But the HT-DV50H makes up for its remote with a terrific sound performance. In honour of the new Indiana Jones film that opens in a few weeks' time, we thought it appropriate to whip out our Indy DVD boxset, and Raiders of the Lost Ark's Dolby Digital soundtrack sounds terrific through the HT-DV50H's competent speakers.
Particularly impressive is the reproduction of John Williams' classic score, with the crisp bursts of brass and rich, sweeping strings drawing you right into the heart of the action. But other elements of the soundtrack are also well handled - dialogue sounds clear and the sub's beefy bass output gives the movie's frequent action scenes genuine gravitas.
It's not perfect though - the sub strays into boomy territory at times (prompting us to trim the level using the dedicated volume) and certain loud noises such as Short Round's annoying voice (I second that - ed.) in Temple of Doom sound occasionally shrill. But on the whole it's a very respectable sonic performance.
As for Dolby Virtual Speaker, it does make a difference to the width of surround effects but we wouldn't say it was a particularly convincing replacement for real rear speakers. Of more use is Natural Bass, which injects a touch more depth to the bass channel. CD playback is very good indeed, with great treble reproduction and smooth bass tones.
Sadly the HT-DV50H's picture quality doesn't do justice to its decent sound performance. Viewed via HDMI at 720p or 1080i, the image looks soft, pixellated and twitchy and the colour balance is overcooked, giving skin tones a reddish hue and reducing the film's cinematic quality. Diagonal lines and edges look excessively jagged right across the picture, particularly noticeable on the text of Raiders' opening titles. We looked for the same flaws on our Toshiba HD-E1 deck but they were nowhere to be seen.
Sharp's system gets off to a good start in the looks and features departments, and follows it up with very good sound quality that exhibits only one or two minor flaws. But then it undoes all the hard work with the sort of poor picture quality you wouldn't even expect from a cheap supermarket deck, let alone the range-topping system from an AV superstar like Sharp. If you prize looks above everything else give it a try, but if you care about picture quality then it might be worth looking elsewhere.