Traditionally, the serious home cinephile has been faced with one option – separates, and their associated boxery.
After all, package systems are a lifestyle-driven compromise, surely?
The NAD Viso Five, therefore, represents a sort of Third Way. This piece of modernist AV sculpture combines a DVD player and 5.1 AV receiver, both of which aspire to approach the quality of separates. Just the job, then, if you don't like cabinet and equipment clutter.
All you need to get your home cinema singing is a 5.1 speaker array of your choice. Pretty much any speaker setup based around an active-subwoofer will be a compatible partner, and this is another area in which this system scores over the traditional all-in-one package. After all, the latter's typical lack of speaker-upgradeability can lead you into an AV cul-de-sac.
The DVD player section offers MP3, DivX and DVD-A compatibility. It's well-served in connectivity terms, too: output options include component, RGB Scart and HDMI (albeit only upscaling to 1080i, rather than the de rigeur 1080p).
As for the receiver, you get Dolby Digital/DTS decoding, Pro-Logic II for two-channel sources, a DAB-upgradeable FM/AM tuner, optional iPod hookup and five output channels claiming to deliver 45W simultaneously at full-pelt.
Although many rival standalone receivers are better-specced in this regard, the NAD's amplification should have no trouble taking on average-sized lounges – and, anyway, our Tech Labs deemed NAD's output claims as conservative, measuring the Viso Five's power output at 65W with all five channels driven, rising to 75W when in stereo mode.
Connectivity also noteworthy. In addition to the two digital inputs there are analogue 5.1 inputs. Just the ticket for adding a Blu-ray player, should you later decide that you can accommodate that extra component after all.
Not that you've an alternative to that clumsy sextet of wires: there's no HDMI input, and you can't pick off high-res multichannel sound from a connector that's not there. It also means you'll need to find a spare HDMI port on your display, because by definition there's no switching.
Nor is there any conversion of analogue AV sources into upscaled HDMI (or any analogue alternative).
Another practical consideration is that the cover for the handy front-panel AV inputs is untethered, and will inevitably disappear. But to carp about these things is to rather miss the point.
The Five is beautifully-built and simple to install. If you want a high-quality introduction to DVD-based home cinema, and are seeking a superior alternative to a complete system that arrives in one carton, then this NAD product might just hit your target.
It may lack the flexibility of separates systems, but has a greatly-reduced footprint, genuine hi-fi credibility, and unexpectedly punches above its weight to deliver a most satisfactory performance.
The DVD-spinning aspect lacks the absolute resolving-power of good mid-range players, which admittedly helps to mask some varieties of artifact, but in terms of contrast and depth its pictures cannot be faulted. Colours are given the respect they deserve, while noise is pretty much absent.
Audio fidelity is excellent, too. It's meaty, yet can reveal subtle detail when called upon to do so. With busy soundtracks, my speakers never sounded strained or stressed. And, as Charlie Brooker's Dead Set on E4 demonstrated, its Pro-Logic II decoder is also up to scratch.
Superior DVD deck
If you want lifestyle design without lifestyle sacrifices, then NAD's Viso Five should be high on your audition list. It's very well built and has an above average performance.
Blu-ray hedz should be cautious, though, as they'll need to partner it with a spinner with 5.1 analogue outputs and internal decoding. Overall though, a superior system solution.