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Surround sound from a stereo TV? It sounds too good to be true, so have Pace finally come up with a way of creating three dimensional sound without extra speakers and cables?



Consumer surveys have a knack of re-stating the blindingly obvious. One carried out recently, for a major electronics manufacturer, suggested that many people quite liked the idea of a home cinema system, but balked at the expense, and didnít fancy lots of boxes and wires all over the place. JVC were the first to recognise this pent-up demand, and do something about it, with their top-selling 3D Symphonix Pro Logic TV (HC XXX).


Sharp were next, with the CD-770 mini hi-fi, featuring ĎVirtual Surroundí. However, unlike 3D Symphonix it uses digital processing, to create a pseudo surround effect from a stereo source; now Pace have joined in with 3D Sound on their latest mid-range Astra satellite receiver, the MSS290, selling for £230.


Paceís system is similar to 3D Symphonix in that it unravels rear-channel information on Dolby Surround soundtracks, and adds it to the right and left stereo channels, for an enhanced spatial effect from a stereo TV. The rear channel output can also be fed to a pair of speakers, placed behind the viewing position. If that sounds a bit like a Dolby 3-Channel set-up youíre not far wrong, but thereís not a Dolby chip in sight. Instead Pace have gone back to square one with a simple passive matrix system, without all the bells and whistles of a Pro-Logic decoder.  


3D sound is not confined to satellite broadcasts, the MSS290 can be connected to a NICAM VCR -- using a SCART lead -- and process surround-sound movies and programmes on tape, or terrestrial TV channels.


However, we mustnít forget this is a satellite receiver. Key features include a 250-channel tuner with eight categorised favourite channel memories, an 8-event/28-day VCR timer, 4-mode tone (sound shape) control, PIN operated parental lock and comprehensive on-screen display system. In fact itís quite similar to the MSS200, right down to the single viewing card slot and LNB input, Wegner Panda 1 stereo sound, even the price.


Like its stablemate on-screen performance is good, colours are accurate and well-defined, noise levels are well below average. Weaker stations, like UK Gold, were almost sparkly-free on our test dish. Regular stereo sound is clean and uncoloured. Spatial sound, heard through a normal stereo TV is definitely different. Sounds from the rear effects channel are clearly focused and dotted around the wide stereo soundstage. It takes some getting used to, and itís more effective on some material than others, but at its best it adds an interesting new dimension to surround-sound movies and programmes,  far more dramatic than a conventional spatial sound or stereo wide DSP mode.


The next step is to add a pair of rear channel speakers for a full surround-sound effect, but its not quite as simple as that. The rear channel output needs to be amplified before it can be heard, using a pair of Ďactiveí speakers (with built-in amplifiers), or a separate stereo amp and speakers. Itís okay with simple, uncomplicated effects, and thereís hardly any bleed-through from the front-centre dialogue channel, but it has trouble coping with sounds containing a lot of out of phase information. Some sci-fi effects cause problems and the distortion can get so bad the effect has to be turned off.


Adding rear channel amps and speakers creates an even more interesting effect but in doing so the system becomes as complicated (if not more so), as a Dolby Pro-Logic or 3-Channel set-up, but without the precision or performance. Worth a try if youíre on a really tight budget, or leash...




Price     £230    

Features           250 channels, 8 favourite category channel memories, VCR timer (8-event/28-day), off/sleep timer, screen blanking for radio channels, PIN activated parental lock, multi-mode-mode 3D sound system,  sound shape (4-mode tone control), 13 audio presets (J17, 75uS or 50uS de-emphasis plus Panda noise reduction)

Sockets            3 x AV in/out (SCART), stereo audio and rear channel line-level outputs (phonos) 1 x LNB input (F-connector), RF/aerial loop-through (coaxial)


Pros: A step up from conventional  TV spatial sound and an interesting alternative to full-bloodied Dolby Pro Logic. Good AV performance, easy to use and a very fair price


Cons: By the time youíve added the extra speakers and amplifiers 3D sound is no less complicated, and only slightly cheaper than a Pro Logic set-up, but without the performance. The remote handset is horrible too, titchy buttons and poor labelling


HC Rating 89%

Pace Micro Technology, telephone (01274) 532000



R. Maybury 1996 0403




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