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HEAD

Sony KL-37HW1 37-inch Widescreen Back Projection TV, £3,700  ****

 

Why’s it here? In the scheme of things, back projection TVs slot in between the largest CRT-based televisions -- currently up to 36-inches -- and front/rear video projectors, that can create images up to 200-inches across. Most back-projectors use high-intensity CRTs to generate the image; the KL-37W1, which has a 37-inch widescreen display, is one of the first to use LCD panels, which should mean a longer life, lower power consumption and a significant weight saving.

 

Any unique features? Despite its size it is remarkably light, just 29kg, that’s less than some 21-in tube TVs, and it takes up no more floor-space than a typical 28-incher. It has a multi-system (PAL, NTSC and SECAM) capability, a 100 Hz display -- to reduce flicker -- and the widescreen display can be configured to handle all current screen formats (including 16:9, of course), with zoom and ‘smart’ modes, that reduces distortion and cropping on 4:3 pictures blown up to full screen width. The set has twin tuners that are used for a unique twin 8:9 PAP (picture and picture) display, with two channels (or external inputs) shown full height/reduced width on either side of the screen.  It has NICAM, fastext (30-page memory) and multi-mode DSP with pop, rock, jazz, vocal and user presets, plus a manual graphic equaliser. There’s also an auto-install tuner, sleep timer, parental lock and a rather nifty on-screen display, with computer-style graphics. Set-up is automatic and it requires minimal maintenance; the projection lamp has to be replaced every 6000 hours or so, and the air filters for the cooling fan need to be cleaned every month, using a vacuum cleaner. 

 

How does it perform? Back projectors generally have fairly shallow viewing angles, and the 37HW1 is no exception. The screen needs to be at eye-height and the best viewing position is head-on. From the sides or above the picture looks quite dark. It lacks the pin-sharp clarity of the better CRT models but line-structure is minimal and there’s none of the tell-tale pixellation that’s sometimes evident with LCD video projectors. The 100Hz display eliminates the annoying flicker that larger screens tend to emphasise. Every so often it threw up some minor digital artefacts, with slight blurring of rapid movement. In the wide and smart display modes some material -- notably live broadcasts -- occasionally produced an odd mid-screen ripple.

 

The screen is reasonably bright, not quite as well-lit as a CRT TV, but there’s no need to pull the curtains or dim the lights. However, there’s not a lot to spare and the brightness control our sample had to left on maximum most of the time. In the past LCD display panels have suffered form poor colour fidelity, that’s not a problem with this set, there’s a slight emphasis on reds but in general colours look clean, natural and well-defined.

 

Sound escapes from three rather small (less than 4-inches) speakers hiding behind the impressive-looking grilles beneath the screen, output power is quoted at a miserable 2 x 5 watts (music power...) and 20 watts on a centre channel. The large cabinet helps makes the best of a bad job, but Sony have clearly decided -- probably quite rightly -- that anyone buying this TV will be using it with a meaty surround-sound system.

 

Our Verdict

A couple of teensy gripes, and the price is a bit stiff, but this really is a rather splendid TV, a delight for those with the room to appreciate it. Picture quality is good, confirming the role LCD technology now has in this application.

 

Sony KL-37HW1

Features            37-inch back projection display, 3 x 3.4-inch LCD panels (51,000 pixels per panel), 100Hz picture, 4:3, 16:9, ‘smart’ and ‘zoom’ display modes, 2 x 8:9 PAP (picture and picture) dual display, twin tuner, PAL, SECAM, NTSC multi-standard display, NICAM, fastext (30-page memory), auto-tuning with channel display, menu-driven on-screen display, parental lock, graphic equaliser (manual and 5 preset modes), sleep timer 

Sockets            3 x SCART AV, S-Video, line audio in/out (phono), front AV terminal (S-Video & phono), headphone (stereo minijack)

Dimensions            920 x 825 x 390 mm

 

Picture Quality            ****

Sound Quality            ***

Build Quality              *****

Features                     ****

Ease of use                 ****

Overall value              ****

 

Competitors

Ferguson RP46NU            £2500            HE29            75%

Philips 46P912            £2700            HE26            70%

Pioneer SD-M1047            £3600            HE25            85%

 

Sony UK, telephone  0181-784 1144

 

Captions

Big screen, big box, but tiny speakers. They’re okay for monitoring but it needs to be used with a serious sound system to give its best

 

Sony’s first vacuum cleaner... Filters behind the left-hand speaker panel trap airborne dust, sucked in by cooling fans. They need cleaning about once a month

 

The screen viewing angle is quite good for a projector TV but it still needs to be positioned carefully, with the centre of the screen at eye-height

 

HEAD

YAMAHA YST-SW150, £280 ****

 

Why’s it here? Comparatively few mid-range AV amps or systems have a dedicated subwoofer channel. Even if they do mixing and matching passive subs with existing components can be a headache. Active sub-woofers, like the YST-SW150, a 125 watter from Yamaha, (and it’s 85 watt stablemate, YST-SW80 at £180), are possible solutions; they’re the essential stomach-churning, room-rumbling ingredient, that can turn a good home cinema set-up into a great one.

