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Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
3 min read
RCA's one-box solution to your home-theater needs, the RTDVD1, offers lots of useful features and serviceable sound quality for an amazingly affordable price. Add a TV, and you're ready to roll. RCA's one-box solution to your home-theater needs, the RTDVD1, offers lots of useful features and serviceable sound quality for an amazingly affordable price. Add a TV, and you're ready to roll.

A nice package
With a list price of $400, this is a budget system all right, but we were impressed by the combo receiver/DVD player's neat, silver faceplate and informative display. The features roster is fairly complete: 200 watts of music power, an AM/FM radio with 30 presets, an onscreen menu display, and both Dolby Digital and Dolby Pro Logic II--but no DTS--surround processing. While this "compact" receiver is only 3.6 inches high, its 17.0-inch width and 15.5-inch depth ultimately create a rather full-sized footprint. As far as the DVD player goes, it's a garden-variety, entry-level deck that spins DVDs, CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, and MP3 CDs.



The Good

Nicely organized combo receiver/DVD player; budget price tag; tiny satellites and trim subwoofer.

The Bad

Main unit hogs a lot of shelf space; lightweight bass.

The Bottom Line

This well-designed budget kit has a bevy of useful features but may not satisfy sound-conscious buyers.

Connectivity options reach beyond standard-kit fare and are closer to the sort that we see on low-priced receivers: two analog outputs, a couple of digital-audio connections, standard composite-video, as well as S-Video inputs and outputs. The big, curvy remote is comfortable, but its buttons aren't logically laid out, so it's not the most intuitive clicker that we've seen.

This RTDVD1 package also includes five featherweight, silver-plastic sats and a matching wood sub. No specifications were provided for any of the speakers. However, we'd guess that the sats have just a 2- or 3-inch driver and no tweeter. The slim-line sub, which measures a mere 6.5 by 14.0 by 14.0 inches, probably has a 6- or 7-inch woofer. The sub's front panel proclaims "Powered Super Bass," which would lead any thinking person to believe that this speaker is powered. However, the sub gets its juice from the receiver (powered subs have their own internal amplifiers). The provided color-coded speaker wires simplify setup tasks.

Sound check
This system can play louder than some of the budget kits that we've tested; we pushed the 5.25-inch tall sats pretty hard with the pedal-to-the-heavy-metal flick The Fast and the Furious, and they kept their cool. Sure, the little guys were severely bass-challenged on their own, but the sub added some dimension and weight. The wee speakers deftly handled the slow-motion helicopter sounds that pan across all five channels in the beginning of the Apocalypse Now Redux DVD. Dialogue was clean and articulate, but we did notice a popping sound when we skipped ahead chapters on DVDs. Despite this quirk, the picture quality was consistently solid.

The RTDVD1's bass is fairly tuneful but not terribly deep, so funky jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood's Combustication CD lacked its soul-stirring foundation in stereo. Once we selected Dolby's Pro Logic II surround processing, the sound fattened up a bit, but even with all of the speakers rolling, Ryan Adams's rollicking "To Be Young" didn't generate enough energy to keep us happy. If music is your thing, the RTDVD1 probably isn't the best way to go. Like most entry-level home-theater-in-a-box kits, this RCA will perform best in very small rooms where its meager bass capabilities won't be as obvious.

The RTDVD1's closest competitor is Zenith's $400 , but this RCA unit has more connectivity options and nudges ahead with its wealth of features, although sound quality is basically equal. We nominate Philips's tasty as the ticket for sound-conscious buyers on a budget.