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Sony DAV-IS10 DVD Home Cinema System Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £465.23

It’s not exactly PC, but in the home cinema industry the phrase ‘Wife Acceptance Factor’ is often used when talking about the design of a product. In other words, it’s the likelihood of a new piece of kit being given the thumbs up by a less than supportive spouse, given its potential impact on the room’s Feng Shui. Yes it’s sexist but true nonetheless – and I talk from personal experience.


Products with a high WAF are usually either drop-dead gorgeous, unimposing or easy to conceal, and that’s why the DAV-IS10 home cinema system should get the green light with minimal fuss. It boasts five tiny satellite speakers, each one the size of a golf ball, which makes them unobtrusive, discrete and easy to mount on the wall. But despite their size, Sony reckons they deliver the sort of powerful sound quality offered by much bigger speakers, as the 450W total power rating suggests. Their build quality is impressive too, with each speaker made from solid, weighty materials.


But it’s not just the speakers that make this system easy on the eye. The robust main DVD unit is small, compact and finished in sumptuous gloss black, with a row of illuminated touch-sensitive controls on top and a front loading disc slot. The system also comes with a similarly styled active subwoofer, capable of producing 2 x 100W of midrange and bottom-end power.


On the back of the unit is a useful range of connections, chief among which is an HDMI output. It’s joined by component and composite video outputs, plus optical and coaxial digital audio inputs, which come in handy if you want to enjoy 5.1 surround from a Sky+ box or separate DVD deck.


Inside the system is a decent range of features, including video upscaling to 720p and 1080i, but sadly not 1080p. The main unit plays DVD, DVD-RW, DVD-R, DVD+RW, DVD+R, CD and CD-RW discs, and will read JPEG, MP3 and DivX files. As a nifty bonus, the main unit boasts a Digital Media Port, which lets you connect a variety of optional Sony-made adapters – including Walkman and iPod cradles and Bluetooth or network wireless audio adapters.

Driving those diddy speakers is Sony’s 32-bit S-Master digital amp and unique sound processing technology. The unit offers Dolby Digital and DTS support, Dolby Pro Logic II processing and a range of Sound Field modes that includes Omni-Directional sound and a special setting for portable audio devices. Rounding up the features list is an FM/AM radio tuner.


The system is a breeze to setup. The main unit links to the subwoofer with one cord, and each speaker has a colour coded cable that plugs into the bottom of the subwoofer. Once it’s rigged up, there’s a superb automatic calibration mode that sets the speaker distances and channel levels in just 30 seconds using the supplied microphone and built-in test tones.


Once the system’s been tweaked to perfection, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the show, and the system’s performance defies all our expectations. Despite their size, the DAV-IS10’s satellite speakers produce a surprisingly powerful sound with the spectacular ”Fellowship of the Ring” DVD, more than living up to Sony’s hype.


The Mines of Moria sequence is an absolute blast, with the front channels pumping out the action with remarkable clarity and control, but with enough snap and crunch to get you jumping from your seat. Amid the chaos however, the centre speaker delivers dialogue with lucidity and directness.


The rear channels generate a superbly eerie ambience during quieter passages, but when the excitement levels raise, they deliver surround information with jolting accuracy and steer the effects smoothly across the soundstage. The subwoofer does a fantastic job too, injecting bursts of tight, punchy bass into the mix without bullying the other channels into submission – which is yet more evidence of the satellites’ quality.

There are no major weaknesses to report. If we’re being picky, you do need to turn up the system’s volume close to maximum to get the full impact, which you wouldn’t find with many other all-in-one systems. But otherwise what Sony has achieved here is a revelation, striking a perfect balance between performance and living room friendliness.


The system backs up this classy sonic performance with solid picture quality, helped along by some top-notch upscaling. Our detail-packed ”Lord of the Rings” disc looks sharp and clean, free from any block noise and other artefacts that can blight DVD pictures. Shots of Peter Jackson’s CG landscapes (Rivendell in particular) are exquisitely rendered while Middle Earth’s organic colours look rich and natural. The addition of 1080p upscaling could potentially have made pictures look even better, as it would have taken deinterlacing responsibilities away from our flat-panel TV, but the difference probably would have been minimal.


As a digital media player the DAV-IS10 also excels, particularly with DivX files, which play back smoothly and look fine on a big screen (depending, of course, on how they’re encoded). MP3 files also sound great, with the Portable Audio player sound mode boosting the quality of compressed music to great effect.


”’Verdict”’


After first whipping it out of the box, we were sceptical about the DAV-IS10’s ability to produce the sort of power needed for an awesome home cinema experience. But after hearing the loud and sophisticated sound bursting from these diminutive speakers, our cynicism proved unfounded. It’s a remarkable achievement that will have clutter-hating home cinema fans jumping for joy.


What’s more, it’s a highly attractive solution with plenty of features, and picture quality is up there with the very best systems. You could argue that the price is a little high given the lack of 1080p upscaling and SACD playback – but for the sake of domestic harmony, we think it might just be worth forking out for.

Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Performance 9
  • Features 8
  • Value 7

Features

Number of Speakers 5.1

Connectors

Power (Watt) 450 (RMS)W

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