If you put a complete, regulation-size home theater on the moon -- with five speakers, a subwoofer, audio-video receiver and DVD player -- it would weigh about as much as the earth-bound Pioneer HTZ-55DV.
The HTZ-55DV is so small that its speakers are dwarfed even by the "Marilyn Monroe -- The Diamond Collection" DVD set. In a previous life, the HTZ-55DV's combination DVD player-digital AM/FM tuner was a small pizza box. It's so small, in fact, that it can't accommodate a front-panel LCD readout that supplies information like the elapsed time of a DVD. Instead, a separate display that doubles as an infrared receiver for the universal remote control is tethered, astronaut style, to the main module by a 5-foot cable. It looks like one of those sports-bar tickers in miniature.
The speakers, monuments to plasticity, are 6 inches tall and not even 3 deep. They weigh less than 2 pounds each. The DVD-tuner box can't hit 8 pounds on the scale. The brain and brawn is a powered subwoofer that packs a six-channel amplifier, a Dolby Digital/DTS surround-sound decoder and a 6-inch woofer into an enclosure measuring 17 inches high and deep, 7" wide and weighs 30 pounds.
Total system weight: about 48 pounds.
Total system price: $925?
At roughly the price per pound of lobster, the HTZ-55DV is a catch of the day in the growing home-theater-in-a-box category. It's an easy, fast choice, with everything from equipment to cables, included to turn a den into an instant home theater. It's not necessarily the best choice, however.
The HTZ-55DV plays louder, with greater coherence, than Sony's less expensive ($600) DVD Dream System. But, at almost $1,000, it's approaching the magic dollar figure that affords full-size separate components, specifically a larger set of speakers capable of producing more persuasive home-theater effects and more realistic music.
To many people, the HTZ-55DV will be too hard to pass up. The system can be unboxed, set up and making sound within half an hour. The cables are either color-coded or easily identifiable by shape. The DVD-tuner has S-video inputs and outputs, a coaxial digital input for a satellite receiver and optical digital connections -- enough to make the HTZ-55DV the hub of an extensive home entertainment system.
The DVD drive mechanism, like some other low-cost Pioneer DVD players, is louder than most. The grinding is subtle enough so as not to be bothersome, but it shouldn't be there. Color reproduction also isn't up to the standard of full-size DVD players. The DVD-tuner, faceless and lightweight, is built more to boombox standards. The satellite speakers, with only a single 3 7/16-inch driver, cover an extremely narrow band, outputting no bass and nothing in the higher frequencies.
Given their size, that's a good thing. If they tried to do too much, they would sound either boomy or harsh. Within their restrictions, they are surprisingly faithful to DVD soundtracks and only minimally shut-in on CDs. With their small size and unobtrusive gray plastic cabinetry and charcoal speaker grilles, they can be distributed throughout the room without attracting attention. That, too, is a good thing.
The center-channel speaker has two drivers, built like an elongated version of one of the satellites resting on its side. Often, such small speakers are mumblers, failing to keep up with dialogue unless the audience sits directly in front of them. Here, off-axis positioning wasn't a problem.
The subwoofer isn't just a typical lunkhead subwoofer. It powers the entire system, with 30 watts a channel for the five speakers and 50 watts for the sub. It also handles the Dolby Digital and DTS surround-sound processing. With all that extra circuitry, there's room for only a 6-inch woofer.
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