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JVC XT-MXG9 ‘Adagio’

 

INTRO

Motorised speakers, electronic scratching effect, an ‘exciting’ sound mode, what has any of this got to do with home cinema? JVC’s Adagio system is certainly different...

 

COPY

Dolby Surround from just two speakers, what’s the catch? The catch is fairly obvious, the

JVC G9 Adagio with its snazzy-looking ‘panoramic’ speakers cannot hope to create an authentic multi-channel surround sound effect, but it gets surprisingly close... Each of the two enclosures has an extra speaker, on a motorised mount, that swivels through about 20 degrees, creating a variably shaped soundfield. In the Dolby Pro-Logic mode the motorised speakers swing inwards to localise the centre-front channel, the rest of the time they aim outwards, to spread the sound around. To make sure you notice all this is happening the speakers are fitted with LED indicators that wink as they shift from side to side. All this happens automatically under instruction from the system’s amplifier/tuner/processor unit. There’s three other matching mini-sized components in the stack with the same curvy cosmetics; they are a CD deck, a twin tape cassette deck and a rather elaborate graphic equaliser.

 

Everything hinges on the fancy speakers, and this has resulted in one of the system’s main shortcomings. The specially-designed multi-way cables that connect each enclosure to the amplifier are rather short, only around 2-metres long, which severely limits speaker placement, and imposes further restrictions on the size of the soundstage. There are connections for separate centre-front and rear surround channel speakers, however, the extra speakers are not supplied, and in any case would defeat the object, which presumably is to simplify set-up and make multi-channel surround sound more acceptable to a wider audience.

 

The system still has a lot going for it, though. The AM/FM tuner sounds unexpectedly clean and the CD and tape decks both work very well indeed, moreover they both have their fair share of convenience features, such as a 32-track memory and all of the usual track replay options; auto edit, continuous play and high-speed dubbing. However, it’s the graphic equaliser display that steals the show. It’s borderline naff with lots of dancing lights and patterns but it would be churlish to criticise something that politely displays ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’ (depending on the time of day) messages when it is switched on, and goodbye when it is turned off...

 

In addition to Dolby Pro Logic and three-channel logic the D9 is loaded with digital effects modes. They include the predictable spatial effects which are supposed to simulate different types of musical venue (club, live, dome, hall and church), plus some unusual extras, such as squeeze, vocal mask, key control, scratch and flanger. One way or another all of them do horrible things to the original sound; vocal masking does a fairly job of cutting out vocals, so the system can function as a karaoke. Scratch superimposes a ‘scratching’ sound on the output -- no, we don’t know why either... -- and squeeze appears to be some kind of frequency changer that shifts everything up a notch, like fast replay, but in real time, if you see what we mean. There’s more, three preset sound shapes called ‘exciting’, ‘relaxing’ and ‘individual’, the latter being user-definable.  

 

PERFORMANCE

General audio performance is good, with all the processors and sound mangling options switched out the system produces a clean, well-rounded sound. There’s certainly no shortage of gadgets to play with, and some of them are quite good fun, but to a greater or less extent they all distort the original sound and we suspect most users will eventually get tired of them. It’s not going to rattle the floorboards but it makes itself heard and never seems strained. The CD deck sounds very sharp and noise reduction on the tape decks appears to be very efficient.

 

It will probably come as no surprise to learn that Dolby Pro Logic material sounds a bit thin, coming from just two speaker enclosures. Sound placement is rather vague and there’s little sensation of depth, only the centre-front dialogue channel emerges unscathed. Three-channel logic isn’t too bad though, and it beefs up movie soundtracks, but you have to say ask why anyone would bother spending all that money on a Dolby Pro Logic system and then only use two thirds of its full potential. In the end the only way to make this system earn its keep is to add a pair of rear channel speakers, and maybe a centre-front speaker as well. Then it comes alive, the Adagio’s Pro Logic decoder is a good all-rounder,  extracting the full range of effects, from near subliminal atmospherics to teeth-jangling explosions.

 

JVC have tried very hard to solve the home cinema box problem but in the end no amount of technical trickery can alter the fact that surround sound means bathing the listener in a sea of sound. The Adagio G9, is more like a shower, pleasant enough in its own way, but no substitute for a good long wallow....

 

DATA BOX

 

JVC XT-MXG9

Price - £1000

Features - Dolby Pro-Logic AV mini system with integrated speaker system. Comprises twin cassette deck, CD player, 3-band tuner amplifier and digital signal processor (club, live, dome, hall church) , special effects processor (squeeze, vocal mask), special sound adjustment (relaxing, exciting, individual) tape scan, high-speed dubbing, CD auto edit, recording/sleep and wake-up timers.  Dolby Pro Logic and three-channel logic, scratch and flanger effects.

Dimensions -- 425(h) x 275(d) x 265(w) mm (complete stack)

Weight -- circa 12kg

 

Pros -- ideal for those who don’t want lots of boxes all over the place, good fun

Cons -- speaker cables too short, Dolby sound lacks depth

 

RATINGS

Performance                  ***(*) with additional speakers

Features                       ****

Value for money ***

 

JVC Telephone 081-450 3282

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1994 2909

 

 

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