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Onkyo LS-V501 Universal DVD system - Onkyo LS-V501
Connections are plentiful. Video outputs include HDMI, component and composite, while on the audio side you'll find two digital ports (one optical, one coaxial) and two sets of analogue inputs. You can also pass video signals through the deck via the HDMI or composite inputs. Completing the line-up is a subwoofer output, FM/AM antenna inputs and an RGB-capable SCART output.
The system is eminently easy to use. Most of the audio adjustments are made using the basic front display panel, though everything else is controlled from the slick and attractive on-screen setup menu. The remote is a masterclass in how to pack in a large amount of buttons onto a handset without making it seem cluttered or confusing, cleverly separating them into different sections.
Now onto audio quality. With movies, the LS-V501 makes up for the lack of rear and centre channels with a brilliantly brutal three-channel performance. During Saving Private Ryan's Omaha Beach landing scene, the power on offer is palpable, with the subwoofer's prodigious bass output sounding loud yet well controlled, propelling the action along at a punchy pace. Such is its power that we had to reduce the level from the ‘zero' factory setting to stop it overpowering the other channels.
You really can hear the quality pouring out of the front speakers too - their detailed and sophisticated sound is far superior to many cheaper 2.1 systems. Midrange and top-end effects, like gunshots and bullets pinging off helmets, sound clear and direct, and, despite the lack of a centre speaker, speech (or in this case shouting) is audible over the cacophony. The fronts fuse seamlessly with the subwoofer, a testament to their own impressive bass capabilities, but if it's not to your taste then you can alter the crossover point from 40Hz up to 200Hz.
With Theater Dimensional activated, the LS-V501 delivers an enjoyably expansive stereo soundstage, but its attempt at a 5.1-channel effect isn't particularly convincing. Its effectiveness is governed by the angle of the speakers to the viewing position and natural reverb in the room, but even taking these factors into consideration we couldn't make it do anything other than widen the stereo soundstage.