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Customer Review

50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent surround sound, shame about the picture..., 22 Feb. 2003
This review is from: Sony DAV-S400 5.1 ch Home Cinema System (Electronics)
...If you're familiar with Sony kit, you'll know that it's unusual to find something of this value. The DAVS400 is the little brother to Sony's pricier DAVS550, yet is still competently styled. It looks much like the company's older DAVS500 system, but has slightly slimmer speakers.
The feature's count is respectable too, the Sony supporting DVD-Video, SACD (Stereo and Multichannel) and MP3 CD. Unfortunately it only has Pro Logic I surround processing, alongside a whole host of DSP modes & "Cinema EX" modes - patented by Sony (which are best left alone). It also supports decoding of DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. And also has provisions for connecting external audio sources via Stereo analogue inputs. And can even loop Video feeds if you want it to.
It's a shame then, that the system's performance doesn't live up to it's Specification. But lets start with the positives...
The surround sound for DVD Video and SACD is brilliant, the speakers providing a respectable depth & accuracy to the sound that almost rivals Sony's pricier DAVS550 setup. With The Fellowship of The Ring the subwoofer copes marvellously well, delving deeper than you'd expect than something of it's 'Passive' nature (Passive meaning a subwoofer that doesn't have its own power supply). And Stereo CD copes equally well, although there's no provision for Pro Logic II music mode with CD, which is deeply frustrating.
However, switch to the Analogue stereo inputs and engage Pro Logic I surround sound, and it becomes clear why Pro Logic II was developed in the first place. Surround placement is sluggish & innaccurate and action is hard to follow. I'd even go so far as to say it'd be preferable to watch VHS or Terrestrial TV in Stereo, at it makes the action much easier to follow at times.
Onto the picture, and this is where the DAVS400 really trips up. The system only has provisions for Composite Video outputs, which is - by a long long way - the worst method for picture transport. There's a lot of tizzing and jagged edges with almost all material, and the famous composite video 'dots' plague areas of detail, whereby the picture is smothered in interference dots. However, it's still an improvement on VHS, and if you haven't spend the last few weeks with a stand alone DVD player then you're unlikely to find need to complain.
So why only three stars? Well, as good as it is, the Sony delivers a video performance which can be easily outdone by a stand alone DVD player costing £80. If you consider that it leaves £220 for an audio system (and there's plenty of them around for that money) that could also outperform the Sony, it doesn't leave the DAVS400 in the best position for marketplace domination. Unless you really can't afford to pay extra and must have a sony system, I'd advise you to opt for the similarly priced Pioneer DSC303, or the far superior Sony DAVS550.
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