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REVIEW

 

NAKAMICHI  SOUNDSPACE 10, £5000

VERDICT ****

 

Why’s it here: Normally you would expect someone with a few grand to spend on top-notch DVD and home cinema equipment to build a system by cherry-picking the very best components. Most do and the mega rich pay someone else to do it for them, however, they can also be just like the rest of us and tempted by the convenience of a fully integrated ‘one-box’ solution. With a package system there shouldn’t be any compatibility issues; everything can usually be controlled from one remote handset and all the bits are included. However, whilst there are several one-box AV systems to choose from in the mid-range and budget price categories there’s scant choice higher up. It’s a niche that Nakamichi is clearly hoping to fill with SoundSpace 10. It’s a complete and ready to go 5.1 DVD system; everything is included in three huge shipping boxes, right down to the speaker cables, interconnects and mounting hardware, the only things you need are a TV or display, and £5000…

 

Any unique features: Nakamichi has started from scratch, which has freed it from the usual constraints of assembling a system from standard boxes. The core component is the upright ‘main unit’, which houses a 5-disc DVD/CD autochanger and a large backlit LCD display panel. This connects to the A/V processor box with a built-in AM/FM tuner; it connects to the man unit by generously long 5-metre cables so it can be hidden. All of the power amplifiers are housed in two large sub-woofer cabinets, they’re connected to the AV processor and the five satellite speakers are wired to spring terminals on the back of the sub-woofers. It’s an unusual arrangement but it works well and makes wiring a lot easier. Everything is controlled from two remote handsets; actually handset is a misnomer for the main control unit, it’s about the size of a notebook PC, with a touch-sensitive LCD screen and concealed keyboard. It has learning facilities and from there you can drive half a dozen or more other AV devices attached to the SoundSpace 10. The other remote control is a little egg-shaped device that covers just the basic functions, like volume and track selection, etc.

 

The autochanger is a most unusual design, the bottom half of the main unit’s front panel is motorised and opens outwards to reveal a vertical loading slot that looks a bit like a PC-type drive mechanism. The DVD functions include on-board Dolby Digital, PCM and dts decoding but otherwise they are surprisingly ordinary. There’s a 2-stage picture zoom, picture controls, 3-mode spatial sound and a ‘digest’ display, which generates a picture menu of stills grabbed from the beginning of each chapter on a disc. The AV processor unit has AV inputs for up to half a dozen other source components (VCRs, cassette deck, Laserdisc & MD decks etc.), the tuner has 30 station presets and features an RDS decoder.

 

 

The Digest feature is very similar to ones on some recent Hitachi and JVC players. It’s a clever idea that allows the user to quickly identify and jump to the beginning of any chapter. When the facility is engaged the machine skims through the disc, looking for the start of each chapter, it then displays a ‘thumbnail’ still, building up a series of pages each containing 9 frozen images. All the user has to do is highlight the chapter they want to see and press the enter button.

 

The five ‘satellite’ speakers for the front stereo, rear surround and centre dialogue channels are basically all the same. They are housed in neat-looking boxes measuring 120 x 347 x 117 mm. They’re 2-way/3-driver shielded types each with two 80mm round-cone mid-range units with a 25mm soft-dome tweeter in the middle. Collectors of trivia might like to know that this is the famous ‘D’Apilito’ configuration, designed to maximise high-frequency dispersion and assist localisation and imaging, so now you know… The active sub-woofers are housed in bass-reflex type enclosures, measuring 295 x 565 x  392 mm, inside there’s a chunky 200mm magnetically shielded round-cone woofer.

 

 

Between them the two sub-woofers house all of the system’s amplifiers, there’s 50 watts apiece for the subs and 5 x 30 watts for the front, centre and rear satellite speakers. By the way, you’ll need at least three mains sockets as the two subs and AV processor each have their own on-board power supplies.

 

How does it perform: You need to set aside a couple of hours just wire everything up, but it is very flexible and the speakers and main units come with brackets and stands (the main unit can also be wall-mounted. Installation is actually very straightforward, thanks to a very well written instruction book, which goes into the set up in some detail.  The DVD player works well, though it has to be said it’s not the best we’ve seen and we could name one or two mid-range players that could give it a good run for its money when it comes to some aspects of picture performance. The contrast range is fairly average so dark scenes and shadows look rather gloomy and lacking in detail, and layer change takes 2 seconds on some discs. If sub £200 players can do it without freezing the picture, so too should a player that’s part of a system costing 30 times as much! Otherwise it’s fine, colours and shades are natural looking, the picture contains lots of fine detail and it has a useful set of trick play modes.

 

The twin subs and five satellites make a perfect team. Everything is superbly well matched and it’s almost impossible to tell where one source ends and another begins. Big bass sounds seem to come out of nowhere but they tie in precisely with whatever is happening on the screen. Centre channel dialogue and effects are precisely focused and the processor manages to pick out and locate even the quietest sounds.  It gets even better with dts soundtracks, giving full reign to the formats extended bass coverage that really gets those subs singing.

 

Our Verdict: There’s no getting away from it, five thousand pounds is a lot of money and you could put together a system with similar capabilities for somewhat less, but it wouldn’t be half as convenient, look anything like as pretty or be as simple to use as this one.

 

Nakamichi, (020) 8863 9117

 

NEW BOX COPY 200

SoundSpace 10 has some interesting upgrade options if you don’t mind installing some extra boxes and laying a few extra cables around your home. It can be used as the core component in a multi-room entertainment system; Nakamichi call it multi-source capability and basically that means it is possible to select a different AV source for each of two rooms or ‘zones’. In other words you could be watching a DVD in the living room or ‘primary’ zone and at the same time someone else can be listening to the FM tuner in the ‘secondary’ room or zone. It sounds much more complicated than it is but the gist of it is that there are three operating modes. The user in the primary zone controls everything from the main remote handset. With the system in ‘Main’ mode the user in the primary zone can change their own source selection, but without affecting what is happening in the secondary room or zone. In the ‘Remote’ mode the user in the primary zone has control over source selection for the secondary zone and in ‘Both’ mode, the lucky user in the primary zone gets to make source selection and choose what’s heard in both zones.

 

 

UP CLOSE

 

Features            Region 2 PAL/NTSC, Dolby Digital, PCM & dts decoders,  component video output, 5-disc autochanger, 2-step picture zoom, chapter Digest, user-set picture controls, 3-mode spatial surround, AM/FM tuner with 30 station preset, sleep timer, multi-function learning remote, sub remote, 5 x SoundSpace 10 speakers, twin active sub-woofer, power amplifiers 5 x 30w (front, centre & rear), 2 x 50w (sub-woofers)

           

Sockets             AV & coaxial digital bitstream in/out (31 x phono), S-Video in/out (9 x mini DIN), system control (DIN & proprietary multi-pin), sub woofer control (mini jack)        

 

Dimensions            control unit/autochanger: 205 x 430 x 120mm, system unit: 430 x 100 x 325mm, sub woofer/power amps: 294 x 565 x 392mm

 

Rival Buys            none

 

CAPTIONS

The front panel on the main unit opens to reveal a vertical loading deck mechanism. The big LCD panel is eye catching but can be hard to read across a well-lit room

 

There’s not much to see on the AV Processor unit, just the main on/off switch, the leads are long enough to be able to tuck it away out of sight

 

Behind the scenes on the AV Processor, there are enough sockets to accommodate just about any type of setup

 

The main remote control has a large LCD touch screen, unfortunately the backlight keeps going off, and it’s a swine to use without it

 

 

 

 

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