Yamaha CinemaStation review

  • £400

A one-box system that aims to avoid compromises

Our Verdict

The flaws are par for the course: this is a compact, flexible and high quality system at a fine price

For

  • Handles DVD and SACD brilliantly

    Lots of features

    Good value for money

Against

  • No PAL progressive scan

    Not too impressive with CDs

When you're setting up a home cinema system, you have two main choices: you can either buy each component separately; or you can buy a one-box system, which features all these things in - you've guessed it - one box. While the latter choice is often more convenient and considerably cheaper, it usually involves a measure of sacrifice: you'll likely be losing out on features, on expandability, on versatility and, most importantly, on performance.

With one-box systems such as the DVXS200, companies like Yamaha are endeavouring to achieve something more of a balance. The most highly specified of the manufacturer's three model strong CinemaStation range, this system features a component video output and SACD compatibility, and can deliver a meaty 100W to each of its channels.

Yamaha has ensured that the DVX-S200 contains a measure of flexibility, with the reasonably wide range of connections allowing you to hook up the likes of MiniDisc players, games consoles and tape decks in order to take advantage of the system's audio capabilities; two-channel sources like these can be upgraded into effective surround sound using the built-in Dolby Pro Logic IIx decoder.

For true 5.1-channel surround sound sources like DVDs, you get both the basic Dolby Digital and DTS decoding formats, as well as one of Yamaha's own clever concoctions: a 6.1-channel 'Matrix' mode that creates a phantom sixth channel directly behind the listener.

Courtesy of the small yet brawny satellites and the 140W active subwoofer, sound quality is excellent. Is it the equal of a set of high quality separate speakers? Well, of course not: we found the bass to be a little overblown and the centre channel needed a fair bit of tweaking. However, it's very good for what it is: a one-box system with a measly £400 price tag. SACD performance is dazzlingly strong while CD playback is competent.

A selection of DSP modes is also included, but as per usual we were hard pressed to find a real use for any of them. Who wants their CDs to sound as if they're being played in a concert hall anyway?

The picture quality is solid, whether you opt for component video or the Scart output. We found little difference between the two, with both providing the sort of detail we'd expect from a system in this price range. Disappointingly, even though the component output supports progressive scan, it only does so for NTSC DVDs; with the vast majority of UK discs being PAL, this means that it's unlikely that any region 2 DVDs you own will allow progressive scan to be used; it's a bit of a pointless feature, really.