 

Any unique features? Auto power switching circuitry senses the presence of a input from the main amp and turns the unit on from standby, and off again when it’s not being used. Yamaha’s Active Servo system uses a Helmholtz resonator (ported air woofer cabinet design) and negative-impedance driver circuitry, to deliver a smooth coherent bass. This helps ease the load on the rest of the system, allowing it to concentrate on mid-band and upper frequencies. Installation is quick and simple -- it connects between the front channel-speakers or it can be driven from the AV amp’s line-level (low pass) output, if it has one. It has volume, switchable phase and high-cut adjustments, so it can be configured for virtually any set-up, from a humble DPL TV to a high-performance component system. 

 

How does it perform? The hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention as ED 209 growls into life; walls shudder as the huge robot stomps into the boardroom, machine guns blazing. The Circle of Life reaches a crescendo, a lion roars and the heavy tread of a herd of elephants feet shake the floor. Moments from two movies -- Robocop and The Lion King -- transformed by the presence of the SW150 on full song. Placement is important, and it’s worth taking time to experiment with the high-cut and volume adjustment  -- especially when using smaller speakers or lower-powered amps. However, there’s no mistaking the correct settings. The bass suddenly slots neatly into place; it’s deep, controlled and seamlessly integrated with the main speakers. The box is solidly built, there are no rattles of vibrations, even with the volume control set to danger level!

 

Our Verdict. The SW150 feels as though it’s there all the time, ready to swing in to action,  suddenly and dramatically with big explosive effects, or rumble quietly away in the background. The price and performance stack up very well indeed against the competition. Powerful, atmospheric attention-grabbing bass, without tears. 

 

Yamaha YST-SW150

Features            active servo technology speaker system, auto power on/off, line-level  or speaker output drive, high-cut and volume adjustment, phase switching, 125 watts output                                             

Sockets            speaker inputs/outputs (binding posts), stereo line input (phono)

Dimensions            252 x 620 x 418 mm

 

Sound Quality            ****

Build Quality              ****

Features                     ****

Ease of use                 *****

 

Competitors

Boston Acoustics V500   £400            HE35            85%

Jamo SW400                          £330            HE26            75%

REL Strata                             £500            HE26            85%

 

Yamaha UK, telephone (01923) 233166

 

 

HEAD

JVC UX-D66 Micro Hi-Fi System, £380 ****

 

Why’s it here? Micro hi-fi systems have been selling like hot cakes and it’s not difficult to see why. The better ones prove you can get big sounds out of tiny boxes, they’re just the right size for our shrinking living rooms, bedrooms and bedsits, and manufacturers are cutting each other’s throats -- and prices -- to get their products noticed.

 

Any unique features? The UX-D66 is JVC’s most powerful micro system to date with a hard-working 20 watts per channel. The two cube-shaped audio components have an eye-catching brushed silver finished; they connect together with a single ribbon cable and can be placed side by side, or stacked on top of each other. Dynamic axial drive woofers and active hyper bass circuitry beef up the bass and the sound output can be contoured with independent bass and treble controls. The auto-reverse cassette deck has soft-touch logic controls, Dolby B NR and auto tape selection whilst the CD has a 20 track memory, repeat and random play features, plus synchronised recording to the cassette deck.

 

How does it perform? The CD and tape decks appear to be good quality items. They sound reasonably coherent and well matched to the rest of the system. Noise levels on both decks are low, the tuner is a tad hissy though, and not especially sensitive; it needs a good aerial, even in a strong signal area. Considering the size of the speakers and modest power levels, the various bass enhancements do a fair job, providing a suprisingly gutsy low-end. The sound is smooth and reasonably detailed; middle frequencies are well represented but the treble appears to tail off quite early, it can sound a little thin at times. It pays to play around with speaker placement as this can have quite an effect on the sound; unfortunately the captive leads are quite short, which doesn’t give much rom for manoeuvre if the cables have to be routed around shelves or furniture.

 

Our Verdict. Unlike several other micros we’ve seen recently this one doesn’t have the feel or look of a parts-bin special, hastily cobbled together from the bits left over from last year’s portables. It sounds okay, fine for smaller living rooms, though it’s a trifle under-powered for larger spaces.

