DVD-Audio and SACD playback lacks the surround spice that an extra three channels would have provided, but there's no denying the quality of the hi-res stereo performance. Variations by Japanese jazz group Atagiin sounds great, with the system's detailed reproduction of tinkling piano, chunky double bass and shuffling snares putting you right in the middle of a smoky Tokyo jazz club. This excellent musical performance carries over to CD playback, as the breathtaking rendition of Donny Hathaway's Someday We'll All Be Free demonstrates.
The LS-V501 is also backed up by superb picture quality. Set to 1080i, the high detail level makes pictures look not a million miles away from hi-def - the rubble and dirt of the destroyed French town during the climactic battle scenes of Saving Private Ryan are reproduced with impressive clarity, while Spielberg's drained colour palette is accurately reproduced and treated with the appropriate degree of subtlety.
The LS-V501 might be slightly more expensive than some of its rivals (you can find full 5.1 systems for less) but justifies its price tag with awesome build quality, a generous feature list and refined sound quality that benefits from Onkyo's years of audio experience. It also looks great, proving that lifestyle oriented products don't have to compromise on performance. The only niggle is the ineffective virtual surround, but if you want 5.1-channel sound then buy a 5.1-channel system - otherwise treat yourself to one of the best 2.1 systems on the market.