My complete Home Cinema System

Straight up, I’m going to review the entire system together. Firstly because the equipment is old enough not to be interesting to anyone to purchase, and secondly it allows anyone reading the DVD reviews to understand what I’m reviewing on. Oh, I guess there is a third, it’s easier for me!


System Specification

Television: Toshiba 32″ 32MW7DB

DVD Player: Pioneer DV-717

Amplifier: Sony STR-DB940

Speaker Package: Mission 70 with 70ASE Subwoofer

Configuration:

The entire system has been configured using DVD Essentials Home Cinema configuration DVD. This allows for the viewer to ensure their audio system is setup correctly and to fine tune their TV for everything from brightness to digital processing, even using a blue colour filter to ensure the colour balances are correct!

An excellent test for the system is playing the scene from The Matrix where Neo encounters an Agent on the roof of the building when rescuing Morpheus. As the camera spins around him in bullet time, we hear each bullet fly from a speaker, past your ear and out from the opposite speaker, and as we turn a shot fires from each speaker until the circle is complete and each speaker has fired a shot. This is probably one of the best scenes for demonstrating the system I have.

Television:

Really good TV with a great many functions available to alter the picture and fine tune the settings and provides an excellent picture quality.

Connections wise it allows for 3 AV connections with S-Video on two of these, and one component. The rest are all SCART and can be set as RGB. It accepts NTSC signal format on AV1 and 3 and allows for an AV signal output on AV2 from any of the other AV sources or antenna. It also provides for optical input\output.

My only two concerns with the television are the white balance and the picture geometry. The TV has an automatic white balance which alters the overall brightness when the picture brightness level changes. So if you have set the black level to true darkness, if a large white object appears onscreen, the television will adjust the entire picture brightness to match. Very annoying at times as this also affects the picture geometry with blooming.

The second negative is the overall picture geometry. There are very slight adjustments you can make to the horizontal and vertical positioning as well as the bending of the picture, but these are limited and I’ve never managed to get the entire test card pattern onscreen. As a result I know I am missing part of the picture on the left and top parts of the screen. Only about a half inch, but enough to niggle at me at times.

One other thing to note is that many of the settings are independant for each AV source, so they need to be setup for each input device. That complicates my setup considering I have PAL\NTSC DVD, NTSC PS1, PAL PS2, PAL XBox and a PAL\NTSC Video. A PAL or an NTSC device also display differently when connected to the NTSC AV inputs!

Still, overall the TV was an excellent choice and has lasted some five years to date I think.

DVD Player:

I purchsed the player when DVD’s were still quite new, and this unit cost me over £700! Modified to play any Region, before multi-region players were the norm, and built to the size of a Home Cinema Amp!

The outputs are standard, with optical and digital audio, and SCART or S-Video. It’s very robust and provides good solid quality playback.

To this date the only issues I’ve had with synching issues or screen artefacts, etc have been with poor quality discs. For example I managed to buy a couple of discs that were reject batches from production houses, and they were truly awful. However, proper retail versions have proved to play without issue.

Configuration wise you are offered everything you need from the setup, from the onscreen background colour to specific output settings.

The remote is perfect, covering everything you need so that you only need to walk over to the machine when you put discs in and out.

I really am finding it hard to point out anything wrong with this machine, in fact it’s difficult to write anything about it as it does the job without issue.

Amplifier:

This Amp takes care of everything in the cinema\games room. Connecting TV, Video, PS2, XBox, DVD, MiniDisc and CD all through to the Speaker set with excellent results.

The connections are far too many to go into, save to say that even with all the above I’ve still only filled about two thirds of the possible connections. There are even connections for a Satellite system and a second set of speakers which can allow for switching between the main and second set, or having both on at the same time. Don’t tempt me!

The configuration of the system is extensive, even down to the point where everyone laughs at me for measuring out the speaker distances from the optimal listening position. Setting these, and the height of the speakers from the floor allows the Amp to ensure the optimal audio signal is delivered to each speaker.

The system includes a Dolby Digital and DTS decoder, and even with the latest updates in both sound systems, they haven’t failed to produce and excellent sound reporoduction and cinema experience yet. EX and 6.1 are both produced perfectly.

The remote is one of the Sony Commanders, which allows you to select other components under different inputs and then control them through the single remote when you select the input. For example, turning the Amp to TV\Sat changes the secondary remote functions to my TV allowing me to control it without digging out that controller.

All in all this amp is an excellent package and delivers perfect cinema sound. In fact, it’s so good, going to the cinema is a disappointment nowadays, and even my girlfriend agrees. Cinema sound still tends to be flat and at the front speakers only. Never mind the annoying sounds of other cinema goers around you!

Speaker Package:

Finally, to set the system off, are the speakers. I purchased these solely on name and, I guess, the fact that they were on a special deal. All this time later, and all the abuse that they have received, and they are still performing excellently.

Sound reproduction, range, volume and even the sub production are very good and for the amount paid at the time and their longevity I am extremely impressed.

The subwoofer is tremendous. Being the size of a bedside cabinet worried me when I first saw it, and quite rightly so. I’ve never had the volume on this over about four (with neighbours beneath you, it’s not a great idea to upset them all the time!), and they don’t go up to eleven! The crossover is kept relatively low as well – this is where the sub should kick in on the audio and should be set somewhere around where the normal speakers would give out.

Overall, the entire system is tremendous, and I dread the day when I have to replace something. Touch wood.

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