JVC TH-C30 review: JVC TH-C30

In addition to the standard DVD player outputs--composite, S-Video, and progressive-scan component--you get a single A/V S-Video input, and an optical digital audio input. That means the TH-C30 can't switch between a variety of A/V sources such as a full-fledged A/V receiver, but it will accept one external video source such as a cable/satellite box, a video game system, or a VCR, and one digital audio source as well.

Most budget-priced HTIBs are saddled with one-way, tweeterless satellites that can't produce a truly detailed sound, but the JVC TH-C30's front and center speakers each feature a 3.25-inch woofer and a 0.5-inch tweeter. The surround speakers utilize the same woofer but lack the tweeter. The surround speaker mounts the 3.25-inch woofer on the top of the speaker, firing straight up into a cone-shape reflector. The reflector disperses the sound to create a diffuse surround sound that lets the speaker disappear as a source of sound. The subwoofer has a left-side-mounted 6.25-inch woofer.

The amplifiers located in the subwoofer deliver 167 watts per channel to each of the five satellites and the subwoofer. Those power specs seem wildly unrealistic to us, but the JVC TH-C30's loudness capabilities were more than up to snuff. Surround options include the standard Dolby and DTS modes.

The big and brassy musical numbers coursing through The Producers DVD suitably demonstrated the JVC TH-C30's home-theater talents; it was actually startling to hear such a big sound bounding out of such teensy satellite speakers. Dynamic range wasn't overtly constrained, and dialogue and vocals were tonally balanced and articulate. Higher-octane home-theater trials with the I, Robot DVD were almost as thrilling, as the TH-C30 proved itself capable of filling even moderately large rooms--300 to 400 square feet--with sound. While we could quibble over the subwoofer's definition and its tendency to turn muddy when pummeled by hard-hitting action scenes, the sheer guts of the TH-C30's sound at moderately high volume levels make it a serious contender in its class.

CD sound quality wasn't anywhere near what the JVC TH-C30 was capable of when playing DVDs. The wee satellites sounded as small as they really are. The sound was closer to what you'd get from a table radio, albeit one with a healthy subwoofer supplying the bass. DVD-Audio discs such as Sinatra at the Sands produced somewhat better than CD sound but not by enough margin that we could imagine anyone spending much time listening to music over this system. That said, it'll certainly sound fine for background music.

In conclusion, as far as low-end HTIBs go, the JVC TH-C30 is one of the better values. As with the Panasonic SC-HT930 and the Sony DAV-FX10, there's not much in the way of connectivity and music-playing quality, but it's a serviceable entry-level home-theater system.

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