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KENWOOD NV-701, £500

No half measures, the Kenwood NV-701 is one of those love it or hate it deals, and that's before you switch it on! Once you get past the distinctive purple-trimmed mirror-front styling – we'll leave it to you to decide – you find a reasonably well-featured mini hi-fi system with a full set of Dolby Digital and dts surround sound facilities. So-called 'one-box' surround sound solutions like this one have drifted in and out of fashion over the past few years, sacrifices in performance and flexibility are inevitable but there's no denying it's a very convenient way into home cinema, and as a bonus with this system, you get to make a bold/brave fashion statement!

 

Working from the bottom up there's a 3-CD carousel type auto changer, the centre section contains a 3-band tuner with RDS, an audio processor with Dolby Pro Logic, Digital and dts surround sound decoders, 6 x 50 watts of amplification and it's topped off by an auto-reverse cassette deck.  A couple of other items worth noting are the multi-brand, multi-function remote control and it comes with a matching set of AV speakers and a sub-woofer.

 

A lot of effort has been put into keeping the front panel as uncluttered as possible, resulting in a somewhat quirky and tricky to master control system. Unfortunately it's no easier to drive from the remote handset, even though it has considerably more buttons to play with. It gets easier with time but don't expect an easy ride, or escaping without having to read the instruction book. 

 

We used our sample with a small selection of budget and mid-range DVD players, using both optical and coaxial connections. The Dolby Digital and dts decoders worked fine, extracting lots of fine details from soundtracks but there's a problem. The fairly modest power levels are not really enough to get behind big set piece sound effects or fill a large room; in fact it quickly runs out of puff. Several times we found our system was working at maximum volume and that was in a space no larger than the average living room. Dynamic bass effects that should rattle the floorboards hardly get going and the small sub woofer barely makes its presence felt.

 

To be fair all of the hi-fi components work well -- audio CD playback is very clean -- though the awkward control system conspires to make it difficult to set levels and adjust the sound output. 

 

Verdict

The NV-701 is the sort of system you might consider if you like loud styling, but prefer your sounds to be a little more restrained, have touchy neighbours, live in a small flat or apartment, or you're simply not interested in loud and noisy effects; delete as applicable!

 

Kenwood (01923) 816444

 

 

Ratings

Overall              3

Sound Quality            3

Features                       4

Ease of Use                  2

Build Quality                  4

Value for Money            3

 

Pros

Distinctive styling, one box convenience and quite decent hi-fi and AV performance

 

Cons

Distinctive styling, lacks muscle

 

Rival Buys

Teac Reference 500 £900, Technics SC-EH750 £450

 

Quote 20

'The NV-701 is the sort of system you might consider if you like loud styling, but prefer your sounds to be a little more restrained…'

 

BUYERS GUIDE EXTRA INFO

 

SURROUND SOUND MINI SYSTEMS

Make/model            Kenwood NV-701

£                      500

Status               --

Verdict  ***

Comments            Bold styling and efficient digi-surround features but lacks real muscle

Sub                  yes

Pwr/w               50

Issue                --

 

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Ó R. Maybury 2001, 0401

 

 

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