMR for you.
The biggest quirk that I found was when changing the song on the JVC KD-X250BT Bluetooth unit, the display will randomly say that a song is Paused. This happens when the song takes an extra second or two to buffer on the phone before playback begins. The word “Pause” flashes on the screen annoyingly throughout the entire song. I upgraded the DMR to JVC’s latest firmware (version 300 at the time of writing), but still experienced this problem. I’ve captured the problem in a video on YouTube:
The only way to get this to stop is to hit pause and then play again on the phone, or skip the song on the radio. This problem may be limited to the Play Music app due to the fact that it can take extra time to buffer, especially if streaming playback instead of local playback. My guess is that this will happen in any app where the song may take a second or two to buffer before playback begins.
Bluetooth Hardware and Specification
The owner’s manual states that the FCC ID of the Bluetooth hardware is XQN-BTR60X and the IC is 9688A-BTR601. This led me to track down the bluetooth module in the KD-X250BT as the AvantWave BTR601. This module implements Bluetooth version 2.1+EDR. Additionally, the JVC website lists the following Bluetooth Profile versions:
- A2DP 1.2
- AVRCP 1.3
A2DP is “Advanced Audio Distribution Profile”, the Bluetooth Profile that defines how to stream music between Bluetooth devices. AVRCP is “Audio/Video Remote Control Profile”, which is the Bluetooth Profile that defines how how controls (play, pause, prev, next, etc.) are sent between Bluetooth devices.
I’m no expert on Bluetooth modules, but hopefully the Bluetooth connectivity and random pausing issues that I saw in Bluetooth playback is not a hardware issue and can be fixed by JVC in a future firmware update.
I was surprised at the number of features that the JVC KD-X250BT implemented in a value DMR. I think that the Pandora support was an excellent feature for users looking to stream Pandora in the car, and I highly recommend the unit for that use-case.
The Bluetooth connectivity and random pausing issues with the JVC KD-X250BT ultimately led me to explore other options. I have currently switched the unit out for an Alpine UTE-42BT DMR and will have a review and teardown of that DMR in the coming weeks.