 

JVC UX-D66

Features            2 x 20 watts (RMS), dynamic axial-drive woofers, hyper bass, CD with 20-track program memory, repeat and random play, single auto-reverse logic-controlled cassette deck, auto tape selection, music scan, Dolby B noise reduction, 2-band (AM/FM) tuner with 30 station presets, auto preset tuning, clock, sleep/timer, remote control, motorised volume,

Sockets            aux line input/output (phono), digital output (optical), headphones (minijack), speakers & AM loop antenna (spring terminal), FM aerial (coaxial)

Dimensions            500 x 262 x 267 mm

 

Sound Quality            ****

Build Quality              ****

Features                     ****

Ease of use                 ****

Overall value              ****

 

Competitors

Goldstar FFH-212L            £229.99          n/t

Philips FW 18            £369.99          n/t

Sharp CD-770H            £379.99          n/t

 

JVC UK,  telephone 0181-450 3282

 

HEAD

MITSUBISHI NICAM TV, £500 (excluding dish) ****

 

Why’s it here? Mega screen TVs are all very well for those with the room to use them but most of us have to live with more modestly-sized sets. Manufacturers used to save all their best gizmos and gadgets for their larger sets; now they’re turning their attention to smaller TVs, like this highly specified 21-inch model from Mitsubishi.

 

Any unique features? The CT-21AV1BS has an on-board 150 channel satellite receiver and Videocrypt decoder, pre-tuned to all currently available Astra channels. Stereo  satellite channels and NICAM sound from the terrestrial stations is piped through a ‘Multiport’ sound system. Audio facilities include a punchy 2 x 12 watt (RMS) amplifier plus wide stereo and spatial sound effects. A full set of on-screen displays show channel names and the fastext system has an subtitling facility that automatically selects the correct page for each channel. Installation and tuning are fully automatic and stations can be rearranged into any desired order. A sensor mounted on the front of the set adjusts brightness and contrast to compensate for ambient lighting conditions and up to four AV setting can be memorised to suit individual sources (TV, satellite, VCR etc.).  The tuner can handle PAL and SECAM formatted signals, NTSC playback is available on direct AV inputs. 

 

How does it perform? Pictures on smaller screen TVs generally look quite sharp but the black matrix tube used on this set has a has a particularly good dynamic range, with crisp whites and deep blacks, even in a brightly lit room. Heavily saturated colours are clean and picture noise levels are generally very low, with a good strong signal. The satellite decoder works well; sensitivity is a about average though, and weaker stations, like UK Gold have a few sparklies, more so when signal conditions deteriorate, during a heavy downpour for example. The speakers are mounted either side of the screen and the stereo image is quite shallow, the wide mode helps but it tends to diffuse if the seating position is more than a metre or two from the screen.  Audio quality is generally reasonable though bass content is mediocre.

 

Our Verdict. A likeable little set with a good picture, fair sound, a useful assortment of features and a realistic price, but the addition of a satellite tuner sets it apart from most other 21-inchers on the market. If you haven’t already got a satellite box this is a practical and cost effective to reduce clutter.

 

HEAD

Mitsubishi CT-21AV1BS

Features            51cm (21-inch) FST screen, NICAM, Multiport sound system, built-in Astra satellite receiver and Videocrypt decoder, PAL/SECAM, NTSC on AV input, fastext, auto sub-titles, on-screen display and channel naming, auto set-up, 16:9 display, AV memories

Sockets            2 x SCART AV, front AV terminal (phono & S-Video), headphone (minijack)

Dimensions            540 x 450 x 820 mm

 

Picture Quality            ****

Sound Quality            ***

Build Quality              ****

Features                     ****

Ease of use                 ****

Overal value               ****

 

Competitors

Philips 215321            £400            HE29            85%

Sony KV-X2182U            £500            HE29            70%

Toshiba 2145DB            £450            HE29            75%

Mitsubishi UK,  telephone (01707) 276100

 

TOSHIBA 2557DB, £750, ****

 

Why’s it here? Toshiba are keen to maintain their dominance of the Dolby Pro Logic TV market and earlier this year they updated their their top-selling 28-inch set. Now it’s the turn of their 25-inch model. The 2557B is a much needed replacement for the 2539 which has been around since early 1994, that was starting to look its age.

 

Any unique features? Toshiba have largely stuck with a tried and tested formula, however there have been a number of enhancements, including the addition of automatic set-up, a larger 100-channel tuner, more informative on-screen displays and a 16:9 display mode. There have been changes to the outside as well; the 2557 has a more contemporary monitor-style cabinet and a new, ergonomically-shaped remote handset. Most of the core features remain the same though, including the Dolby Pro Logic sound system, NICAM stereo, fastext, a 5-mode digital sound processor with hall, theatre, disco, stadium and pseudo surround effects. The improvements haven’t adversely affected the price, in fact the 2557 is selling for £750, that’s £50 less than its predecessor.

