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HITACHI C2976TN AND TOSHIBA 2857DB

 

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It is barely five years since Toshiba single-handedly created a new generation of

televisions with the first set to have a built-in Dolby Surround decoder. For a couple of years they were out there on their own, the rest of the industry remained highly sceptical. Then, in 1993 Hitachi upped the stakes with the first TV to have the more advanced Dolby Pro Logic (DPL) decoder, now they’re all at it. It’s not difficult to see why, the number of stereo sound sources carrying Dolby Stereo encoded movies and TV programmes has multiplied with the arrival of satellite TV, and the falling cost of NICAM VCRs, moreover they’re still the simplest and most convenient way of putting together a home cinema system.

 

Toshiba and Hitachi are still the undisputed brand leaders and sales of DPL televisions in the UK have been soaring, effectively doubling each year, up from 6% of the colour TV market in 1994 to an estimated 12% this year.

 

The indications are that this growth pattern will continue for the foreseeable future, and needless to say Hitachi and Toshiba will be doing their utmost to secure their share of it. We’ve brought two of their two latest DPL sets together in a head-to-head showdown. They’re the Hitachi C2976TN and Toshiba 2875DB. They both sell for £1000, they’re within a whisker of each other when it comes to overall dimensions, layout, screen size and type, moreover they have the same basic facilities, namely NICAM stereo and fastext.

 

There’s not a lot to choose between them when it comes to their respective audio systems. They both have internal sub-woofers and come with a pair of rear channel speakers plus generous connecting cables, and are supplied with console-stands that have built-in centre-channel speakers. In addition to Dolby Pro Logic and Dolby 3 Stereo the two sets have four-mode digital sound processors with hall, disco and stadium effects, Hitachi call their fourth DSP mode arena, Toshiba’s is theatre. The 2875 has a pseudo surround setting whilst the Hitachi DSP has a stereo wide facility.

 

The main stereo speakers in both sets comprise a pair of forward-firing 4.5-inch elipticals mounted either side of the screen. Connections to the outside world are handled by twin SCART AV sockets and front AV terminals. In a darkened room you really would have a tough time telling them apart. Peas and pods spring immediately to mind, so are there any differences? 

 

Not that many. The Hitachi set has the more powerful sound system, with a total of 70 watts, compared with 55 watts from the Tosh TV. The C2976 also has a few extra convenience features, including auto-tuning and a remote control handset that can be programmed to operate a wide range of VCRs and satellite receivers. We’re scraping the barrel now. The remaining distinctions are mostly confined to the gadgets and toys. The Toshiba set has an on/off timer and tone presets (in addition to adjustable bass and treble) but we reckon they’re cancelled out by the wacky Hitachi remote that has buttons which light up in the dark...

 

A few more differences begin to emerge when you switch them on for the first time. After one button press the Hitachi set goes into a well thought-out set-up routine, giving the user the option of auto or manual tuning. Auto-tuning is fast and efficient and once it has finished it takes only a few more moments to sort the stored channels into the desired order. Toshiba’s tuner is a DIY job, involving lots of button pressing, mucking around with cursors and winking displays. Hitachi’s on-screen display system is a lot more refined, though maybe a bit too clever for it’s own good. It can take a while to get to some functions which are deeply buried in unsignposted menus. It pays to keep the instruction book handy.

 

Carrying out routine picture and sound adjustments is not a problem on either set. Video and audio settings are shown together on single menu screens on the Hitachi TV, they have to be selected individually on the Tosh set. Hitachi have included some extra video features on an ‘enhanced feature’ menu, such as a switchable comb filter and CTI (colour transient improvement) mode, though we can’t figure out why as turning any of them off results in a reduction in picture quality. Toshiba confine themselves to a noise filter, but again switching it off degrades the picture. Dolby Pro-logic set-up in both cases is fairly straightforward, the plus and minus points just about cancel each other out.

 

PERFORMANCE

By now you’re probably expecting us to say the picture and sound performance is the same too. Well, you’re half right. There are some subtle differences in the picture quality on these TVs but they’re so small we’d defy anyone to notice them other than in lengthy side-by-side comparison of test patterns. Even then we suspect the differences, which are mainly textural in nature and not concerned with resolution or definition, would barely raise an eyebrow. In short picture quality is very good, on both sets.

 

However, when it comes to the audio performance in general, and DPL in particular there are some significant disparities. The Hitachi set has a much beefier sound and this can be put down to the gutsy sub-woofer. Unfortunately the frontal sound-stage tends to dominate and the back channel speakers really have to be wound up to compete, even they’re struggling. The Toshiba comes across as more evenly balanced, and the DPL decoder is better at picking out the more intricate effects, but it lacks the bass muscle of it’s rival, giving a slightly thinner sound.

 

So which is best? It’s an impossible choice with two so evenly matched products. If the main criteria is DPL performance then we’d have to say the Hitachi set has a slight edge in smaller rooms, where the underpowered back channels won’t be so noticeable and the more dynamic bass can get to work. On the other hand Toshiba’s decoder is a lot sharper, and gives its best on more detailed material, that doesn’t rely on bangs and explosions. It’s a bit of a cop-out but in the end the balance tips slightly in Hitachi’s favour, but only because of secondary considerations, like handy remote, slicker on-screen display and auto-tuning.

 

BOX COPY 1

DATASTREAM

HITACHI C2976TN, £1000

Pros - good picture, hunky bass, remote handset

Cons - shallow back channel, slightly muddy DPL

Dimensions       762 x 591 x 484

 

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

Telephone 0181-849 2000

 

Performance                  8

Build                             8

Value for money 8

Overall total                   88%

 

 

BOX COPY 2

FEATURES

* Dolby Pro-Logic

* NICAM stereo

* Fastext

* hall, disco, stadium & arena DSP modes

* auto tune

* VCR/Satellite remote commands

* 16:9 display

* twin SCART & front AV terminal

* illuminated remote control

 

BOX COPY 3

DATASTREAM

TOSHIBA 2857DB, £1000

Pros - good picture, good DPL resolution

Cons - long-winded set-up, where’s the bass?

Dimensions       760 x 569 x 480 mm

 

TOSHIBA UK LTD, Units 6 & 7 Admiralty Way, Camberley, Surrey GU15 3DT. 

Telephone (01276) 62222

 

Performance                  8

Build                             8

Value for money 8

Overall total                   85%

 

BOX COPY 4

FEATURES

* Dolby Pro-Logic

* NICAM stereo

* Fastext

* hall, theatre, disco, stadium and pseudo surround DSP modes

* on/off timer

* 16:9 display

* twin SCART & front AV terminal

 

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1995 0510

 

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