Sony's galactic empire employs several dedicated design facilities worldwide, which probably goes some way to explaining why you simply cannot fault the look and feel of the DAV-X1.
The main unit is weighty with a solid-feeling aluminium top plate and neat, understated fascia. The satellite speakers are compact, with twin drivers in ported cabinets, and the remote control is a lush slim-line affair that hides most of its controls behind a silver face plate.
Sadly, the subwoofer clearly missed the design department altogether. This is a cosmetically-challenged black box with twin drivers and an enormous flared front port. You'd have to hide it behind the sofa or adult visitors would laugh and small children would run screaming.
Hookup could not be easier with a simple one-into-three cable from the main unit to the speakers plus a video lead. You can use S-video, composite, progressive component or Scart, but nothing digital.
The main unit's DVD drive is a /-RW compatible deck with Super Audio CD, MP3 and DiVX playback. The system's built-in repertoire is complete with an AM/FM tuner with 30 presets.
Amplification is courtesy of Sony's trendy S-Master digital technology, claiming a fairly ambitious 50W per channel, and its pseudo surround sound is created by down-mixing Dolby Digital and DTS with Sony's psychoacoustic-based S-Force Pro front surround technology.
The two-speaker system is easy to set up; realistically there is nothing to do bar tweak the output of the subwoofer to counter the fact that you have had to hide it from view. Connect cables, place speakers, plug in, press play - all done and dusted without a fuss.
Likewise the onscreen setup is slick, and the all-important box to box-office time proved quick in our test. Better still, you are immediately rewarded with a crisp, clean and colourful progressive scan picture that is almost a Sony DVD player trademark. Superb.
Sadly the same cannot be said of the sound. Dolby and DTS formats default to S-Force Focus Surround, which creates what sounds like stereo, with dialogue collapsed into the middle of the two speakers without any real rear effect at all.
Balance is fair at low volumes but as the pressure increases the sound becomes congested as the sub very quickly gets out of shape. Give it a wallop of mid-bass effect and it emphasises a single note bloom that turns Revenge of the Sith into Attack of the Drone.
Things are little better up top as the small satellites have a cuppy character that dominates the mix and makes the system itself very obvious. Their plastic cabinets generate an upper mid-range ring that gives dialogue a nasal quality, and their balance is a horribly variable feast depending on volume.
The DAV-X1 is a tale of two halves, with its slick, well-specified and nicely designed DVD/receiver console being let down by a speaker package easily outgunned by systems at half the price. At £900, the DAV-X1 makes no sense at all in price to performance ratio.