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Conventional wisdom has it that surround sound systems need speakers in front of and behind the listener, the JVC AV-29SX ĎSymphonixí Pro-Logic TV has only one set of front speakers. How do they do that, and more importantly, does it work?



Itís not hard to see why JVC put so much effort into developing the Ď3D-Phonic sound system, featured on the AV-29SX Symphonic TV. Surround sound and home cinema still has to overcome a fair amount of consumer resistance, mainly because of the need for extra speakers, and their cables.  Itís not an easy job, installing a five-speaker system in the confines of a typical British living room, and without wishing to sound sexist, spousal disquiet, concerning lots of little boxes all over the place, has dampened the enthusiasm of more than a few budding home cinema fans.  


JVC have dispensed with those extra speakers on this set, and instead rely on the setís built-in speakers to generate surround-sound effects. Itís a neat trick if you can do it... But does it work?


Weíll come to that in a moment, but first a guided tour around the rest of the TV, to see what else you get for your £900. The headline features are familiar territory, itís a big, bold 68cm (29-inch in old money) NICAM set with fastext and on-screen display. Itís NTSC and widescreen compatible (stretch mode for anamorphic recordings), and it has a facility called ĎEcoí modeí which automatically adjusts picture contrast according to the level of ambient lighting in the room. JVC say Eco mode gives a small but worthwhile power saving, and helps prevent eyestrain, that can result from an over-bright screen in a darkened room.


First impressions are very favourable, itís a handsome looking beast, styling is clean and uncluttered. The side-mounted, forward-firing speakers add little to the overall width so it doesnít appear overbearing. Thereís only one front-panel control, and thatís the on/off button. Thereís a set of buttons and sockets behind a little hinged flap; the sockets are for a headphone, and AV inputs, for connecting the TV up to a camcorder or video game. Surprisingly thereís no S-Video socket on the front, which is bound to irritate owners of high-band camcorders. Around the back thereís a pair of SCART AV sockets, (three would be have been better),  plus a bank of five phono sockets, carrying line-level outputs from the Dolby Pro Logic decoder.


The first time itís switched on thereís an-screen display that invites the user to select the auto set-up routine. This seeks out and stores all locally available stations, arranges them into a logical order, and assigns channel numbers and names. It takes only a minute or so, after that itís ready to go. Picture and sound adjustments are carried out using menu-options from the on-screen display; brightness, contrast and colour saturation can be altered, though the settings are global and not assigned to individual channels. There are however three alternative picture presets, called cinema, game, and standard, which optimise the contrast and saturation settings to suit.


There are five audio options: for Dolby encoded software thereís Pro-Logic 3D Phonic, with alternate presets for cinema/sport and musical material; thereís also  normal Dolby Pro-Logic sound, though the decoderís line outputs for the rear effects and centre channel have to be connected to amplifiers and speakers in order for it to work, it doesnít have separate amplified speaker outputs. For non-Dolby material thereís a four mode digital sound processor (DSP), the choices are: dance club, concert hall, stadium, and hyper sound, for mono sources. The first three effects add varying amounts of reverb to the main channel output, for a spatial effect. Thereís a further set of options for headphone listening, these include a 3D Phonic setting, plus dance club, stadium and concert hall effects.


Operationally itís very well behaved and easy to use. The labelling on the remote buttons that control the OSD are a bit confusing at first though, and the volume up down buttons are in completely the wrong place. Itís arguably the most frequently used function, so why are they buried in amongst the rest of the control keys?



Picture quality is excellent. The Black Line tube gives images a real sense of depth, colours are bright and vibrant; tricky shades like skin tones, look very natural, and noise levels are exceptionally low. Receiver sensitivity is good and teletext remains uncorrupted, even with a marginal signal. The Eco mode does a fair job of adjusting the picture most of the time, though we had to resort to manual control once or twice as it didnít seem to have the range to cope with very bright conditions.


And so we come to 3D Phonic and the bottom line. So does it sound as good as a full-blown multi-speaker system? The answer is no, though to their credit JVC are not claiming it will. Sadly, though, itís not even halfway there, and despite a lot of prolonged listening tests at no time were any of our reviewers aware of sounds coming from behind the listening position. The rear effects channel is definitely part of the soundfield and quite distinct. It is displaced from the stereo channels, but appears to be coming from an area in front of and to the sides of the screen. Itís different, but itís not surround sound.  We noticed some other odd effects, higher-frequency sounds -- a screaming jet engine, in Top Gun, for example -- seems to be coming from higher up, lower frequency sounds -- booms and bangs -- are closer to the ground. The remaining sound options give a spatial feel, but theyíre not very convincing.


The AX29SX can be upgraded to full five speaker surround, but it needs external amplifiers to drive the speakers, which makes it a lot less convenient, and a good deal more expensive. Itís a fine TV, a great picture with an interesting sound system, but if you really want the full home cinema effect accept no substitute. For £900 you can get a proper Pro-Logic TV, extra boxes and all.




3D Phonic owes a lot to an old idea, called binaural sound, which pops up every so often. Binaural recording systems use a Ďdummyí head, with microphones mounted where the ears would be. When played back through headphones these recordings produce a vivid sensation of space with individual sounds clearly placed in a 360 degree soundfield. JVC engineers have used similar techniques to carefully measure the way our ears localise sounds. 3D Phonic system works by mixing digitally generated sounds in with the main stereo channels. They are derived from the rear channel output of the TVs Pro-Logic decoder and processed so as to mimic what the rear channel output would sound like, were they coming from a pair of rear speakers behind the listening position.




JVC AV-29SX1EK £900


Pros:    Great picture, good sound, easy top use

Cons:  Pricey, and surround sound performance is flaky


Size 733 x 583 x 492m

Weight 39.7kg


Telephone JVC 0181-450 3282


Performance                  8

Build quality                  9

Value for money 8


Overall Total 85%



R. Maybury 1995 0408




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