We're charged up by Philips's latest take on the home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) formula: an unusually powerful receiver/DVD changer coupled with woofer/tweeter/woofer-equipped compact sats and a feisty little sub. The MX5000D sounds sweet, but its skimpy video-connectivity options will limit its appeal for HDTV owners. We're charged up by Philips's latest take on the home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) formula: an unusually powerful receiver/DVD changer coupled with woofer/tweeter/woofer-equipped compact sats and a feisty little sub. The MX5000D sounds sweet, but its skimpy video-connectivity options will limit its appeal for HDTV owners.
Built to the hilt
Single-driver sats are not uncommon in this price range, but the 5000D's sats employ three drivers; dual 3-inch woofers flanking a single tweeter. And that layout is not just for the left-/right-front positions; the multidriver approach has been applied to all five sats. Cosmetically, the 10-inch-tall, silver, plastic speakers' finish is nice enough, and their bottoms are fitted with rubberized pads. The nonpowered, wood sub matches the sats' look.
Packing six 100-watt channels, the receiver-cum-DVD changer weighs in at an impressive 36 pounds--that's double or triple the heft and the power of most of the receivers found in other kits. However, surround processing is bare-bones standard; you get only Dolby Digital and DTS. Philips didn't even squeeze in Dolby Pro Logic II.
This HTIB is best matched with a modest TV. Connectivity options are uneven: the 5000D has exceptional analog-audio flexibility, including a powered sub output, as well as digital-audio and composite-video ins and outs. But there's just a single S-Video output. A/B speaker switching, 5.1 DVD-Audio/Super Audio CD connections, and component-video outputs didn't make the cut.
Though the elevator, three-disc changing mechanism is no slower than that of carousel-style systems, it sounded clunky as it went about its work and would occasionally get confused while locating the disc that we were attempting to play. At that point, the only solution was to hit the stop button, eject the disc, and start over. That said, all disc formats are welcome; the 5000D can accommodate DVDs, CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, and MP3 CDs.
As for the full-sized remote, it's easy enough to use--nothing to complain about there.
Performance pluses and minuses
The 5000D's audio components didn't fully deliver the required visceral impact during the famous napalming moment in Apocalypse Now Redux, but they did a convincing job with the ambient sounds of the dense jungle scenes. Surround effects were nicely spread. Dialogue was thin yet articulate, but we expected more full-bodied sound from those dual woofers. That said, the woofers apparently contribute to 5000D's impressive loudness and dynamic-range potential. Kits with munchkin-sized, single-driver sats and low-powered receivers can't compete. The DVD player boasted sharp picture quality with rich, saturated color.
CDs were fine at moderate to background levels, but the newly remastered, 5.1-channel DVD of Miles Davis's funked-up Tutu disc sounded a bit thin and hollow. Bass was taut though not terribly deep or powerful, but it's on a par with that of most similarly priced kits with nonpowered subs. We can say that bass oomph will be adequate in small to midsized rooms. Then again, if you really want to rock out, you might want to add a powered subwoofer to supply some low-frequency weight to the system's sound.
As it stands, the Philips kit can handily outplay some of the better kits with small sats. And though the $499 (list) MX5000D has a couple of shortcomings--particularly in the connectivity department--we have no problem declaring it a solid deal.