All-in-one packages represent the quickest and most convenient way of buying a home cinema system, bringing you a Blu-ray player, surround sound amplifier and multichannel speakers in one box. Although they can’t match separates for sound quality, they’re usually packed full of features and therefore offer you the best-possible value for money. And at first glance that looks to be the case with the Sony BDV-E880.
It’s a 5.1-channel system with a built-in 3D-ready Blu-ray player, a claimed 1000W of audio power and all the network streaming functionality we’ve come to expect from Sony’s home cinema products. At £450 it’s exactly the same price as Harman Kardon charges for a standalone set of speakers (the HKTS 20BQ/230), which gives you some indication as to how much Sony has crammed in for the money.
The accompanying speaker system is made up of two 1.2m-high floorstanding towers for the front channels, a pair of slender bookshelf satellites for the rear and one of the slimmest centre speakers we’ve encountered. On bass duties is a passive subwoofer, which our first fondle reveals to be a little heavier and sturdier than the majority of one-box subs we’ve tested, which is a good start.
The Blu-ray receiver unit is a slim, slinky piece of kit, blessed with a forward curving front section that houses the display panel and a row of touch-sensitive controls. It looks great but the upward-facing LED display is impossible to see from the sofa, which means you’re at the mercy of the onscreen displays for title/chapter/time info. It’s also remarkably deep at 320mm, but those things aside it’s absolutely gorgeous and is enhanced by a brushed black top panel and a white light on the front. Build quality is also unusually solid, getting the system off to a very good start indeed.
A USB port is found on the bottom right hand side, and on the rear panel, connections are generous, with two HDMI v1.4 inputs to channel your other hi-def kit and one ARC-compatible output. There are also two digital audio inputs (one optical, one coaxial), analogue stereo input and composite video output. An Ethernet port, second USB port, FM aerial input and socket for the auto calibration mic complete the line-up.
The front speakers look delightful from a distance – two tall gloss-black columns that’ll loom over your living room in style, with a rounded shape that’s designed to offer a wider listening area. They come in two parts that need slotting together and they screw into sturdy circular bases. Up close they’re also reasonably well-made but there is a plasticky feel to some of the parts that just reminds you of its budget origins.
The same can be said for the gloss-black rears, which have an unusual backward-sloping design, making it look like they’re poised to chuck sound up and into your room, but they’re also light, hollow and a little unstable when perched on a tabletop – it doesn’t take much of a jolt to knock one over.
The subwoofer is much better. It’s a squat cuboid shape, with four short legs giving the downward-firing driver and port underneath a bit of airspace. It’s a helpfully compact size and the neutral styling helps it blend discreetly into the room.