Do you think valve amps have a place in today's home cinema systems? If not, look away now, because Philips is about to annoy you.
Its MCD908 micro hi-fi is an affordable blend of DVD upscaling, DivX playback, and potentially decent speakers. It claims to be an audiophile system, in part as a result of using a valve-based preamp, and while this is of course fairly these days, its combination of neodymium ribbon tweeters, silk dome tweeters, and a whopping great woofer in each 150W speaker rather makes up for it.
For 239 pounds (about $472), this extremely attractive system promises a hell of a lot of audio-visual goodness, and while it'll positively arouse those of you who draw thrills from seeing good-looking equipment beside your HDTV, it may depress anyone expecting audiophile sound from a hi-fi with a price tag under 300 pounds.
So what's it good at? Well, it's loud, has tons of connectivity--including HDMI, component and a whole bunch of audio outputs--and it'll upscale your DVDs and videos to either 720p or 1080i. Its valves, while fundamentally pointless for anyone who isn't brain-softeningly nostalgic, do offer a certain warmth to musical playback, notably acoustic and vocal-driven stuff--good old Alison Krauss sounded remarkably more seductive.
DVD playback, even when upscaled, was OK, but with certain issues. We saw significant interlacing artifacts around the edges of moving objects, to the extent that it became annoying. Audio performance was similar. Although capable of driving some serious volume, bands and performances sounded a little too boxed-in for us--it didn't feel like the instruments had enough room to breathe.
But for the price, it's more than acceptable and as long as you don't fork over cash expecting an audiophile-grade hi-fi, you'll probably be happy. Did we mention it looks bloody gorgeous?