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The heart of the SD1000 is an integrated CD player and AM/FM tuner, with a black LCD that's backlit in a fashionable shade of blue. Its clear-plastic top has a motorized hinge. When you power on the system, the cover slides back just enough to allow access to the CD controls. Press the Open button and it angles up to allow access to the CD.
While we like the design, it means the $500 (list price) SD1000 must rest on a shelf or a tabletop where you can access the front and the top of the stereo. The system's amplifier delivers 19 watts of power to each of the two tall, slender, aluminum speakers. A 60-watt powered subwoofer provides the bass, and the system comes with a small, well-designed remote.
The SD1000's features and connectivity are on a par with those of other high-style stereos in this price range. There's a minijack input and output, as well as a digital audio out for hooking up to a MiniDisc recorder or your PC's sound card.
The unit also has a built-in clock with a sleep timer and alarm. The radio, which does a good job pulling in distant stations, has 30 FM and 15 AM presets. And while the CD player can handle CD-RW music discs, it can't decode MP3 CDs.
With our first test disc, Bjork's Vespertine, we were impressed with the way the SD1000 filled our medium-sized office with surreal sounds. Airy acoustic jazz from the Jacques Loussier Trio sounded open and alive as well. But the system couldn't manage Frank Zappa's Yellow Shark. That recording sounded like it was coming from the slim speakers rather than from the large concert hall where it was made. We also found the sound to be pretty bright straight out of the box. A few adjustments to the bass and treble settings fixed that problem, but don't expect to play this guy too loud; the SD1000 starts to sound pretty shrill when you really push it. It's a good match for bedrooms and offices, not large living rooms.
The compact, powered subwoofer sounds nice and tight with electric guitars on rock albums such as Steely Dan's Two Against Nature. However, with gut-shaking bass from electronic music, the sub couldn't quite play low enough to really rattle our cage. We could hear the bass but never felt it like we did with other shelf systems such as Pioneer's NS-33.
JVC does a lot right with the FS-SD1000, delivering an easy-to use, sleek stereo with nice sonics for a reasonable price (you can pick it up for less than $500). It's well worth considering for the office or the den. If you can do without some of the style, JVC also makes a couple of less-expensive desktop systems--the FS-SD990 and FS-SD550--that use the same CD player/tuner/amp component but come with less-exotic-looking speakers and no subwoofer.