Goodmans' GHC4200PRO is a budget way to upgrade to a 5.1 surround sound system in one easy step. Connect a DVD player to the back of the subwoofer and hey presto!

This package is clearly aimed at the budget end of the market, but it looks surprisingly good and incorporates two substantial floorstanding speakers accompanied by centre and surround speakers.

Back of the cabinet

The MDF constructed cabinets are encased in a vinyl wrap, but further inspection finds they look a bit cheap. The front baffles have a piano black lacquer finish, which looks great but easily shows up fingerprints. Like the black mesh speaker grilles, the baffles can easily be removed to reveal the wood effect finish and shiny speaker drive array, giving you a choice of looks to best fit with your surroundings.

The floorstanders have plinths that need to be attached to the bottom of the speakers. But here our package showed some construction flaws and the screws supplied weren't long enough to attach the plinths and incorporate the silver spacers. Also, the screw-nuts embedded in the plinth base fell out! Hopefully, these are just manufacturing hiccups, isolated to our review sample.

The chunky subwoofer is the system's powerhouse and contains the surround sound amplifi cation and processing. There's no LCD to show system status or processing mode, however. An array of LEDs on the front of the sub provides limited indication, but they are too bright once the lights are dimmed.

There's only Dolby Digital 5.1 decoding onboard to cater for DVD soundtracks routed via the optical or coaxial digital inputs at the back of the subwoofer. There's no DTS decoding claim, but the GHC4200PRO outputs the rival format soundtrack regardless. Dolby Pro-Logic II converts analogue stereo sources connected to one of the four stereo inputs at the back into a near-digital 5.1 experience.

Sonically, the GHC4200PRO puts in a respectable performance. Movie soundtracks have plenty of oomph thanks to the potent subwoofer, but it's not the most refined sounding model and you'll need to make level adjustments to improve integration with the front speakers

Dialogue has a tendency to sound locked in to the centre speaker, but some careful level adjustment to the front three speakers can help bring voices to fore and improve clarity.

The GHC4200PRO does fairly well with music, although the sub simply doesn't have the timing skills to carry the music along convincingly.

Constructive criticism

Ultimately, any criticisms of the GHC4200PRO should be kept within the context of the price. Okay, construction isn't the best and it may not be the last word in high fidelity, but it's an effective upgrade to surround sound and makes a great add-on to an existing DVD player.