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Blockbuster AV surround systems grab all the headlines so we thought it was about time we one of the little guys a chance...



Okay, so the Hitachi AX-C8 isnít exactly an ass-kicking Pro-Logic power system, but then we donít all have bottomless pockets, houses with three-foot thick walls and deaf neighbours. Micro hi-fi systems rarely rate a mention on these pages -- theyíre not usually renowned for their home cinema facilities -- but the C8 is a bit different, and itís more than capable of performing light AV duties.


Two features stand out, three if you count the price which is a quite reasonable £330. The first is a Karaoke facility, that cancels out vocals, so you can join in using the on-board microphone mixer, youíll have to provide your own mike though. The other is a six-disc CD autochanger, which is a first on a micro system, and almost unheard of at this price point. In fact Hitachi have managed to cram in an impressive amount of gadgetry into what is really a very small space, and in addition to the CD it has a well-specified auto-reverse tape deck on the top, an AM/FM tuner with 10 station presets, sleep-timer, program timer and full logic control. On the sound side it has a 5-mode equaliser with pre-sets responses for flat, heavy, mild, clear and vocal sounds, plus stereo wide and dynamic bass effects.


The CD and tape decks have a number of integrated facilities, including synchronised recording, auto edit, which arranges CD tracks to be recorded according to the length of the tape being used, and continuous edit, so that more than one disc can be recorded on a tape. Itís simple to use, you donít even have to switch it on, just select the required function and it fires up, with a Ďhelloí message on the LCD panel. All operations can be controlled from the IR remote handset, the only notable omission being a mute function. It comes with a pair of matching pre-wired speakers, the cables are bit on the short side,  though.  


The Karaoke function filters out the vocal sounds of whatever source component is selected and that can include a VCR, so you can sing along with music tapes, or Top of The Pops, should you feel so inclined. It works quite well though thereís some residual voices in the background, and some kinds of music can sound a little strange, especially if thereís any echo or phasing effects.


The amplifier pumps out a modest 2 x 15 watts but the compact 2-way bass-reflex speakers are pleasingly open, giving a surprisingly full-bodied sound even without the bass boost engaged. The CD sounds reasonably clean, maybe a touch clinical on the treble frequencies but weíre not exactly in high-end territory here and for the price it does very well indeed. The tape deck provides a crisp, detailed sound with minimal background noise; the Dolby B noise reduction is a bit heavy-handed, though. The AX-C8 isnít going to give the surround-sound heavyweights any sleepless nights but this little outfit provides a flexible and cost-effective second-string if your main hi-fi system is tied up with the VCR and TV.



Hitachi AX-C8E £329.99

Pros - good sound, very fair price

Cons - no mute, sluggish remote volume


HITACHI SALES (UK) LTD, Hitachi House, Station Road, Middlesex UB3 4DR.

Telephone 0181-849 2000


PERFORMANCE                       8

BUILD                           8



Overall total 90%











Amstrad take on Pace at the top end of the tuner market with their first Dolby Pro-Logic equipped receiver



Itís fair to say most people associate the Amstrad name with cheap and for the most part, reasonably cheerful satellite systems, so the SRD-2000 may come as something of a surprise. Itís a classy-looking top-end design, with full-blown Dolby Pro-Logic surround sound no less, plus an impressive assortment of advanced facilities, that includes a digital interface for an external decoder. Itís for the next generation of satellite TV channels, due to go into service within in the next few years. Amstrad are being remarkably far-sighted, detailed technical specifications have still to be worked out...                                                                                              


Back in the here and now the features that should prove most useful include a 300 channel tuner, factory-set for all four Astra satellites, plus over a dozen other satellites receivable from the UK, with a steerable or second fixed dish. It has an easy to follow menu-driven on-screen display, 8-event/1-year VCR timer, favourite channel selection, pre-settable tone controls and full access to all of the receivers higher functions. Itís not all sweetness and light though, the remote control handset is a nasty piece of work. The buttons are small, badly laid out and poorly labelled. On the plus side upgradability and flexibility are key design features; it has two dish inputs, two smart-card slots, plus four SCART AV sockets, so itís not going to be found wanting either as a home cinema component, or as part of a multi-satellite system.


Nevertheless, the star of the show has to be the on-board Dolby Pro-Logic decoder. Itís fully-featured with amplified outputs for the main stereo, centre-front and rear-surround channels. With each of the four channels rated at 25 watts (RMS) it has enough puff to drive pretty well all purpose-designed AV speakers, as well as the five-speaker JPW package that Amstrad are selling as an option for an extra £100. There are also line-level outputs for each channel, plus a separate output for an amplified sub-woofer.  The Pro Logic decoder has a full set of adjustments to set channel and front-rear balance, this includes a sequenced white noise generator, (with an unusual manual option), plus a variable delay setting to vary the sound for different sized rooms. The decoder has options for Dolby 3 stereo and phantom centre-channel, plus variable bass and treble response.


The satellite section performs very well indeed, sensitivity is good, with enough in reserve to bring in the weaker channels and make it viable as a multi-satellite receiver. Colours are crisp and well defined, noise levels are below average. The Pro Logic decoder also gives a  good account of itself, effects are cleanly resolved and although itís not as precise or tightly controlled as some of the better mid-market decoders itís certainly no slouch. So how does it stack up against itís main rival, the Pace MSS-1000? Quite frankly thereís almost nothing in it. The basic specifications, on-screen and Pro-Logic performance, even the price are almost exactly the same. The SRD-2000 has a couple of extra bells and whistles whereas the Pace model is a little more refined with better multi-satellite facilities; if youíre in the market for a surround sound satellite receiver make sure you look and listen to both of them, or toss a coin, itís as close as that...



Amstrad SRD-2000, £350 (receiver only)

Pros - flexible, versatile and good surround sound performance

Cons - clumsy control logic, nasty remote


AMSTRAD, Brentwood House, 169 Kings Road, Brentwood, Essex CM14 3EF

Telephone (01277) 228888


PERFORMANCE                       9

BUILD                           8



Overall total 95%



R. Maybury 1995 2103



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