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FEATURE

SECRET SHOPPING

 

MR PINK

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

When Iím buying hi-fi equipment I tend to avoid what I call the high street box-shifters. In the past I have found the sales assistants donít always know what theyíre talking about, which is not surprising, one week theyíre selling camcorders, the next itís vacuum cleaners. I much prefer specialist dealers, they give a more personal service, and seem to care about their customers, and their reputation. The first one I called on was a long-established hi-fi dealer who sold me my present amplifier and speakers, and has recently started to stock a small selection of home cinema equipment. He knew my system, and straight away suggested that I look at the Lexicon CP-1 Dolby Pro Logic processor. I had already read about it, but at almost £1800 I told him it was out of my price range. Even so he insisted I listen to it, suffice it to say itís now on top of my Christmas present list! His next suggestion was the NAD 910 processor, it was a good deal closer to what I was prepared to spend, but I have to say it sounded rather average on his demonstration set up. In any case Iím not convinced it would fit it with my present system.

 

The second dealer I visited has only been open for a year or so, but had already become well-known locally for installing top-end home cinema systems. The chap asked me quite a few questions about my system and seemed to be more in tune with what I wanted, which was to get the best performance, without too many unnecessary frills or gadgets. After some discussion he concluded the Denon AVC-3202 AV amplifier at £650 came closest to meeting my needs, even though it would mean I would end up using little from my present system.  It certainly sounded superb in his demo room, with the Pro Logic effects very clear, but without sounding artificial. The 3202 has a built-in sub-woofer amplifier, that will definitely be my next purchase, once the system is up and running.

 

SPEAKERS

Although most of my current system will not be used for AV I really donít mind, it would have meant moving the speakers and disturbing the installation, which took a long time to get just right. It also gives me an excuse to resurrect my excellent old Celestion 100 speakers, which have been lying idle for far too long. Fortunately theyíre still in very good condition and will be more than adequate for the main stereo channels. I decided to spend the remaining £350 on speakers and cables and eventually settled on the Mordaunt Short Stereo Plus package and Monster Original cable, the dealer used them on his demonstration system, and I was most impressed.

 

HOME ENTERTAINMENT RECOMMENDS

Mr Pink has got it about right. His decision not to integrate his present system was probably correct as it would have forced him to make uncomfortable compromises. As far as his choice of AV amp is concerned weíd also have liked him to hear the Sony TAV-670 and maybe the Kenwood KA-V8500 as well, but we think heíll still be very pleased with what he has got.

 

MR WHITE

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

Iím an absolute movie nut, it drives the family mad but then no-one complained when I brought the Philips widescreen TV... Iíve got to the point now where Iím becoming unhappy with the picture performance of video tape, I want better quality and it seems that laser discs are still the best bet. Iíve read all the magazines and it seems to me thereís only three makes worth worrying about, Philips, Pioneer and Sony. So my first port of call was the local Philips dealer, who told me they didnít stock them, Ďno call for them round hereí, typical! A quick flick through the Yellow Pages turned up two Pioneer stockists, and a Sony Centre. The Pioneer dealer was nearest, so I went there first. Unfortunately when I got there I found it had turned into a charity shop, they closed down a year ago; handy tip, call first... On to the second Pioneer dealer one. He had the lot and showed me the CLD-M5 with its five CD loading mechanism. It looked great and sounded very sharp but it couldnít play back American NTSC discs, which he also stocked; it looks like Iíll be a regular customer there from now on. The next one he showed me I fell for straight away, it was the CLD-950, the price was right at £500, it worked great and it would fit in easily with my present system. A quick flash of the plastic and it was mine.

 

SURROUND SYSTEM

I want to use as much of my hi-fi system as possible. I only brought it just over a year ago and Iím very happy with it, but it doesnít have Dolby Surround. As far as I can make out the simplest way to get Dolby is to add a processor box. Thereís nothing in the Pioneer range, though the dealer said  I should look at some Yamaha processors. Back to Yellow Pages, but no signs of any Yamaha stockists in my area. Eventually I found a local firm advertising home cinema gear, and struck lucky because they had several Dolby Pro Logic on special offer. In the end the choice was pretty simple, the Yamaha DSP-200 fitted the bill exactly, and it left enough over for a set of speakers. My helpful dealer friend pointed me in the direction of the Canon S-30s, which he reckoned were designed specifically for home cinema, and now theyíre installed, give my movies a rich, detailed sound.

 

HOME ENTERTAINMENT RECOMMENDS

Itís a shame Mr White never got to the Sony Centre and saw MDP-850 laser disc player, itís an excellent performer, though rather expensive, and it wouldnít have left much over for the Dolby decoder. The Yamaha Pro Logic upgrade for his Akai hi-fi was fine but he should have auditioned a few more speakers, the Canon units are okay but there are several other budget packages, like the JPW outfit, that are well worth trying.

