Over the past few years, we've heaped praise on Onkyo's home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) systems for their abundant features and genre-topping sound quality, but never for their refined aesthetics. That was then; the slimmed-down, flat-screen-friendly look of Onkyo's LS-V955 is now. The system, which is designed to visually complement flat-panel displays, will satisfy both the ears and the eyes. It consists of a 5.1-channel combination A/V receiver/DVD player, a full-size powered subwoofer, and five sleek extruded-aluminum speakers. But accessorizing your flat-panel TV won't come cheap: the LS-V955 retails for $1,000, which is steep for an HTIB.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more. The LS-V955 updates last year's with a 5.1-channel version of the excellent speaker system. A mere 3.5 inches thick, the extruded-aluminum speakers are fashionably thin, and a mix of chrome, brushed metal, curves, and black cloth grilles lend a high-end flair. The satellite speakers' keyhole slots and threaded inserts accept 1/4-inch machine screws; they'll look great mounted on the wall, flanking a plasma TV. Alternatively, the 17.3-inch-wide center model can be positioned in its integral stand, while the 19.75-inch-tall front left/right speakers can be fitted with the supplied metal table stands. The surrounds resemble the front speakers, but they're 13.4 inches tall.
The V955's large, 30.9-pound subwoofer measures a substantial 20.4 inches high, 10.8 inches wide, and 16.4 inches deep. Finished in a tasteful dark gray, its curved front baffle takes its styling cues from the sats.
Deep blue LEDs cast a high-tech glow over the receiver/DVD player's curvy front panel, but this component's massive 17.2-by-16.8-inch footprint hogs a lot of shelf space. It weighs 19.4 pounds.
The large, partially backlit, beautifully laid-out remote will be familiar to anyone who has used an Onkyo receiver over the past few years. System setup chores were easy to understand and accomplish. The Onkyo LS-V955's surround processing complement isn't all that special, just standard Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II, and DTS. Power is specified at 40 watts per channel for 6-ohm speakers, yet the V955's speakers are all 8-ohm designs, so the 6-ohm rating is misleading. The actual rating is probably closer to 30 watts, but don't let the numbers throw you. The system's loudness capability is the equal of most 100-watt-per-channel receivers.
A/V connections should be adequate for small bedroom or living-room systems. There are two analog audio inputs, two A/V inputs with S-Video, and two digital audio ins (one optical, one coaxial). The DVD player section includes progressive-scan component-video jacks, as well as multiple composite and S-Video outputs (for attaching a VCR or a DVD recorder, in addition to a TV). The receiver also features A/B speaker switching, but the speaker cable connectors are flimsy spring-clips. We'd prefer more-robust binding posts.
The sleek front and center satellites deploy two 3.2-inch woofers and a 1-inch dome tweeter; the surround speakers use the same drivers but make do with a single woofer per speaker. The 8-inch subwoofer boasts a 150-watt amplifier. Since the subwoofer was intended for use in this system, connectivity is limited to just a single RCA line-level input. The Onkyo LS-V955's statuesque front speakers sounded rich and full-bodied on John Woo's latest DVD, Paycheck. The sci-fi thriller's thumping score and high-tech flourishes were palpably textured, delivering the sort of high-resolution detail that leaves most HTIBs in the dust. The svelte center speaker's sound was rich and natural. Then again, we credit a major part of the system's big sound to the subwoofer's authoritative low-end support. It's not just powerful; the 8-inch sub's taut definition is comparable to that of any number of decent $300 subwoofers on the market.
Rocking out with HTIBs usually reveals their inadequacies, but the V955's guts came through intact. Bluesman John Hammond's Wicked Grin CD had vivid dynamic life, and the Rolling Stones kicked butt. Easing back into Rosanne Cash's folk-tinged 10 Song Demo CD displayed the LS-V955's softer side; her acoustic guitar sounded very natural. In short, this system can fill large, 400-square-foot rooms with sound. Onkyo's upmarket HTIB sounds as good as it looks.
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