The really big deal about Philips's LX-3750W home theater in a box is--drumroll, please--wireless surround speakers! But before your fantasies of hassle-free installation get totally out of hand, we have to bring you back down to earth. Wireless, in this case, refers to the connections between the receiver and the surrounds, which are still powered via cords plugged into the AC wall adapter. Semantics aside, though, the LX-3750W does sound pretty darn nice. It sells for a list price of $600.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.As HTIBs go, the LX-3750W has a downright elegant receiver/DVD player. The curvaceous box, constructed of gray plastic, is just 2.25 inches tall and nearly 16 inches deep. But the volume knob, which is flush with the top panel, takes its sweet time; we had to spin it round and round to make substantial changes. We have another small gripe about the setup: navigating the icon-laden menus was nowhere near as intuitive as we would've liked.
The four plastic satellites are 11.5-inch-tall cylinders outfitted with circular table stands. The center speaker matches the sats in shape but sits horizontally in a curved cradle. When that's atop a television, you can easily aim the sound down at seated listeners--a useful design flair. The medium-density-fiberboard subwoofer is among the more compact we've seen, measuring just 5.25 inches wide, 13.5 inches high, and 14.75 inches deep. Unlike the sats, the sub isn't shielded, so forget about keeping it right next to the TV.
The remote is comfortable and offers direct access to the levels of the sub, the center, and the main speakers. But the control has an awkward button layout and clumsy functionality; there aren't keys for even the basics. For example, in the absence of a fast-search option, you have to hold down Skip instead. Without a doubt, those "wireless" surrounds are the LX-3750W's biggest draw. It's too bad that you still have to deal with long stretches of speaker wire. There are also two unusual extra components: a 5-by-5-inch RF transmitter hooks up to the main unit's surround outputs, and a 7.5-by-7.5-inch RF receiver sits at the back of your listening room. Even worse, both of those boxes plug into AC outlets. You run cables from the RF receiver to the left and right surrounds, but at least their connection with the receiver/DVD player is wireless.
Each satellite is a two-way design, with twin 2-inch woofers and a 1.75-inch tweeter. Incidentally, this is the first speaker we've ever seen with a tweeter that's almost the same size as the woofers. The sub features a 6.5-inch woofer.
Surround-sound options include standard Dolby and DTS processing. Philips rates the total system power at 300 watts but doesn't offer the specifics of each channel. Connectivity choices are adequate but not all that special. On the video front, you get composite, S-Video, and progressive-scan component-video outputs--no inputs, so forget about plugging in a VCR or a set-top box. The receiver can send stereo signals on one connection and accept them on two. For digital audio, you get a coaxial input and output, as well as an optical out. The subwoofer hookup can feed a powered sub, which would be a nice upgrade. The music chapters of the Standing in the Shadows of Motown documentary DVD sounded surprisingly potent. An extrasupple bass-and-drum rhythm powers Meshell Ndegeocello's funky "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," and the LX-3750W brought the song to life. Compared with the front speakers, the surrounds were distinctly but not drastically bass-light.
The Matrix Reloaded DVD's hard-hitting soundtrack made bigger demands. Take, for example, the "Swarm of Smiths" chapter, in which an army of Agent Smiths performs a virtual ballet of kinetic body blows on our hero, Neo. Unsurprisingly, the LX-3750W (like most svelte packages) lacked the muscle to put across these special effects with the conviction of a larger HTIB. The shortfall is partially attributable to the usual suspects: an inability to play very loud volumes and an undersize sub that doesn't deliver deep, room-shaking bass. But the wee system didn't embarrass itself. It didn't overtly distort or get nasty--we applaud its stamina. Room size is always a factor in a mini kit's performance; the LX-3750W will do its best work in spaces smaller than 300 square feet.
Most HTIBs are optimized for home-theater duty and aren't so wonderful with music. Roseanne Cash's unplugged 10 Song Demo CD came out fine, but our more aggressive rock music didn't cut it. Our Radiohead CDs sounded lightweight, and when we cranked up the subwoofer level, the results seemed thin, with boomy, muddled bass.
Unfortunately, we didn't have Sony's $600 DAV-FC7 on hand for direct A/B sound comparisons. But we're pretty sure that we'd have given the audio-quality nod to the LX-3750W, and its wireless feature will be the deal-clincher for some. Then again, SACD playback capability and a five-disc changer just might tip the balance in favor of the Dream system.