It might be an overly simplistic view, but the balance of design, features, and performance is generally all that separates one home theater in a box (HTIB) from another. Sony's Dream systems have traditionally prioritized design over the other two factors, but the new Bravia series aims to emphasize its features. All three Bravia models are 5.1-channel systems with five-disc CD/DVD changers, 720p/1080i DVD upscaling via HDMI, automated speaker calibration, and Sony's new Digital Media Port--a proprietary connection that allows you to add one of four accessories--sold separately, of course--to enjoy your choice of digital audio sources. To that already impressive features mix, the DAV-HDX267W reviewed here offers wireless surround speakers. All of those features would've cost you upward of $800 or $1,000 in a Sony Dream System just a few years ago, but the Bravia DAV-HDX267W goes for a much more affordable $400.
The Sony DAV-HDX267W comprises a six-piece satellite/subwoofer speaker package and an all-in-one head unit that combines an AV receiver and the five-disc DVD changer; there are also a few included accessories for implementing the wireless rear speaker connection. The main unit's generic styling is a couple of pegs down from Sony's snazzy Dream systems, but it's certainly functional and easy to use. The front of the unit has five buttons corresponding to the five-disc capacity of the player. Disc loading is a 15-second process, and the mechanism needs about 24 seconds to swap discs. The silver receiver/DVD changer weighs slightly less than 12 pounds and measures about 3.5x17x17.25 inches. The gray plastic remote felt instantly familiar, as it's a near clone of the functional clickers found on most Sony DVD players.
The front satellite speakers stand 8.75 inches high, the center speaker is 10.3 inches wide, and the surrounds are little things, a mere 6.5 inches high. Their black-and-silver plastic cabinets and perforated metal grilles are no-frills designs, but they do include keyhole slots on their back sides for easy wall mounting. The matching black subwoofer is built to a somewhat higher standard; it sports a medium-density fiberboard cabinet, and measures about 15x8.75x13.8 inches.
Like most mass-market, wireless surround systems, the wireless label refers only to the two surround speakers--and it requires quite a lot of wires to hook up (the goal is to lose the long front-to-back speaker cables). Setup first involves removing a few screws to take off a metal plate from the rear of the AV receiver/DVD changer, plugging in the IR transmitter box, and finding a good spot for the 2x3.25-inch IR transmitter panel (it's attached to the plug-in box with about 8 feet of wire). Next, in the back of the room, we ran the long wires between the left and right surround speakers and the wireless receiver/power amplifier (about 2.5x3.5x10 inches). It has an IR receiver panel wired to the amplifier with approximately another 8 feet of wire. Just be aware that you need a clear line of sight between the IR transmitter in the front of the room and the IR receiver in the rear of the room for the wireless system to work--and the IR receiver amplifier must be plugged into an AC power outlet. Once we had everything wired up, we played a CD in Dolby Pro Logic II to confirm that the surround speakers were working properly--they were. Note that the wireless setup is optional--you can simply wire up the surround speakers directly to the front head unit. But doing so obviates the premium you paid for the DAV-HDX267W in the first place.
We next hooked up the supplied microphone and ran the Digital Cinema Auto Calibration (DCAC), Sony's automatic speaker setup. Judging by the number of tones and noises emitted by the speakers over the course of a few minutes, we expected a thorough job, and indeed, the setup was reasonably accurate. The all-manual video setup is typical of Sony DVD players and easy to accomplish.
As with most Sony HTIBs, the DAV-HDX267W doesn't offer bass and treble tone controls, or easy access to subwoofer volume level. Yes, it does have Dynamic Bass (on/off) to boost bass on the fly, but to raise or lower the subwoofer volume, you must first stop the disc in play and navigate the speaker setup menu to adjust the subwoofer volume. It's a pain.
We could hear the noise of the receiver's cooling fan from across the room, and it was definitely audible when we were playing music and movies quietly. (Our DAV-HDX500 review sample's very similar main unit was very quiet, so we're assuming the fan on our DAV-HDX267W was knocked loose during shipping.)
The Sony DAV-HDX267W delivers 143 watts to each of the front three satellite channels and 285 watts to the subwoofer, while the wireless surround channel amplifier supplies 60 watts to each surround speaker. The receiver decodes all of the standard Dolby and DTS 5.1 surround modes from DVDs.
Video output connectivity coverage is the same as you'd find on an average DVD player--you get composite, S-Video, and component, plus HDMI (which can upscale DVDs to 720p and 1080i resolution). But the input options are thin: the rear panel offers just a single stereo analog input (red and white RCA jacks) and the Digital Media Port, for connecting one of four separately available digital audio accessories--see below. In addition to the headphone jack, the front panel has just a single minijack input for quick and easy hookups to an iPod or portable audio player (the jack also doubles as the connector for the microphone when running the auto speaker calibration). There are no video inputs whatsoever, so you'll have to use your TV to switch to other video sources--game consoles, cable/satellite box, VCR, DVD recorder, and so forth. That's par for the course at this price point, but the dearth of digital audio inputs--useful for getting surround sound from any of those aforementioned devices--is a sore point.