By >Akihabara News Team
[Review] Kenwood MG-F500 Series, Back to the Basic
These recent years, the Digital Audio Player Market has greatly evolved… And you have to admit, it’s now rare to find an Audio Player without any LCD or OLED Screen, Multitouch, Video Mode, TV Tuner, Internet, Phone, Coffee Machine, and so on… Actually, it’s not really a surprise since people prefer now to invest in a nice all-in-one solution rather than in different devices that they won’t use or they won’t be able to carry with them… And manufacturers such as Apple and their product iPhone, or HTC with their HD2, Sony and their NW-X1000, and others have well understood this point… However, although all of these devices are, without any doubt, great toys, sometimes manufacturers should focus their work on one thing at a time… Like providing just a nice video mode or just a nice audio mode mainly designed for the audiophile for example…
Anyway, some manufacturers like Kenwood try to offer this kind of a product… a real MP3 Player without a superfluous thing… a device designed specifically for listening to the music…
Let’s see what the latest DAP from Kenwood, the MG-F500 Series (Media Keg), has to offer….
- Model: MG-F500 Series
- Internal Memory: 4GB / 8 GB / 16GB
- External Memory: Micro SDHC (up to 16GB)
- Screen: 2 inch LCD TFT
- Interface: USB 2.0 port
- Audio Files Compatibility: MP3 (32-320kbps CBR & VBR), WMA (for 32-320kbps CBR/32-355kbps
VBR/DRM9), AAC (32-320kbps CBR & VBR), and WAV
- EQ: 6 Presets (BASS / POPS / ROCK / JAZZ / DANCE / VOICE) + 3 Customizable EQ 5 Bands
- Jack-Mini (3.5mm) output for headphone
- Battery: Lithium Ion with 50 hours life span
- Language: Japanese, Chinese, and English.
- Files transfer Method: Drag & Drop.
Anyway, something really basic, available in 3 different colors (Black, Silver, and Pink), which displays a incompatibility with some audio files like the OGG, and FLAC… The good things are we have a real USB 2.0 port, and not a proprietary port, as well as a customizable EQ and the famous and useful drag and drop.
Measuring 46.5×98×13 mm for 62g only, Kenwood’s Digital Audio Player comes with a USB Cable, an Instruction Manual, 11.5mm magnesium in-ear earphones, a driver…
Regarding the packaging, Kenwood offers something really basic. Obviously, the packaging is as minimal as the player itself, with the bare minimum: A basic box, with basic packing that includes drivers, earphones, USB cable and the MG-F504…
Once in the hands, the product strikes by its lightness (62g). Made with an Aluminum panel, the MG-F504 seems solid. But, it still gives an impression of something “cheap”.
The design is really simple, and it’s far from what we have been used to see these recent years. It seems Kenwood didn’t give much attention on this part… In few words, we don’t have anything sexy… But who cares?
- Control Button
On the edge of the device, you have different control buttons: the volume button, the lock button, as well as the micro SD card slot, the USB port, and the mini-jack output for headphones (on bottom).
Regarding the other control buttons, Play, Stop, Next / Previous track, On / Off buttons appear on the front panel. Since we don’t have a touch panel, all navigation is done from this Panel… And we have to admit that after few days of using the device, it was really a pain to navigate in the menu… The buttons are “heavy” and “tiring” when you press them… far from being the best part of the DAP.
But, the good thing is you can blindly control your DAP which is way more comfortable than a touchscreen DAP… Indeed, personally, if there is one thing I hate on the latest DAPs, or PMPs, it is the lack of physical control button obliging you to take the device out of your pocket to see what you’re doing.
-Interface / Menu
The MG-F504’s menu is also very simple. When you turn the device on (which takes around 4 or 5 seconds), you have basic things like the Artist Menu, Genre menu, Track Menu, Favorite Menu, Folder, Setting Menu, Micro SD Menu, and Pictures menu. As we said before, this is just an Audio player, and you won’t have any superfluous things…
When the DAP is playing a track, basic information will appear: The name of the artist, the name of the album, the name of the track, as well as the play mode (Shuffle, Repeat…), and the Album Cover…
Anyway, you will have all the information you need, and it will be way enough to know which track you’re listening to… However, we found the screen slightly monotonous, and Kenwood does not allow you to change the menu’s background…
- Music Transfer / Charge
As it has been announced, the MG-F504 won’t need any soft in order to let you transfer your music from your PC to the DAP… And this is a real good thing. Just plug the device, choose your music, drag & drop it into your DAP’s folder… That’s it! Simple and efficient!
