If your TV's typically lame speakers are stopping you from enjoying film scores as they should be heard, then it could be time to consider a home cinema system.
These systems offer all-in-one convenience that cuts out the confusion of buying separates while saving you time and money. For around £200 online, JVC's TH-P7 is incredibly affordable and puts in a good performance with both pictures and surround sound. Build quality and design are unimpressive, though, and the exclusion of HDMI means it's far from future-proof.
The design features the all-in-one convenience of a single unit complemented by tall, floor-standing speakers that give the system an illusion of authority compared to typical models at this price.
The brains and the brawn of the system reside in the broad main unit, which integrates a disc player, AM/FM tuner and 6-channel digital amplifier with integrated processing. Average build quality and uninspired styling mean the unit isn't much to look at, but the surprisingly slim dimensions could be described as sleek and discreet.
At the front is a USB terminal that allows you to access music, video and still photo files from a variety of media players or storage devices. It's a useful convergent feature that's gaining popularity with home cinema devices and offers a wider range of entertainment options in this digital age.
Basic connectivity is conspicuous by the absence of a digital HDMI output, which limits performance if you own a compatible HD Ready display. JVC probably presumes that most budget buyers are still using conventional displays, but the exclusion of HDMI could carry repercussions in the future.
Consequently, there's no integrated video scaling, but you can play progressive scan images using the component video connections, and the Direct Digital progressive outputs negate the need for analogue conversion, which claims to reduce signal loss and improve image quality. Standard users will have to rely on a single RGB-enabled Scart as the only other available video output. There are no dedicated audio inputs, so you'll need to make a Scart connection if you want to listen to TV through the speakers.
The four main speakers feature tall, slim designs that can be positioned at different heights using accompanying floor stands, or mounted on the wall if you prefer. The cabinets are roughly constructed and finished in silver with a fixed material grille that looks and feels economical. The centre speaker is comparatively smaller and almost entirely assembled from plastic materials. All speakers feature easy-to-use spring clip terminals, although colour-coded terminals would ease the installation process.
The 5.1 configuration is completed by a passive subwoofer that's similarly styled but incredibly small. The side-firing design offers flexible positioning -- especially for corner placements -- and at least the compact dimensions mean it can be concealed out of sight.
Like all budget home cinema in-a-box designs, this system offers affordable flexibility and fuss-free functionality. You can use this system to play both DVDs and CDs, including recording -R/RW formats that carry WMA, JPEG, MP3, MPEG-4 and DivX Ultra files. USB hosting allows you to directly access digital files from portable media players or any other USB Mass Storage Class device.