 

How does it perform? We were mildly critical of the picture performance on the 28-inch 2857DB, which uses the same chassis. However, the smaller screen has helped reduced the impact of artefacts and pixellation on fine detail, generated by the set’s digital processing circuitry. Colour fidelity is better too, and the picture is generally crisp and detailed with a good contrast range and very low noise levels. The front stereo and centre channels are cleanly resolved, bass content is good; the DSP modes are vaguely interesting but the novelty soon wears off. The set’s side-mounted speakers produce quite a narrow soundstage, a pair of outboard speakers would improve imaging dramatically. The back channel is a little restrained, the level has to be turned fully up to for the speakers to make an impression but considering this set will be used in regular-sized living rooms, it’s shouldn’t pose a problem.

 

Our Verdict. All of the improvements have been worthwhile. The cabinet re-design, uprated features and competitive price has resulted in a more refined, tidier-looking set. Toshiba had the 25-inch DPL TV market to themselves for quite a while but in the past year or so several other manufacturers have weighed in, the 2557DB puts them firmly back in contention.

 

Toshiba 2557DB

Features            59cm (25-inch) FST screen, Dolby Pro Logic/Dolby 3 Stereo, NICAM, 5-mode DSP, auto set-up, NTSC playback (on AV input), fastext, on-screen display with channel naming, unified VCR controls on handset, bass boost, 16:9 dsplay, supplied with rear channel speakers and console stand with built-in centre speaker

Sockets            2 x SCART AV, front stereo and rear speakers (spring terminals), AV in/out (phono & S-Video), front AV (phono & S-Video), headphone (minijack)

Dimensions            703 x 523 x 460mm

 

Picture Quality            ****

Sound Quality            ****

Build Quality              ****

Features                     ****

Ease of use                 ****

Overall value              ****

 

Competitors

Hitachi CT-2576TN                       £700             n/t

Mitsubishi CT-25AV1BDS            £XXX n/t

Philips 25727                         £750            n/t

 

Toshiba UK, telephone (01276) 62222

 

HEAD

PANASONIC NV-HD605 NICAM VCR, £400

 

Why’s it here? You can almost sense Panasonic’s discomfort at having to compete with the hoi-polloi at the budget end of the NICAM VCR market. Nevertheless,  they’ve gritted their teeth and nipped in just below the critical £400 price point with the HD-605, making it their cheapest stereo hi-fi machine to date.

 

Any unique features? Its predecessor, the NV-HD600, was a bit of an untidy machine, and they’ve clearly learnt a few lessons. The HD605 looks a lot more refined with a centre-mount tape deck and they’ve given it an auto set-up routine, that programs the tuner and sets the clock. However, the feature list is still rather brief. Crystal View Control (CVC) is a worthwhile picture enhancement, though the off-button appears to be for the benefit of dealers as it should be left on all the time. NTSC replay is an unadvertised feature, probably because it’s only in black and white. So too are the one-screen displays, which are accessed from a four-position button pad on the remote. The instructions rather misleadingly refer to assembly editing functions, backspace-editing is a virtually standard feature on pretty well all VCRs, that allows scenes to be manually copied from a camcorder, using the VCRs record-pause button. Basic functions on Panasonic TVs can be controlled from the remote

 

How does it perform? Although largely devoid of convenience features, inside the HD605 are key components from their more up-market models and picture quality is well up to the kind of standard we’ve come to expect from Panasonic. Resolution is a whisker below 250-lines and the CVC circuit does a good job of reducing noise levels. The picture is very clean and colours are accurately resolved. Still frame stability is fairly good -- some slight jitter is evident -- and the single speed slomo is reasonably steady. Noise levels on the stereo hi-fi soundtracks are respectably low, they have a flat, largely uncoloured response.

 

Our Verdict. Panasonic have done a fine job updating the HD600, and the addition of auto set-up and the cleaner cosmetics put it on a more even footing with other budget models. However, whilst AV performance is very good, it’s not what you would call an exciting or particularly interesting machine, moreover the paucity of convenience features puts it at a disadvantage, alongside some of its glitzier rivals

 

Panasonic NV-HD605

Features            NICAM stereo sound, Video Plus+ timer with PDC, auto set-up, on-screen display, 8-event/30-day timer, Crystal View Control, NTSC replay (b/w), TV control functions (Panasonic models only), display dimmer

Sockets            2 x SCART AV, stereo line audio out (phono), RF bypass (coax)

Dimensions            430 x 99 x 315mm

 

Picture Quality            ****

Sound Quality            ****

Build Quality              ****

Features                     ***

Ease of use                 ***

Overall value              ****

 

Competitors

Aiwa HV-FX1500            £350            HE26            90%

Grundig GV-540      £400            HE33            70%

Hitachi VT-F540    £400            HE27            85%

 

Panasonic UK, telephone (01344) 862444

 

 

 

---end---

Ó R. Maybury 1996 3006

 

 

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