Sony Bravia Theater DAV-HDX267W
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.
The Digital Media Port can accommodate one of four compatible accessories, which range in price from $80 to $200: the TDM-NC1 Wi-Fi music streamer, the TDM-BT1 Bluetooth adapter, the TDM-NW1 Sony Walkman MP3 player dock, and the TDM-IP1 iPod dock. The two we auditioned worked well enough with the DAV-HDX267W, but nonproprietary alternatives will function just as well and be able to connect to other, non-Sony devices--but they'll use one of the HDX267W's precious two audio inputs.
All of the satellite speakers each use single a 2.6-inch woofer, but no tweeters. The speakers and subwoofer use spring-clip connectors to grip the speaker wire--but at the other end of the wire is a proprietary jack that plugs into the receiver/DVD changer or the wireless amplifier, so you're stuck using the provided cables. The subwoofer has a front-mounted 6.3-inch woofer, but it's a passive (unpowered) design.
DVD and CD media playback
The DAV-HDX267W can upscale DVDs to 720p and 1080i resolutions. That won't equal the native high-def images found on HD DVD and Blu-ray discs, but it can make for better-looking DVD picture quality when connected to HDTVs with sub-par video processors. Additionally, you can switch between 480p/720p/1080i, all on the fly. We tested the DAV-HDX267W using the HQ benchmarking DVD and were generally impressed with the results. The DAV-HDX267W's player delivered good detail and was able to smooth out the jaggies on a variety of test patterns. The system faltered on the 2:3 pull-down test and didn't kick into film mode on cue. Of course, there's a marked difference between test patterns and real movies, and the HDX267W performed perfectly well on the latter. The opening black-and-white stills of Seabiscuit looked great, as did the action-filled scenes in King Kong.
The DAV-HDX267W supports MP3 and JPEG playback via data CD or data DVD. The functionality worked as advertised, but the onscreen interface was severely lacking. Instead of an easy-to-use environment you'll find yourself often consulting the manual in order to perform certain operations, such as creating a slide show or pulling up MP3 metadata.
The DAV-HDX267W's sonics are about average on DVDs and CDs when compared to home theater systems in this budget price range. Over the course of sampling a few DVDs, we noted the tonal balance was reasonably smooth with adequate bass fullness, but the quality of the bass was somewhat murky. Dialog was clear, and as long as we didn't push the volume too hard, the speakers' small size wasn't overtly apparent.
The Best of Lyle Lovett Live concert DVD sounded surprisingly fine over the little Sony speakers, and Lovett's rich pipes had lots of presence. His Large Band's guitars and fiddles were well represented, though treble detail wasn't part of the deal. The tweeterless speakers can sound a tad dull at low to moderate volumes, and once we turned up the volume, the sound became harsh.
The speakers' fidelity limitations were more obvious when we played CDs. My Morning Jacket's harder rocking tunes on their Z CD overtaxed the sats, while the sub turned boomy when pushed. On the upside, the wireless speakers sounded pretty much like the wired front speakers, and we didn't detect any glitches or added noise caused by the wireless system.
If you're sold on Sony's Bravia line but you don't need the wireless rear speaker option, consider instead the step-down DAV-HDX265 model, which drops the wireless functionality and shaves $100 off the price. Likewise, for $100 more, the DAV-HDX500 offers larger front speakers, more inputs, and XM-ready functionality not found on the HD267W.
In the final analysis, the Sony DAV-HDX267W offers plenty of cool features--including an included wireless rear speaker array--for an amazingly low price. But rival models from Panasonic, LG, and Samsung-- to name just a few--are also offering a better bang for the buck this year than ever before. In the end, the HDX267W is best for those who prefer DVDs to music, need the wireless rear speaker feature, and won't be put off by the system's lack of external inputs.
Assistant Editor Jeff Bakalar contributed to this review.