The MCI8080’s performance is excellent across the board. We started out with a couple of songs encoded in FLAC – Take My Soul and Stargazer by Thievery Corporation – and were blown away by the richness and clarity of the sound.
Top-end detail is confidently teased out and midrange frequencies are prominent and robust, yet it’s the bass performance that really stands out. The speakers deliver deep and nimble bottom-end support that lends effortless warmth and punch to these excellent downtempo tracks.
But switch up to something a little faster like house or hip-hop and the MCI8080 keeps pace with the rhythms nicely, while more refined material like Danse Russe from the Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker sounds suitably smooth and dainty.
Switching to compressed audio formats like MP3 and AAC, the sound is never anything less than enjoyable. But when we tried playing CDs we were surprised to find that the drive is a little fussier with discs than expected. We can understand it skipping and jumping when spinning our scratched-up CD-RW, but not with a brand new pristine copy of Amy Winehouse’s Lioness. Again we’re hoping this is down to our review sample.
After copious disc wiping, the drive settled down and we were finally treated to the system’s wonderfully absorbing CD performance. The mellow reggae of Our Day Will Come oozes from the speakers, its insistent bassline and sparkling hi-hats trotting along nicely while the late Ms Winehouse’s incredible voice soars from the speakers with spine-tingling purity. On the downside, FullSound is a little too rich and overpowering, leaving you with two choices – turn down the bass level in the sound settings, or turn it off completely.
Onto DVD performance and the Philips does an impressive job at upscaling the eye-popping visuals of Transformers: Dark of the Moon to 1080p. The image looks clean, jaggies are kept to a minimum and colours look natural. The robot CG is reasonably well resolved, but the occasional smearing and blurry SD pictures make us wish Philips has thrown a Blu-ray drive in here. But as it stands, these enjoyable DVD pictures make it a nice bonus.
For some reason movie soundtracks don’t sound as loud and rambunctious as expected based on the power of its music playback – we had to turn up the volume high to make an impact. But FullSound’s efforts are much more welcome with DVDs, lending extra oomph to the bass output.
Those of you with music stashed away in a variety of physical and digital formats will find that the MCI8080 is a brilliant way of bringing it all together. With USB HDD, network, iPod, internet and radio support, it’s a remarkably versatile system, with built-in Wi-Fi making the network functionality easy to access. DVD playback is a welcome bonus too, and the LCD screen is a lovely touch.
What’s more, it’s a real stunner to look at, build quality is superb and on the whole it’s slick and user-friendly, give or take a few teething troubles. Its music performance isn’t the most refined we’ve ever heard but the speakers provide enough warmth and detail to stir the emotions and DVD playback is solid, although a Blu-ray drive would have been nice.