How things have progressed for the 'Home Cinema In A Box' system in recent years. Just over a year ago people were singing praises to the DAVS500 system, marvelled at it's ability to play SACD discs aswell as DVD-Video and CD. What we have here is its descendent. The DAVS550 maintains many of the key features of its predecessor, aswell as improving the performance and styling. First and foremost it's equipped with Dolby Pro Logic II, which is Dolby's latest variation on the original Pro Logic theme. This aims to create a 5.1 soundfield from Stereo sources as opposed to the '4.0' soundfield provided by Pro Logic I. Alongside this the DAVS550 also accommodates for Component Video Outputs which support Progressive Scan pictures with NTSC material (Region 1 discs basically). This is a video enhancing gizmo only usually found in high end DVD players, which thanks to sony has been put into a system where more people have the opportunity to make use of it. The system is also gorgeous to look at, and is without doubt the most attractive of its kind, with curved steal casing for both the DVD deck and the speakers and a 'Glow in The Dark' flourescent Blue remote control. Alongside this there's two Analogue inputs for connection to devices such as a VCR or Digibox, and an Optical Digital input for top flight connection to a PS2 or a Sky+ set top box. In use the DAVS550 takes the Home Cinema In A Box performance bars to new heights. Using Eric Clapton's 'Unplugged' peformances as a test disc, the Sony does unusually well with music. I say unusually as systems of its type usually lose a lot of midrange detail to the subwoofer and make music sound bland & flat - but not here, the speakers coping marvelously well. Engage Pro Logic II Music Mode and things go from Good to Better, the surround processing helping a great deal to realise much more detail on a disc. With movies the Sony excells even moreso, providing accurate surround sound steering and plenty of grunt from the inconspicuous subwoofer. The picture performance is less impressive. The Composite & S Video outputs are what most will be using to connect the sony up to their television sets, and in use these do disappoint, with large amounts of Grain & Noise visible, especially in Dark scenes. In The Fellowship of The Ring large mosaic blocks are visible in the scenes set inside Gollum's cave as the picture fades to black. However if you're one of the minority of people that can access the sony's Component Video outputs then picture quality improves a great deal, with vibrant colour fidelity & no traces of noise. The deck providing levels of detail that stand alone DVD players of near equivalent price would be proud of, and that's before you engage the Progressive Scan video mode. All in all this sony is a fine system. If you can't access the component video outputs no need to worry, as Component Video to Scart converter cables are available from Cable Specialists, and do work tremendously well. Aside from the little picture niggles then, this system is nigh on perfect.
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