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Sharp SD-AT50DV review: Sharp SD-AT50DV

Sharp SD-AT50DV

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
If the home-theater-in-a-box ethos is mainly about cramming the most features into the smallest possible space, then Sharp's ultracompact SD-AT50DV system is a surefire winner. Thinking small didn't stop Sharp's engineers from conjuring up an advanced High Speed Digital 1-bit amplifier or eking out a warm sound from this fashionably tiny system. Sharp says that the AT50DV's silver finish was designed to complement the company's superslim Aquos LCD TVs. Sharp's designers were thinking small when they dreamed up the AT50DV. The receiver and the separate DVD player are among the most compact units that we've ever seen--just 8.5 by 2.25 by 10.25 inches each. Apartment dwellers who can't spare even 8.5 inches of shelf space can stand these cuties on their sides, and the pair will grab a mere 5 inches of horizontal space.
These minimalist yet elegant components feature informative, sky-blue LCDs. The silver-finished motif is also reflected in the speakers; the five sats are 4.5-inch cubes, but the sub is the biggie of the bunch at 10.25 by 14.75 by 16.75 inches. Optional floor/table stands and wall-mounting brackets are available for the sats.
The remote's buttons are deployed over both sides; controls for the main receiver and the DVD player are up front, while more rarely used facilities are stashed under a sliding cover on the backside. The AT50DV's 1-bit digital amplifier is rated at 44 watts per channel for each of the five sats. Those little speakers sport 3-inch drivers, and the powered subwoofer rocks out with a small but feisty 4.75-inch downward-firing woofer. Surround processing is restricted to the standard Dolby Digital, DTS, and Dolby Pro Logic II modes.
Connectivity options include outputs for component video (switchable between interlaced and progressive-scan), S-Video, and composite video. You also get two digital-audio inputs and four stereo inputs. Unfortunately, the AT50DV doesn't perform any sort of video switching, so you'll have to select the source--VCR, cable, or DVD--on your TV and on this Sharp. The AT50DV got the broad strokes right on the K-19 DVD, delivering the abundant low-frequency effects required to convey the heavy atmospheres on this superb Russian-submarine drama. The varieties of rumbling, creaking, and churning sounds rolling out of the subwoofer were appropriately deep and weighty. Dialogue, including Harrison Ford's baritone, sounded remarkably natural.
All of the action scenes sounded fine at moderate levels, but we detected a loss of top-to-bottom definition whenever we cranked the volume. Alas, the AT50DV will be at its best in rooms smaller than 200 square feet. We noted that on a few DVDs in our collection, such as Sessions at West 54th, we couldn't get enough volume out of the system; even with the control pegged at the maximum level, this Sharp wouldn't play loud enough.
We were impressed with the AT50DV's musicality. We rocked out with a couple of Rolling Stones discs, and Rosanne Cash's 10 Song Demo CD was pleasantly warm and full sounding. However, like most systems with tweeterless sats, this Sharp lacks treble detail and air. We're not claiming that the audio is dull or muffled, but compared to, say, Sonicblue's excellent Rio HT2030 kit, the AT50DV's sound is softer and mellower.
The AT50DV plays MP3s and displays up to 25 characters of filenames. The kit accommodated DVD-Rs, DVD+Rs, and DVD+RWs but balked when we attempted to spin our DVD-RWs. As always, your mileage may vary.
Summing up, Sharp's sleek SD-AT50DV has its limitations, but its sound quality on DVDs and CDs is superior to that of Sony's popular Dream systems. However, the Sonys offer five-disc changers and can play the newer Super Audio CDs--features that this Sharp lacks.

Sharp SD-AT50DV

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7