The Philips MCD908 DVD stereo system uniquely combines analogue hi-fi technology with the latest digital advances.

The twin shoebox-sized components are well constructed with brushed metal fronts, and each unit concentrates on its amplification and disc-spinning duties with the minimum of signal interference from the other.

The minimal front panels mean that system control is handled by the shiny, leather-clad remote handset. It's a nice touch that looks the part on the coffee table, but the reflective surface and poor labelling make it difficult to locate specific keys quickly.

Cabinet reshuffle

Audio quality is high on the MCD908's agenda. The wooden bookshelf speaker cabinets feature high quality ribbon tweeters, which claim to give the most natural high frequency sound across a wide listening area.

Disc playback includes DVD, CD and discs containing MP3, JPEG and DiVX files. An HDMI socket offers top-quality digital video connectivity to compatible TV screens, while RGB Scart, component, S-video and composite video sockets are provided for hook up to non-HD Ready TVs.

Upscaling is available to 720p and 1080i in both 50Hz (PAL) and 60Hz (NTSC) formats, but the Philips shows little improvement when switching from standard resolution to either 720p or 1080i mode. In fact, colours appear weak and details softer with our Die Another Day test disc, and images lacked the punch and depth of standard resolution signals when trying the upscaling modes.

Elsewhere, the Philips' colour balance appears to have a magenta hue, making skin tones look more ruddy and blue backgrounds have a slight red tint, but some compensation can be made by adjusting the TV's settings for a more natural colour balance.

Component video and RGB Scart analogue video signals are pristine and provide you with picture performance comparable to the HDMI output.

There's no virtual surround mode on the MCD908. Philips has preferred to concentrate on two-channel refinement, and DVD soundtracks are down mixed to stereo. Musical soundtracks are extremely well conveyed, and the MCD908 handles the title sequence to Die Another Day without over exaggerating bass levels. Treble details are fine, and the MCD908 has smoothness and a more hi-fi-like sound than many similar micro entertainment systems we've heard.

Cause and effect

Movie effects are well gauged and, although they don't leap around the room, they hold your attention and provide you with a full and involving soundstage.

Stereo music is similarly impressive and the Philips conveys an openness and naturalness with Amy Winehouse's vocals that make you want to sit and listen.

Philips does things differently, and the combination of technologies in the MCD908 results in one of the most natural and hi-fi sounding DVD systems we've heard.