Looking at the feature list, SACD playback is a real highlight. This is a surprising but extremely welcome feature to find on such a cheap system, and means you can enjoy hi-res, multichannel music. The system decodes Dolby Digital and DTS, offers Dolby Pro Logic II processing and provides a few sound enhancements: Dynamic Bass boosts low frequency effects; Movie and Music modes tailor the sound frequencies to the relevant material; Night mode improves the clarity of sound for low-level listening; and Portable Audio Enhancer aims to boost the quality of compressed audio playback.
If you've got a large library of digital music, then this is the system for you. Transfer your tracks onto a USB stick, CD or DVD, load them up and away you go - the DAV-DZ280 supports MP3, WMA and AAC, and the sound quality is fantastic, particularly with Portable Audio Enhancer doing its thing. Sadly though, it's not as talented with video files, as it doesn't even play regular DivX, let alone DivX HD or MKV, and JPEG photos can only be played back from CD or DVD.
Setup is a quick and stress-free experience. The colour-coded plugs on the supplied cables make it clear which holes they need to be shoved in, while the Digital Cinema Auto Calibration mode optimises the speakers automatically using the supplied setup microphone, which is placed in the listening position and takes readings from a series of test tones.
And once you've installed and calibrated the system, further tweaks can be made in the comprehensive 'Custom' setup menu, but there's also a 'Quick' version if you only need to alter the basics. The onscreen layout is clear enough, using attractive graphics and legible text, while the submenus are logically sequenced. To top it off, the cursor moves from option to option with reasonable swiftness.
But it's not all good news on the ease-of-use front. The remote lets the side down with an unreasonably cluttered layout, too many small, fiddly buttons and counter-intuitive labelling. It takes ages to find the buttons you're looking for, particularly when it comes to accessing the setup menu, as there are two buttons labelled 'Display' and one labelled 'System Menu' - the latter activates the menu on the front display panel, while the onscreen setup menu is accessed by hitting one of the Display buttons or 'Tools'. All in all, it's a complete mess.