But back to the good news, and the system’s sound quality is superb for the money. There’s a smoothness and maturity with movies that you don’t get from the vast majority of one-box systems at this price, making for an enthralling and hugely satisfying listen.
Its qualities are perfectly demonstrated by ”Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” on DVD. We skipped straight to the Podrace sequence and the Sony delivers the roaring engines with plenty of power and bass rumble, the bangs and crashes are fast and engaging, and the expansive crowd noises emanating from the surround channels put you right in the middle of the race. What’s most impressive is that high-frequencies are crisp without sounding abrasive or hard, even at loud volumes – a rare talent for a sub-£200 one-box job.
What’s more, John Williams’ iconic score sounds suitably majestic, and although the movie’s dialogue is clunky, at least you can hear it clearly over the hubbub of the busy action scenes. Before we get too carried away, it’s worth pointing out that it’s no match for a good quality separates system, lacking the foundation shaking power or high-frequency finesse of our reference home cinema system, but it’s much better than we expected.
And its talents don’t stop there. The DAV-DZ280 does a terrific job of handling the extra sonic detail and surround sound information on the SACD version of ”Avalon” by Roxy Music, submerging you within a smooth and absorbing soundstage. The chunky drums of ”More Than This” are delivered with plenty of punch, while the title track’s lilting rhythms and sax licks are warm and seductive. We’ve heard this disc conveyed with more openness and control by pricier separates systems, but getting any kind of SACD playback at this price is a real bonus.
It’s a shame then that the system’s pictures don’t measure up to this impressive sound quality. With ”The Phantom Menace” played through the HDMI port at 1080p, the picture has a strangely over-egged colour balance, which makes skin tones look unconvincing and bright colours stray into garish territory. There’s also more noise in the picture than expected, which crawls around on large patches of colour and makes edges look a tad fuzzy. There’s also evidence of over-sharpening and mosquito noise around edges.
There’s no denying that the DAV-DZ280 offers good value for money. Its sound quality is much better than most one-box systems at this sort of price, plus the inclusion of SACD playback, an iPod dock and a USB port with AAC support and CD ripping will appeal to a great many people. But on the downside, there are a few potential deal-breakers – picture quality is poor, there’s no DivX playback and rear connectivity is limited, so if these things are important to you then it might be best to investigate rival systems from LG and Samsung before reaching for your credit card.
Score in detail