Stack up the electronics currently living under your TV, and chances are you'll have more than a few boxes and a veritable spider's web of cables. Think about it -- the average household is likely to have at least a DVD player/recorder, Freeview/Sky receiver and games console, while a good proportion will have an AV receiver, SACD/DVD-Audio player, hi-fi and 5.1 speaker system as well.
Thankfully for those of us whose living rooms are starting to look like AV testing labs, Philips has integrated a DVD recorder and home cinema system into one slinky package. This means you get a Dolby Digital/DTS system for your films, and a DVD recorder to archive your favourite television and home movies, all out of the box. The two go together perfectly and Philips' LX7500R system doesn't cost you disproportionately more for combining the two.
The system itself is nicely designed and well featured, with everything you need to get started. Four tall satellite speakers provide the environmental effects, with a centre speaker for vocal details and a relatively thin, lightweight subwoofer. The DVD recorder is quite large, but is stacked with connectivity and can play Super Audio CDs, plus it offers progressive scan video output. Unfortunately though, what the system has in looks, it doesn't offer in power -- the audio feels lightweight, especially next to Denon's superb DHT-5000SD. However, it is an excellently detailed audio performance -- perfect for everyday television viewing and music. While DVD recording doesn't seem to have a detrimental impact on the price, home cinema enthusiasts might feel short-changed in the audio department.
The size and weight of the main box certainly gives the impression this is a substantial package. In addition to the six speakers and main DVD recorder, it includes stands for the rear speakers, in addition to wiring and a considerable number of accessories. However, it's the ease of setup that deserves most praise.Wiring up speakers can be a fiddly and tiresome process, but Philips has colour-coded the terminals on the main unit for each of the speakers, which are USB-sized instead of spring-clip terminals. Unfortunately, it couldn't go all the way and use the same colour-coded terminals on the speakers themselves, opting for the more fiddly spring-clip types, but at least they're halfway there.
The speakers themselves are classy. The four satellites are tall and cylindrical, utilising four drive units, while the centre channel speaker sits horizontally with a total of five drivers. It is essential to sit satellites on the included stands, because the wires go into the bottom of the units, meaning they won't stand comfortably on their own. However, everything is included in the box, and assembling it all is a cinch.
Connectivity on the LX7500R is also very good. If you've got a flat screen or projection TV, the progressive scan component outputs will ensure a smooth and judder-free picture. However, if you're yet to make the upgrade to a digital TV, you can still make use of the RGB Scart output, which retains the rich colours of component, if sacrificing a little detail.
When recording from AV sources such as a Sky or Freeview digibox, you can use the RGB Scart input as well. Use the M1 or M2 recording modes (see Features below) and recordings made to DVD will be almost indistinguishable from the original broadcasts. As with most DVD recorders, there's also an i.Link (FireWire) input to make direct recordings from your camcorder, plus optical and coaxial audio inputs so you can plug in other sources such as a PlayStation 2 or Xbox. As this is an all-in-one package, Philips has thankfully included all the cables you need, even down to the component interconnects.
The remote control is nothing special -- it took us a while to work out how to access the system setup menu, which is a heinous crime in the eyes of the AV police. Most of the buttons have two different operations, with a button on the side you hold down to toggle between the two. An ugly and unresponsive menu system makes matters worse -- the main unit will flash to say it's received an infrared signal, but it will often take a second for anything to happen on-screen. The only design flourish is that the DVD recorder has a flashing red light on the front panel, which, much like the Sky Plus system, lets you know when it's busy recording. It looks pretty cool.