Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Cheap price, satisfactory sound quality from the front speakers and particularly the subwoofer
- No presence in the back speakers, lack of S-Video inputs, confusing setup
A reasonable alternative for people who want 5.1 and already have a DVD player. It comes at a budget price but there are better options.
Price$ 699.00 (AUD)
Kenwood's SAT5100 Audio Visual Control Centre comes with the bare essentials: that is, a subwoofer, a set of speakers and a receiver/amplifier. This kind of kit is a good solution if you want to upgrade to a surround system but are happy with your existing DVD and VHS players.
Very few cables came with the system itself, apart from power cables and those to connect the speakers. We also found the manual a little confusing, and it would be even more so if you had little idea of the difference between optical, coaxial and component inputs.
Setting up the other components was a breeze, as the speakers and subwoofer were clearly colour coded and labelled. Made of brushed plastic with a few hints of metal, the system looks reasonable, if not particularly striking. The receiver unit is bulky and heavy, but as you just planting it in one spot and leave it there, this isn't a huge problem.
It has a reasonable series of inputs too, including two component inputs (and one output), three digital audio inputs (two coaxial, one optical), three composite inputs (and two outputs) plus the basic analog inputs. We would have like to see S-Video inputs included (they are available on the next model up, the SAT6100), and were also irritated by the optical audio input being limited to the CD/DVD setting when a second one, corresponding to the six-channel DVD setting, would have been useful.
The settings were easy to work out, and after a few minutes buried in the manual we were able to explore the full functionality of the system. It would have been easier to do this on screen instead of from the confines of the small LCD, which made navigating a little tough.
The system offers a wide variety of sound modes, including Dolby Digital and Pro Logic, and DTS and DTS-ES. You can also change the volume of the individual speakers and select from a few audio presets, including panorama and night, which we particularly liked. This function is essential as it goes some way to combating the biggest problem we had with the system: the volume of the rear speakers. In high-volume DVD scenes, they sounded quite reasonable, as did the whole system, but in normal or low volume situations, they were soft almost to the point of being inaudible. The front speakers on the other hand sounded great, and the subwoofer provided a rich, deep bass that resonated without becoming overbearing or distracting.
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