A lot of people these days are looking for space-saving home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) systems that don't cost a lot but don't skimp on features or performance either. Over the years, small, inexpensive HTIBs have certainly improved, but it's still hard to find models that offer truly respectable home-theater performance.
Enter JVC's TH-C30 ($330). This feature-filled system comes with a smooth running five-disc changer/A/V receiver, five petite satellites, and a near full-size subwoofer. Those small satellites have a bit of styling pizzazz--the fronts and surrounds are all 5.5 inches tall while the center speaker is 5.5 inches wide--and their keyhole slots simplify wall-mounting chores. We also noted that the satellites come with permanently attached cables, which means there's one fewer set of connections to deal with during setup. The slim-faced subwoofer is just 6.75 inches wide, but it measures 16.25 inches high and 18 deep and weighs an ample 25.4 pounds, thanks to a set of solid internal amplifiers and its medium-density fiberboard construction. The system's otherwise silver-plastic construction is comparable with that of other HTIBs in the TH-C30's price class.
The TH-C30's onscreen audio and video setup menus are straightforward, and we had everything squared away in just a few minutes. On another positive note, while the remote isn't backlit, it does offers easy access to individual speaker volume, bass, and treble controls, and its legible labeling is a nice plus in dimly lit home theaters.
For a non-carousel-style DVD changer, the JVC TH-C30 is a smooth and nimble machine. The front panel's deep blue LEDs illuminate discs as they load, with separate eject and play buttons for each of the five discs, so you won't mix up which is which. DivX lovers will appreciate that DVD changer plays MPEG-4, DivX, MP3/WMA files, and JPEG image files from DVD-RW, DVD-R/+RW/+R, CD-R/RW, and DVD-Audio/Video discs. This machine also supports playback of the aforementioned formats from recordable media, as well as storage devices such as flash audio players, memory card readers, memory drives, and digital cameras via the handy front-panel-mounted USB 2.0 input.
In addition to the standard DVD player outputs--composite, S-Video, and progressive-scan component--you get a single A/V S-Video input, and an optical digital audio input. That means the TH-C30 can't switch between a variety of A/V sources such as a full-fledged A/V receiver, but it will accept one external video source such as a cable/satellite box, a video game system, or a VCR, and one digital audio source as well.