Sometimes it seems that people forget that sound is at least half of the TV viewing experience. It certainly strikes us that TV manufacturers forget most of the time, too, especially when it comes to modern flat-panel screens. They toil away on picture quality but leave audio to a couple of speakers that sound like they might have been wrenched from a musical birthday card.
Happily, if sound is as important to you as pictures are, then there are plenty of things you can do to cheer up your TV aural experience. The Onkyo LS-V501 aims to do just that. It's a 2.1 DVD system, which includes a DVD player, stereo speakers and a subwoofer. Does spending almost £600 offer a significant improvement over your existing system?
The Onkyo is very well designed; it's stylish, attractive and compact, so no need to worry about it derailing your room aesthetic. On the front, there is a display and two circular dials. One dial adjusts the volume, while the other selects an input source. There is also a DVD tray and several buttons scattered in a visually pleasing way across the unit.
At the rear, there are four speaker bindings for connecting the left and right speakers -- bass output is handled by a separate RCA jack output. There are also a pair of HDMI sockets, one input and one output. You'll also find digital audio inputs, in the form of coaxial and optical connections. If HDMI isn't your poison of choice, you can use component or even Scart outputs to get the picture to your TV.
The remote control provided feels sturdy to the touch and the buttons are logically laid out. Everything is labelled in a fairly non-enigmatic way.
The Onkyo has three main functions: it's an upscaling DVD player, 2.1 channel amplifier and a radio. The benefit of this system is that it can also amplify other sources you might have -- if you have a Sky box with digital audio out, you can hook it up to this Onkyo and get improved sound. The same goes for games consoles, but bear in mind that this isn't an AV receiver with masses of inputs for every set-top box you've ever owned.
Configuring the system is mostly unnecessary -- everything is included in the pack so there is no lengthy speaker configuration or set up. You just plug in the speakers and Bob's your father's brother. Clearly, the Onkyo displays an understanding of its target audience.
These days, it's standard practice to include DivX and XviD support in DVD players and the Onkyo is no exception. The player will also upscale your video to 1080i.