So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
- Powerful sound, vast range of features
- Price, poor range of inputs, huge, loud styling
A huge home theatre system with over the top styling and a wide range of functions let down by a poor range of connections.
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
We were a little mystified when Sony's latest Hi-Fi/Home Theatre system turned up at our offices. Sony has named the device the 'LBT-ZX10D Compact Hi-Fi Stereo System', which is a little baffling, as this is one of the largest home theatre/stereo systems we have ever seen. The main unit alone is the size of some televisions and the speakers weigh 10kg each. However, if you can handle the rather bulky design and slightly gaudy aesthetic, this is a solid sounding home theatre package that has a wide variety of features.
The LBT-ZX10D is billed as a 5.1 system, though in a similar vein to the LG LX-D5640, Sony has done away with the subwoofer. Lower frequency sound is provided entirely by the four main speakers, which themselves are the size of many subwoofers anyway, while a smaller fifth speaker sits neatly in the centre. Their size could make positioning the speakers a problem, as at 50cm in length, wall mounting may not be viable. The most appropriate location for them would seem to be the floor, which is an acceptable alternative as the speakers are designed to emit sound at an upwards angle.
Once you've installed the system you next have to connect the LBT-ZX10D to the television. Sony has usefully included component outputs, which is vital for High Definition video. Unfortunately audio is not as well supported, as there are no digital audio connections. For such a system to ship without optical digital audio is disappointing, and a serious limitation. Instead, audio is handled by RCA ports, which are located on both the front and back on the unit.
When it comes to initially using the system it can be a confusing experience. The LBT-ZX10D is adorned with a plethora of buttons that perform a bewildering array of functions. All the standard features are present such as DVD playback, CD playback, MP3 CD and radio plus a few extras that may be useful; namely a dual cassette deck and karaoke modes. One reason for the system's large proportions is the five disc multi-changer, which is a handy addition for parties or gatherings. The on-screen display is one area that we found disappointing, mainly due to its unintuitive implementation. Browsing MP3 and JPEG CDs is much harder than we have found on other products and setup was quite confusing.
In addition to these seemingly normal options, the LBT-ZX10D can perform an array of additional, seemingly bizarre functions. If you'd like to raise the pitch of music, making all the vocals into chipmunk sounds then the LBT-ZX10D can do it. If you've always dreamt of playing music in Reggae, Tango or Salsa mode, this is the system for you. Perhaps most bizarre are the options to create a "party environment". The party environment modes offer two exhilarating alternatives; firstly, a mode that moves the audio output around the room in a circle and secondly, the option to rapidly mute and un-mute the sound. We're not sure what kind of parties the Sony designers of this device go to, but they surely must be a barrel of laughs.
Despite its various limitations the LBT-ZX10D does redeem itself where it matters most. The audio output from the four speakers is fairly intense, which is especially noticeable in surround mode. Unlike many home theatre systems that use smaller, less powerful speakers in the rear surround positions, the LBT-ZX10D provides a forceful aural assault from all angles. There is certainly no need for a subwoofer. Despite this power the system still manages to retain a balanced sound with excellent high range reproduction. Video quality is also fairly good with progressive scan output from DVD. Sharp images combine with good colour balance to give a decent picture. The image quality is less impressive when viewing JPEGs, with noticeable pixilation.
Overall, the LBT-ZX10D is a mixed bag. It offers plenty of functionality and powerful performance yet comes with bold aesthetics that will put some people off. This is topped off with a poor range of connections and a far from inexpensive price tag.
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