So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
- Attractive design, wide array of inputs, good performance, value for money.
- No HDMI, fiddly to set up.
The Zensonic Z1080S AV receiver is a great all round product which provides a good level of bang for your buck.
Price$ 699.00 (AUD)
The Zensonic Z1080S is a fairly standard AV receiver without any overblown bell and whistles. It offers solid performance and stylish design at an affordable price.
Silver in colour, the Z1080S is dominated by a large volume knob emblazoned with a neon blue ring of light. While attractive and eye-catching, those who like to watch films in complete darkness may find the light a tad bright, especially since it can't be turned off. The front panel has an S-Video and composite port making it ideal to quickly connect a camcorder or temporary AV device. The on-screen display is hidden nicely behind a mirrored panel, only visible once turned on. In contrast to the blue ring of light on the volume knob, the display can be dimmed or turned off using the remote control.
The mark of a good AV receiver is its connectivity features. The Z1080S offers a wide range of options in this domain with HDMI being the only omission. There are three composite, two component and two S-Video connectors as well as an in-built AM/FM tuner, accessed with the supplied antenna. Naturally, the Z1080S also allows optical audio connection, although since there is only one at the rear you are forced to prioritise your AV equipment. Most people will use optical for their DVD player, but in the current climate of full 5.1 gaming there are other audio devices that may vie for your optical connections. There is a second optical input, fortunately, but it is placed on the front panel and using it somewhat ruins the overall aesthetic with cables jutting out from the front of the unit.
There are enough speaker connections to support seven speakers and a subwoofer. This is handy when you consider the impressive array of sound formats supported: Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Pro Logic II, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, DTS, DTS ES, DTS NEO:6 as well as DSP are on offer and cover most sound fields the average user could want.
Setting up the speakers could have been a little easier. Zensonic fly in the face of the traditional alligator clip connectors with their own screw-in style plugs making it unnecessarily fiddly. Here the wire is thread into the side of the red and black terminals and then screwed down and fastened. This method would be excellent if only the inputs were spaced further apart.
Unlike some high end units such as the Harmon Kardon AVR 340, there is no automatic calibration tool included with this receiver, so you will need to play it by ear or get the speaker volumes calibrated by a professional. Thankfully, the cutomisation options for each speaker are robust enough to make minute changes possible and we found it quite easy to achieve our desired sound mix.
With a 100dB signal to noise ratio, we were quite impressed with this system's sound quality. Naturally, the sound is also dictated by the speakers you use with your receiver, but elements like static and sound separation are universal across any speaker system. We were impressed with the lack of static using optical sound from the Xbox 360 game console. Both gaming and DVD movies were clear and precise with excellent bass and rich mid tones. We would have liked a little more treble, as even after calibration it was slightly lacking, but it's a small quibble easily forgiven. In our tests we used the massive Sony SA-WM500 subwoofer in a 5.1 array with top-notch Torpedo Digital speakers.
The volume levels achieved by the Z1080S were more than acceptable. With 150 watts per speaker the volume became quite loud, shaking the window panes of our test environment (always a good sign). At the highest volume there was a little distortion which is not usually present in the speakers when connected to our regular Pioneer receiver. However, anyone that consistently uses the Z1080S at this volume probably doesn't have much hearing left anyway.
Overall, the Zensonic Z1080S AV receiver is a great product which gives good bang for your buck. Its only real negative is that it doesn't support HDMI and it's fiddly to set up, but hopefully future models will correct these issues.
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