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Marantz NR 1403 - AV receiver - 5.1 channel
We've reviewed a few of these so-called virtual surround-sound systems, which eschew extra speakers for a more compact design and provide stylish solutions if space is at a premium in your living room.
While the performance of these 2.1 systems has improved and useful features and connectivity have been enhanced, you'll need to accept some sonic compromises compared to traditional 5.1 setups. With an affordable £300 price tag, will the JVC NX-F3 make these concessions easier to bear?
The NX-F3 claims an impressive list of features for a compact all-in-one system. You can play practically any disc format, including high-resolution DVD-Audio and encoded formats carrying a variety of digital music and movie files, while there is integrated decoding for vanilla Dolby and DTS surround soundtracks.
Integrated video processing also means owners of high-definition flatscreens can upscale standard DVDs to 720p, 1080i and the exalted 1080p formats, which improves the image quality of your existing film collection without investing in Blu-ray. Upscaled images are immaculately clean and free from digital artefacts, while densely-defined black levels expose decent detail and contrast augmented by evenly balanced, natural colours.
Playing The Kingdom offers an insight into advantages of the system's upscaling technology, with distinctly more detail and cohesive movement during the gun fights, especially using 1080p.
The absence of extra speakers means that installing the system is incredibly simple, especially as cables are hard-wired into the two main speakers and only need connecting to the main unit using colour-coded cables. The menu system appears prosaic, but is clearly presented and easy to navigate using the intelligently arranged remote.