Upside: JVC has released four new HTIB packages in Australia priced from $549 to $1099. At the top end of the range is the TH-S9, which is the only one of the new TH series to include floor standing speakers.
The tubular speakers have a space-age look, but of course, sound is actually the key element here. To create a wider sound field, these 'omni-directional' surround speakers have an upward-facing speaker and a matching-shaped diffuser, so they direct sound up and in all horizontal directions as well as forward. The speaker's construction takes advantage of room reverberation -- echoes from walls and ceiling -- for further expansion of the acoustic ambience. Also on the sound front, Dolby Digital, DTS and Dolby Pro Logic II decoders have been built-in to the package.
TH-S9 features Digital Direct progressive scan output, which delivers PAL progressive pictures without converting the original frames to interlaced frames, so there is less conversion loss and the images are smoother, more natural and free of interline blur.
The centre unit has a card slot that accepts SD and MMC cards so you can listen to MP3 and WMA music files downloaded from websites and view still photos captured with a digital camera without having to burn the data to a disc. Playback formats include DVD-Audio/Video, DVD-R/RW and all CD formats.
With its 'Smart Surround Set-up', JVC claims that setting up the system is as simple as clapping your hands. The sound triggers an advanced CPU and a pulse detector automatically sets the speaker delay and trims the level of centre and surround speakers -- optimised to the specifications ideal for your listening position.
Downside: Not many obvious drawbacks on paper here. But when you're creeping up into this higher price bracket, you might want to consider that sooner or later, you'll want to throw out your ugly, old VCR and replace it with a DVD that has recording as well as playback capabilities.
Outlook: JVC looks to have all the bases covered - expansive sound, progressive scan, lots of format options and easy set up. But proof, as they say, is in the pudding. We look forward putting this package to a full review.