So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Sony HTDDW1500 MU.TE.KI
- Great value, powerful, feature packed AV receiver
- Big and bulky
A great entry to home theatre and an ideal partner for a High Definition television
Price$ 1,199.00 (AUD)
Sometimes one just isn't enough. How many people do you see riding round on unicycles?. And it wouldn't be much of a pop duo with just one Veronica. Sony has taken this mantra to heart with their oddly named MU.TE.KI 6.2 home theatre system. The .2 should give the game away: Sony has bundled not one, but two subwoofers with this system. However this inclusion is just the tip of the iceberg for one of Sony's most powerful home theatre systems to date.
The MU.TE.KI is so big it actually comes in two separate boxes. Each front speaker stands nearly a metre tall, which combined with four smaller speakers, a large AV receiver and the pair of subwoofers, makes for a hefty package. It's worth noting that the MU.TE.KI is not a typical Home Theatre in a Box (HTIB) as Sony has left out the DVD player, so you'll need some kind of external source to pair with the system.
One potential problem with the unit is the aesthetics. The MU.TE.KI is a very bold system, with metal grilles and an industrial colour scheme complementing the large proportions. It appears Sony has strived to make a powerful looking system, and they've certainly achieved this aim. This kind of styling may be welcome to some, but for those seeking a subtle, polished system, the MU.TE.KI is not the answer.
Setting up the system is made slightly harder than necessary by Sony's refusal to colour code the wires. We always find this is a helpful inclusion, especially when there are eight pairs of wires to be connected. One nice feature for the novice is the automatic calibration microphone. Simply plug the microphone into the AV receiver, place it where you plan to sit and press a button. After a fair amount of nasty hissing from the speakers the system is all set to go, with the speaker levels and distances all adjusted. The system isn't foolproof, however, as we found the smaller speakers weren't tuned completely to our satisfaction, and the subwoofers also have to be tuned manually.
The next step is to plug in your various DVD players, games consoles and external devices. The MU.TE.KI comes replete with virtually every connection under the sun, certainly enough for a system in this price range. In addition to two component inputs, a pair of optical digital jacks, coaxial and a multitude of regular composite connections, the MU.TE.KI has two HDMI inputs. HDMI is quickly becoming a must have on any system so its inclusion is certainly welcome. The only thing really lacking is S-Video, but with the advent of High Definition its exclusion shouldn't be a concern.
Backing up the wide range of inputs is an equally wide range of audio features. When watching movies the standard sound modes such as Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS Neo:6 are included but these are also supported by some interesting proprietary modes from Sony. Four Digital Cinema Sound modes are included, which are supposed to replicate the acoustics of Sony's film studios. These basically cover action movies, orchestral soundtracks, headphones and general films. While the MU.TE.KI sounded good, we couldn't notice that great a difference between each mode. But as each of Sony's environments can be combined with the various Dolby surround processing modes, there's plenty of room for acoustic adjustments.
Similarly, music can be played through the Pro Logic or Neo processors, or the user can opt for one of Sony's equalisations; namely Classical Concert Hall, Jazz or Live Concert. These do make a noticeable difference to the music and it's well worth fiddling around with the various parameters. Our one complaint with the configuration process is the lack of an on-screen menu. Scrolling through the seemingly endless list of options on the AV receiver's one line LCD screen is far from intuitive.
Once the MU.TE.KI is properly configured both movies and music sound great. While the acoustics are perhaps a little flat, lacking the richness and depth of high-end systems, it's still a pleasure to listen to. The eight speakers provide a nice soundscape with the surround field clearly identifiable. Watching the battle scenes from LOTR: Return of the King was a heart pounding experience, with every sword slash ricocheting round the speakers, and every impact causing an earthquake from the subwoofers. High volume is another area in which the MU.TE.KI excels, with the powerful amplifier making the most of the oversized speakers and subwoofers. Despite their size, even at high volumes the balance between low and high frequency audio is maintained.
The quality of visuals aren't sacrificed either, primarily through Sony's support of High Definition content through both Component and HDMI. Each input can be reassigned for ease of access, and a handy synchronisation feature allows pictures to be shifted in cases where the audio is out of time. The package is rounded off nicely with the inclusion of an AM/FM radio receiver.
Overall we found very little to dislike about the MU.TE.KI. Audiophiles may scoff at the sound performance, and the design certainly isn't subtle, but for anyone seeking a reasonably priced, future proof, and powerful home theatre system, you can't go wrong with the MU.TE.KI.
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