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REVIEW

 

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DOLBY PRO-LOGIC SYSTEM

 

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GOODMANS GCH-40 Home Cinema Console

 

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The cost of owning a Dolby Pro-Logic surround-sound system has been falling steadily for at least the past five years but recently it took an almighty tumble with the launch of the Goodmans GCH-40 home cinema console, selling now for just under £300.

 

Itís an unusual concept, a bit like the console-type stands supplied with some home cinema TVs, but in his case the DPL processor, amplifier and four of the six speakers are all built in to the box. In the middle thereís shelf space for a VCR and satellite receiver, this is enclosed by a pair of tinted glass doors. Above that is the main control panel, topped by the centre-channel speaker. An 8-inch sub-woofer is built into the base of the pedestal. The stereo speakers are mounted on the sides of the console; they can be moved a few degrees either way, to alter the shape of the soundfield, to suit room size and seating position.

 

All of the on-board speakers are magnetically-shielded, to prevent colour staining on the TV screen. The sub-woofer is rated at 40 watts RMS, the right and left stereo speakers get 6.5 watts a apiece, 7.5 watts goes to the centre-front channel, and 2 x 7 watts to the outboard rear-channel speakers. Installation is very straightforward. The GHC40 package comes complete with two sets of phono leads and one phono to SCART lead; the only minor irritant is the cables for the rear channels speakers are way too short, and will probably need to be extended to reach around most average-sized living rooms.

 

Part of the reason itís so reasonably priced is that Goodmans have done away all the usual cosmetic frills, winky light displays and superfluous features. In other words it is quite basic with no digital effects or sound-bending gadgetry; the audio options are Dolby Pro Logic, pseudo-surround (for mono sources) and direct. Front panel controls are confined to volume, tone adjustment, mode and input selection, thereís no level indicators at all, just a solitary on/standby lamp. The DPL white noise sequencer is switched from the IR remote handset, this also has front-rear level and balance adjustment. There are four stereo line-audio inputs, with three pairs of phonos on the back and one 3.5mm minijack on the front, for video games and keyboards etc.

 

Performance is generally very reasonable. The DPL processor does a fine job of resolving dialogue and rear-channel sounds. The sub-woofer lacks any real muscle but it helps to beef up the otherwise thin-sounding left and right channels. The stereo speakers are not large enough, theyíre underpowered and too close together to generate much of a soundstage, even when pointing outwards, but external speakers can be easily added and they will help to reduce the congestion. As it stands itís most suitable for small to regular-sized rooms, anything larger and those extra speakers will definitely be needed. Great value and a good introduction to home cinema if space and finances are in short supply.

 

ALBA BUSH ELECTRONICS.  Telephone 0181-594 5533

 

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STRAP

DOLBY PRO-LOGIC SYSTEM

 

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SONY SA-V55 Home Theatre Active Speaker System

 

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Letís face it -- and without wishing in any way to sound sexist -- home cinema is still pretty much a guyís thing. The number-one spousal criticism of surround sound equipment has to be the extra boxes and cables. And rightly so, theyíre unsightly and trailing wires can be treacherous. Sony have clearly been keeping their ears close to the ground and in the interests of domestic harmony, have come up with the SA-V55 Home Theatre Active Speakers.

 

Itís a complete Dolby Pro-Logic system, costing £800, but unlike traditional component set-ups, the amplifier, processor, sub-woofers and all the other gubbins are built into two tall loudspeaker columns. The rear channel speakers contain their own amplifier, audio information is transmitted to them by an infra-red beam sent from the main speakers.

 

Itís not exactly a Ďwirelessí system though. The speaker columns are connected to each other by a fat cable, the IR emitter is on the end of another wire, the rear speakers are also joined together, and they have to be plugged into a nearby mains socket, so thereís still plenty of opportunity to trip over things...

 

Nevertheless itís very neat and has been well thought out. The Left speaker stack contains the DPL decoder, sound processor and front channel amplifiers. Inside each column thereís a 10 cm driver, for the centre front channel (25 + 25 watts RMS), a 12cm speaker and 2.5cm tweeter for the right and left stereo channels (25 + 25 watts), and a 16cm sub-woofer in the base (25 + 25 watts). The amplifier and IR receptor is built into one of the rear channel speakers, which each contain a 10cm driver; theyíre rated at 10 + 10 watts.

 

In addition to Dolby Pro-Logic there are three other surround-sound options -- hall, theatre and stadium -- plus a simulated surround mode for mono sources. Unfortunately it has only two external line-audio inputs, sufficient for a VCR and satellite but not enough for a full-blown home-cinema set-up with laser or video disc players as well, and for the same reason itís not an alternative to a DPL component hi-fi system. Other points to watch out for include the positioning of the IR emitter, which has to be aimed directly at the main rear speaker. These require careful positioning too, as they make annoying clicking and buzzing noises if they pick up IR beams from remote handsets. Our sample was also susceptible to interference from a cordless telephone.

 

We found we had to spend a fair amount of time on speaker placement, particularly when using the built-in centre channel speakers. If the columns are too far apart the centre-channel dissipates; too close together and the soundfield becomes confined and lacks impact. The DPL processor copes well with noisy set-piece effects; explosions, gun fire etc., and the sub-woofers give them added depth, but quieter sounds can be a little subdued. The rear channels speakers have to be pushed hard to make themselves heard and could do with a little more power.

 

The cordless rear speakers and smart space-saving columns are perfect for smaller installations or where wires might be a problem. Dolby performance can be quite good, provided the speakers are carefully positioned. The downside is the steepish price, and the limited scope for expansion.

 

Sony UK. Telephone (01932) 816000

 

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R. Maybury 1995 0609

 

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