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Jamo A 102 HCS 10 review: Jamo A 102 HCS 10

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The Good Excellent sound: stereo and surround. Superb integration of sats and sub. Colourful, vibrant images. Compact system. MP3 and DivX compatible.

The Bad Lacking lower-mid response. No digital outputs. MP3 playback can be flaky. No headphone jack. Occasional pixilation.

The Bottom Line An all-rounder DVD system that offers excellent value for money, but if MP3 features or HDMI matter to you most it may pay to hold off a little longer.

7.8 Overall

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Building on the success of their iPod speaker system, Jamo has taken the best bits -- the satellites -- and integrated them into their new home-cinema-in-a-box. While the speakers are the stars of this show, the core of the system consists of the DMR 60 DVD-receiver -- an update of their well-regarded DVR50 system.

The four A 102 satellites in this set are impressively weighty in comparison to most speakers of this type, with the bulk consisting of a combination of hefty magnets and a well-dampened enclosure. The speaker is a "point source" type driver, with a tweeter at the centre of the woofer. This not only helps reduce the size of the speaker, but also allows it to cover a greater frequency range than its tweeter-less competitors. It also helps in maintaining a stereo image, which is useful when listening to CDs or MP3s. The sound they produce simply sparkles.

The centre speaker uses similar technology but is larger, in order to handle the complexities of DVD soundtrack dialogue. And for this, it does a sterling job -- dialogue is clear and intelligible.

The SUB 200 is also quite impressive, and is a marked improvement on the one available with the i300. It features an eight-inch driver and crossover selection and phase controls. Translation: more control.

The satellites and sub integrate very well, especially after some tweaking of the large number of controls on the sub itself. Due to the small size of the satellites, though, there is a small hole in the lower mid frequencies but not enough to trouble voices --  which sound rich and full -- or dampen the impact of instruments.

In addition to DVD and CD, the DMR60 unit also offers AM/FM radio, TV-in and MP3/WMA playback from memory cards or USB keys.

Though the main unit is a receiver, we wouldn't recommend trying to connect speakers other than the included A10 speaker system. This is because the speaker terminals are spaced too close together and will only accept really thin gauge wire, such as that which ships with the satellites. If you're adventurous however, the receiver is rated at 5 x 60W so should handle most small, undemanding speakers. We didn't try our standby B&W 602.5 speakers, as they are notoriously hard to drive.

Connections are fairly limited, with no digital outputs at all -- which is a shame, as even budget DVD players are appearing with HDMI outputs. There is however, the provision of progressive-scan component output, in addition to coaxial and S-Video jacks.

The lack of digital audio out, and any video ins, limits the upgrade potential of this machine -- the ability to upgrade to a better DVD is limited and you won't be able to install a surround sound receiver with the DMR 60 as a DVD player only. Audio output is stereo only. As such, this is a set-and-forget system, which is an excellent upgrade if all you have is a DVD player connected to a TV.

While not exactly beautiful, the MP3 interface is quite functional, and easily navigated using the remote. Albums appear at the left and clicking on one brings up a list of tracks on the right. The names don't always appear as they do on the MP3 tag, so sometimes guesswork is involved.

While most MP3s played without a hitch, it did have a problem with several MP3s encoded at 320kb/s, and using the latest LAME version 3.97. It emitted a terrible whining noise, but hopefully there will be a fix for this.

As a DVD source, the DMR 50 functioned at the level of a good budget player. The colours of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring came through intensely, while still retaining realism. The greens of Hobbiton were vibrant, while the night-time chase scenes were painted in chilling blues and blacks.

Detail is good, however some of the murkier scenes showed up a small amount of pixilation and interlacing that escaped the progressive scan engine, but it's certainly nothing to be concerned about.

Given the lower than average price of this system there are bound to be some compromises. There are a lot of features here, and all of them are bound to be used in some way. But where the system doesn't compromise is on sound, and this is only to be expected from a company that made its name in speakers.

If we were to compile a wish list for this player, it would include iPod compatibility and Ethernet/Wi-Fi connectivity. Not many people carry their tunes unencrypted on memory sticks, so the ability to stream files from a home network or iPod would be a killer feature. But MP3 capability was only introduced with this model so it's possible further iterations will enhance these abilities further.

As an all-rounder, however, this machine can barely be faulted. It offers plenty of features, excellent sound, and decent vision for the price. If you're in the market for a new home theatre, this is one of the better home-cinema-in-a-box systems.

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