The Hollywood Take 2 is a 5.1 all-in-one DVD set-up, with a sub/sat speaker arrangement and a central unit that does all the hard work while retaining an air of dignified calm. Such systems are increasingly under threat from those offering recording capability as well, but Marantz is obviously hoping that sheer quality will win the day here.

The main unit features a gorgeous design,with a central volume display highlighting a largely impassive fascia.There are copious sockets at the rear, allowing for component video hook-up (with PAL and NTSC progressive scan) or an RGB Scart connection.

That's a tick for quality video connections then (there is also S-video and composite support). Audio inputs come in both optical and electrical digital varieties, so you will be able to connect your other AV goodies and enjoy 5.1-channel sound.There is also an optical digital audio output.Speaker connections are only springclip types.This is a shame, given the otherwise high quality nature of the fixtures and fittings.

The speakers themselves do get diddy binding posts,showing that they can be squeezed into small places.Each speaker (including the passive subwoofer,which is styled like a generous chunk of cheese) gets 80W from the onboard amplification - more than enough to put a rumble in your jungle.

Sound formats offered include Dolby Digital EX,DTS-ES and Pro-Logic IIx,which offer 6.1 or 7.1 channel sound.Wait a minute,you cry, I thought you said this was a 5.1 system! This is where some rather nifty rear speakers come in.They are of a different design to those used in the front soundstage and actually house two drivers.The second driver in each speaker is an offset full-range cone that creates a phantom surround back speaker. It's important to put the left and right surround speakers in the correct position to ensure this effect works.

You can also add a dedicated surround back speaker via more spring-clip terminals and there is a subwoofer pre-out for hooking up an active sub.

The front satellites carry an 80mm woofer and a 19mm dome tweeter with a frequency response quoted at a sensible-sounding 100Hz-20kHz. The rears have the 50mm offset cone and an 80mm conventional driver, rated at 150Hz-20kHz and 100Hz- 20kHz respectively.

The sub squeezes a 200mm driver into its elegant casing, rumbling down to 40Hz.Unusually, the sub is magnetically shielded, so you can place it close to your TV without fear of colour staining.Usually subs are best tucked out of the way,but this one is attractive enough to have on display.

The remote control can make set-up a bit of a chore,because it accesses different elements of the system via the same keys - you have to select the section you want to operate (DVD deck or tuner, for example) in order to get to the menus you want.

The onscreen display is also extremely basic and the manual is really a disgrace.There's no excuse for lines such as 'While choosing the speaker set-up mode or test function, there is the function which does not operate in part'? These complaints aside you can get the system up and running without too much bother. The tricky thing is making adjustments to the factory settings.

Speaker settings can be made for size,distance,balance and level,and there is also an overall bass/treble tone control.The problem is that these adjustments do not show up on an onscreen display,but are only indicated on the front panel.It is also galling that if you select 'large' for your front speakers (perhaps you might hook up a different system at some point in the future),the sub is automatically set to 'off'.

Sound modes on offer are Hall, Theatre, Live 5 Stereo and Stereo,as well as the unadulterated DD EX, DTS-ES and PL IIx settings.

Playback options include a 16x zoom (bigger than we've seen for a while) and the standard slo-mo, frame advance and repeat play options.

There is no doubting the picture from this system.It is breathtakingly sharp,with a huge amount of detail and rich,saturated colours.Watching our test sequences was a genuine pleasure.The vivid colours of Finding Nemo fairly leap off the screen,with a real sense of depth, the sort of illusion you only get with absolutely top-notch images.

The zoom doesn't really do this quality justice, introducing artefacts even at its 2x setting,but that's just a minor quibble.

The audio is a bit more of a mixed bag. Nemo reveals some warmth and depth to the soundtrack,with natural-sounding vocals and some nice reinforcement of sound effects from the subwoofer.

However, The Empire Strikes Back reveals another side to the system. Dialogue is screechy and the sub becomes divorced from the rest of the soundstage,most notably when the Imperial Walkers lumber towards the rebel trenches.

Music sources tend to lean towards the more favourable of these impressions,but there isn't an awful lot of volume available before the system starts to creak at the seams.

This is not quite the triumph it looks like when first getting the components out of the box.Design is gorgeous and picture quality is exemplary.There are simply no areas in which the picture can be faulted.

The sound system is also capable of delivering convincing results, albeit at modest volume levels. You just need to watch out for that stridency in higher frequencies. A thorough test drive is required before you buy this system, unless you are sufficiently won over by the looks alone.