 

 

MR ORANGE

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

Iíve been toying with the idea of a satellite system for a while, but it was the new sports channel that finally clinched it for me. I begrudge paying to watch these channels but theyíre showing more and more events I canít see on BBC or ITV and the subscriptions deal Iíve got includes movie channels as well, so itís not too bad. I started out by asking a few mates what systems they had and it seemed most of them had brought Amstrads, which were okay, but the ones Iíve looked at were a bit basic, and the sound wasnít up to much. The high-street TV and video shops didnít have much of a selection, nothing but  Amstrads again,  so I brought a couple of satellite magazines and looked up the buyers guide. One model stuck out, it was the Pace MSS1000 which had Dolby Pro Logic so I could get surround sound from the movies as well.

 

Finding one to have a look at was a bit more difficult, there were no Pace dealers in the phone directory, plenty of satellite dish installers though. Eventually I found one that said they specialised in custom designed systems, though he was quite a long way away. It was well worth the journey, and although he didnít have the Pace receiver I was after in stock, he phoned up one of his customers who had one installed the previous week. He was in and agreed to let us come round there and then, to have a look at it. I was bowled over, the surround sound was fantastic and I placed an order with him on the spot.

 

SPEAKERS

I found out later I could have chosen my own speakers, the dealer supplied a set of Wharfdales with the receiver as part of the whole package, for less than the cost of both together he told me. The installer even hooked it all up to my hi-fi and video when he was putting in the dish so I get surround sound off the VCR as well, itís terrific! A week later I had a call from the dealer asking how it was, and wondering if I had thought about adding a motor to my dish, so I could get even more channels. Iím not sure the other channels are worth having, as far as I can see thereís no extra sports channels, and the rest are foreign language. I might do it for a laugh, it would give the neighbours something to talk about, seeing the dish moving up and down looking for satellites, theyíll think Iím in MI5 or something.

 

With whatís left out of the £1000 Iím going to treat myself to one of those CD-i games machines. They can play films too, though you have to pay extra for that, so I donít reckon Iíll bother right away, Iíve seen all the films theyíve got on disc anyway.

 

HOME ENTERTAINMENT RECOMMENDS

Thereís nothing else quite like the Pace MS1000 at the moment so Mr Orange made the right decision, his research paid off. Most satellite systems are sold through the high-street multiples, and as he discovered thereís not much choice, moreover comparatively few AV dealers have got around to satellite yet. The Specialist dealers are by far the best bet, though again he was fortunate to have found one so willing to go out of their way to demonstrate a system. CD-1 is just the right sort of teccy gadget for Mr Orange, thereís enough games discs around now to make sure he wonít get bored with it, and itís something else for him to show off to the neighbours.

 

 

MR BLUE

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

When I agreed to take part in this feature I must admit that I wasnít really sure what I wanted. I had read about Dolby Surround on rental tapes and I suppose I was vaguely aware of the existence of movies and programmes with surround sound on TV, but not how you could listen to them. My mind was made up after visiting a mammoth electrical superstore which opened recently in my area, and had a number of home cinema systems on show. The salesman was really helpful and appeared knowledgeable, he even asked what TV and video I had at home, and whether or not I had a hi-fi. He said I could either upgrade my hi-fi, which could work out cheaper, but could get messy; or I could start from scratch with an integrated AV system. The advantage with that approach was I could put my JVC hi-fi in the other room, so that the kids could still listen to their music, while the wife and I could watch TV in peace, or play music too.

 

He showed me three systems in all. The first was a very smart-looking Sony outfit that used two all-in-one speakers, and it was just within my price limit. I like the idea of that as weíve only just moved in and Iím not keen to have wires all over the place. It sounded fine when he was playing music but I really couldnít hear much of a surround sound effect when he switched it over to the TV and video. The next one he showed me was the Technics SC-CH950, this had a bit more surround effect than the Sony, but only just, not at all what I was expecting. The third system was the Aiwa NSX D939 and this almost knocked me out of my chair, sounds were coming from every direction and I had to have it. It wasnít just the sound quality that sold me on it though, it was a really good deal and  came with all the speakers and cables, so there was nothing else to buy.

 

HOME ENTERTAINMENT RECOMMENDATIONS

We think Mr Blue was a trifle hasty being talked into an all in one system so quickly without considering the alternatives, though the Aiwa D939 is as good as any youíll find this side of £1000. Had he chosen the upgrade route we might have suggested using an AV amp with his present speakers, the Kenwood KA-V7700 for example, this would have left him with enough to buy some smooth-sounding  surround and centre-channel speakers, like the JBL HTS-1 package.

 

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1994 1409

 

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