JVC TH-S5 £1289

1st Jan 2005 | 00:00

A stylish choice in home cinema systems

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

The JVC is a good-looking home cinema system that offers a very reasonable performance. Worth a closer look if the price is right

JVC's TH-S5 makes an elegant home cinema system, with the company's distinctive styling clearly in evidence. The neatly tapered front panel has a smattering of chrome-effect buttons for basic operations. A small display panel shows disc timings and system information, while a subtle blue light casts an atmospheric glow.

The partnering speakers feel substantial, and the rear surrounds have upward-firing omni-directional speaker drivers that promise to provide more defused-sounding rear effects. The subwoofer is a considerable size, but does contain the system's amplification. Speaker connections are made at the back of the subwoofer, while an umbilical-type cable connects it to the main unit.

Setup is straightforward, helped by a sophisticated procedure that automatically adjusts the speaker distance settings according to your listening position. Simply press the 'Smart Surround Setup' button while sat in the main listening position and clap your hands, and settings are tailored accordingly.

The JVC is boasts a very respectable set of features. Dolby Digital and DTS decoders are built-in, along with Pro-Logic II, and high-resolution DVD-Audio capability is an added bonus. Progressive scan technology is also on-board to provide top-notch pictures via the JVC's component video sockets. RGB Scart, S-video and composite connections are offered for those of you who don't have component-capable TVs.

Images via component video look very good indeed, with a rich colour palette and stunning clarity that made our run-through of LOTR: The Return of the King very enjoyable. The JVC's picture presentation is clearly geared for impact, which does mean that colours can sometimes be overly rich. During LOTR's tavern scene for instance, skin looks redder than usual and a little unnatural - but this is our only picture criticism.

Sound is respectable, and surround effects are expertly steered around the room. The subwoofer is a powerful model that ably underpinned LOTR's tremendous musical soundtrack, providing plenty of oomph. Its placement is critical for integration with the satellites however, and time spent finding the perfect spot will ensure the JVC performs at the top of its game.

Voicing concerns

But it's not all good news. An occasionally thin and brash sound from the satellite speakers, and muted voices from the centre, were cause for slight concern. DVD-Audio playback is similarly inconsistent. The JVC can ably fill a room with the multi-channel music format, but it's not the most natural sound we have heard, and vocals can sound a little muffled through the centre speaker.

D playback is acceptable, but it's still a considerable way from a hi-fi-like performance. The JVC TH-S5 has a lot to offer, in terms of features and very enjoyable DVD pictures. Its slightly under par sound performance with both movies and music means it's not a clear winner against its rivals, but if you can find it at a discount, it's still well worth considering.

Home cinemaHi-Fi/audio
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