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Itís big, itís bold, and you can even sing along with it, itís the very unusual Aiwa Z-D9100 AV midi-system...



You have to hand it to Aiwa, who else but Sonyís second cousin (twice removed) would think of putting together an AV system, with a 3-CD autochanger, Karaoke facility, Dolby Pro Logic decoder, digital sound processor and top it off with a turntable? This curious blend of technologies covers just about every home entertainment eventuality, theyíve even got a matching stereo televideo if youíre interested, though curiously the otherwise very impressive VX-S140 doesnít have NICAM sound, but we digress....


The Z-D9100 is a stack of six midi-sized components, plus a set of five speakers, all for less than £900. All of the boxes are designed to work with one another and connect to the amplifier/processor by idiot-proof colour-coded ribbon cables. The cheap and quite cheerful automatic turntable is on the top of the pile. Below that thereís the 3-band tuner with 10 channel pre-sets on each band. The tuner also houses the clock and timers which have a variety of functions, including programmable sleep and wake-up modes. Underneath that is the graphic equaliser, which resembles Blackpool illuminations when it gets going. Aiwa have gone right over the top with this one; the fluorescent display panels have a variety of more or less conventional spectrum analyser options, but they can be made to play all kinds of other winky-light tricks that range from mildly amusing to downright silly.


The main amplifier is next, itís a beefy multi channel design pumping 75 watts into each of the two fancy-looking stereo loudspeakers, 25 watts into the magnetically-shielded centre channel speaker and 2 x12.5 watts to the two surround speakers. The amp is the centre of operations, controlling and switching all of the other components, as well generating a bunch of digital effects, Dolby Pro Logic processing, controlling speaker balance and half a dozen other housekeeping functions. The effects include the usual spatial simulations, with controlled amount of reverberation and delay added to the surround channels, for disco, hall, movie, live, church and arena acoustic Ďenvironmentsí. It also has an interesting ĎKaraokeí mode that filters out vocals, so you and a friend can join in with a sing-song (with optional microphones).


The CD autochanger is second from bottom, the rotary carousel holds three discs, these can be programmed to play in sequence, in random order, or via a 20- track memory which operates across any or all discs loaded in the machine. Other useful facilities include simultaneous disc play and change, synchronised and auto-edit recording, and a facility Aiwa call AI editing, where tracks to be recorded are allocated according to the length of tape used.


Finally, at the bottom thereís the twin auto-reverse cassette decks, with recording on deck B. The decks have Dolby B and C noise reduction and automatic tape bias selection. It has continuous recording and playback modes, syncro editing, blank skip, track search and it sounds pretty good too....



Good, bad and indifferent just about sums it up. The bad bit is the turntable, itís not very well insulated against mechanical vibration, the arm skitters around with the slightest provocation and weíd forgotten just how noisy and scratchy some records can sound on cheapo turntables. Perhaps weíve been spoilt by the ruggedness and convenience of CD but if youíve got to have a record player on a hi-fi system at least make it decent one... Indifferent is the kindest thing we can think of to can say about the digital signal processor and flashy graphic equaliser. You can mess around with it all day and still not improve on the flat, untainted settings.  Most of the effects are a bit heavy-handed, and the whole stack rumbles and grumbles menacingly if itís knocked or bumped. In fact itís not a good idea to play records with the more exotic DSP spatial effects switched in, as it can generate some odd feedback effects. The good parts are everything else. The tape deck and tuner are both capable designs, the Dolby decoder is very effective, the amplifier is a real smoothie and in spite of their over-fussy looks, the main speakers produce a good punchy sound.


The Pro Logic decoder does an excellent job of separating out the more subtle effects but itís equally good at locating individual sounds or effects and is just as happy with the big-buck bockbusters as less energetic movies.


Despite trying to be a Jack of all Trades, the Z-D9100 gels together reasonably well, with the usual proviso that it is the master of none. Itís at its best with AV material, audio-only sources like the CD tape deck and tuner are fine but itís not going to give serious and top-end system makers any sleepless nights. Itís biggest selling point, though, is the price, when all said and done where else are you gong to find a reasonably competent sounding AV system, with a turntable Dolby Pro Logic and the all-important karaoke facility for less than £900?




Aiwa Z-D9100M

Price - £900

Features - Dolby Pro-Logic AV midi system, including five speakers. Comprises turntable, twin cassette deck, 3-CD autochanger, graphic equaliser, amplifier and digital signal processor. 12-mode  equaliser (rock, pop, jazz, classic, headphone, car, etc.). 12 mode DSP (disco, hall, movie, live, church, arena etc. ) Dolby Pro Logic (phantom, normal 3-channel logic), clock, sleep timer, daily timer. Karaoke mixing/vocal fader

Dimensions -- 630(h) x 330(d) x 360(w) mm (complete stack)

Weight -- circa 18kg


Pros -- An agreeable, well-rounded sound, capable Dolby performer, price

Cons -- A bit of a lump, gimmicky displays, touchy DSP and turntable



Performance                  ****

Features                       ****

Value for money ****


Aiwa Telephone 081-897 7000



R. Maybury 1994 2909



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