The Device can also be charged via the USB port… It takes around three hours to be fully charged providing you about 50 hours of listening… Notice that you cannot listen to the music once the device is plugged to your PC.
For this test we used several different Headphones:
Of course we tried Kenwood’s ones which were not bad, but as usual, if you want to fully enjoy your DAP, you should forget about these 11.5mm earphones and invest in better ones…
We also tried Apple’s earphones, just to see the result… And surprisingly, the sound was awful… Actually we don’t know if it’s a question of compatibility, but to put it simple, using these earphones couldn’t let you enjoy the vocals of the tracks….
Anyway, for these tests we mainly used two overhead headphones: the Audio-Technica ATH-SJ5, as well as Panasonic RP-HTX7
As a reminder, the ATH-SJ5 provides a frequency response of 8Hz – 25,000Hz, an impedance of 32 Ω, a sensitivity of 108dB, and driver of 40mm. Regarding the Panasonic one, we have a frequency response of 7Hz – 22,000Hz, an impedance of 40 Ω, a sensitivity of 99dB, and driver of 40mm…
First of all, the good news is the MG-F500 Series manage track by folder. As we said before, this device is drag & drop… You just have to copy – paste your folders from your PC to your Audio Player, and enjoy your music.
To launch the music, select your folder music in the artist menu and push the Play button (in the center of the device)… If you need to go to the next track, press the button dedicated to this function… In few words, nothing more basic and simple than this MG-F500 and you can blindly enjoy your device…
And then, if you need to manage the EQ, to change play mode (Shuffle, Repeat…), to see information about the file you’re listening to, you will just have to press the On/Off button. There will pop up a menu displaying all you need. Regarding the EQ mode you have 6 presets, as well as 3 customizable EQ. To put it simple, you’ll have to tweak 5 bands… The good thing here is the possibility to tweak your sound while listening…
Notice that if you plan to extend your storage space via a microSD Card, the MG-F500 cannot mix its internal memory folders with the microSD card folders, which means you cannot have your full list of music in one screen…
Last thing regarding this part, once you unplugged your headphones, the device stops playing music automatically. Plugging again your headphones will restart automatically the audio playback.
- Audio performance
Obviously we didn’t expect to get the same sound quality as a Cowon S9, or Sony Walkman NW-1000 which are both really good audio Players…
But, surprisingly, this MG-F500 Series from Kenwood is far from being bad, and offers a punchy sound with deep and powerful bass, natural sound. We listened to a variety of genres, Metal, Dub, Classic, Electro, Rhythm & Blues, hardcore music, and everything is clean… You don’t have any unfortunate blow in your ears… The listening is really pleasant. Compared to an iPod, with a flat EQ, we would say the MG-F500 is even better…
However, we really regret the lack of Audio files compatibility, in particular the impossibility of playing FLAC Audio files… Of course, this is not indispensable, but audiophiles could be disappointed with not being able to fully enjoy their music…
A lot of people like to have a DAP capable of providing a gapless playback… But unfortunately, don’t expect to have this kind of feature on this one…
Lastly, regarding the battery life span, our device really provides nearly 50hours of music
- Good Audio quality
- Drag & Drop
- microSD Card slot
- Customizable EQ (5 Bands)
- Battery Life Span (50 hours)
- Blinded Control
- Language: Japanese, Chinese, and English
- Lack of Audio Files Compatibility
- The price compared to the same kind of products
- Overall quality a little bit “cheap”
- Navigation in the menus
In a market flooded by PMPs providing Video, Internet, Audio, Coffee, Ticket train, and so on… Kenwood tried to offer a device only focused on Audio playback…. And the result is far from being bad. Providing nice sound with powerful and deep bass, a natural sound, the MG-F500 Series has to be considered as a serious option if you’re looking for a good audio player…
But, the lack of some audio files compatibility added to the a little bit tiring navigation in the menu make this device not the best we could have…
For example you could get a “Sansa Clip +” from SanDisk, which offers the FLAC Files compatibility, with Radio Tuner, microSD port, a voice recorder function, in a smaller size for a cheaper price…
4GB version: 12,800 Yens, or 95€
8GB Version: 14,800 Yens, or 99€
16GB Version: 17,800 Yens, or 135€.