The rapid uptake - and plunging prices - of dedicated 'one-box' surround sound speaker/amp packages has really hit the integrated surround sound TV market. But JVC clearly reckons there's life in it yet, having unleashed a new 32in Dolby Digital 5.1 CRT model: the AV-32R57SK. What's more, this exclusive-to-Comet offering is yours for the ridiculously small sum of £400. So what's the catch?
For such a cut-price set, the 32R57 isn't a bad looker. Sure, it feels a touch plasticky and the silvery colour scheme is nothing new. But there's more class in its sculpting than is usual in the budget fraternity.
The supplied rear speakers are impressive in their sheer diddiness, while the provided, detachable subwoofer looks ugly but has ample bulk to shift plenty of bass.
The TV receives its raw Dolby Digital 5.1 date via a provided optical digital audio input. And this jack is helpfully backed up by three Scarts - one more than normal at this price point.The only connections disappointment is the absence of a dedicated four-pin S-Video socket.
Unsurprisingly, given how cheap the TV is, the 32R57's 5.1 audio is pretty much its only noteworthy feature (unless adjustable Pro-Logic II Movie/Music settings and relative volume/distance float your boat). Inevitably, the pictures are only standard 50Hz affairs.
That's not to say they're bad, though.For starters,the 32R57's colours are bright, vibrant, fully saturated and, above all, completely authentic in tone.T hey're backed up by an impressive black level that avoids almost all trace of the grey mistiness many cheapo CRT sets suffer from.This helps pictures look three-dimensional. Finally on the good side, the image is free of grain and image processing artefacts.
The 32R57's pictures don't wholly hide their budget origins, however. They're a touch soft, for instance, thanks to slightly loose edging and only average amounts of fine detail.
Also, we detected some curious, grid-like visible image structure at each extreme side of the picture, presumably caused by some aspect of the TV's tube design. And a lack of voltage control can find the image kinking slightly around particularly bright segments. Finally,mid-tones can show traces of dot crawl.
As usual with an integrated surround sound system, the 32R57SK's sonics sound weak versus any half-decent separate system, but considerably better than most ordinary budget Nicam sets. On the plus side, the front speakers built into the TV are unexpectedly strong, delivering plenty of volume and a rounded tone. The subwoofer is okay too,not perhaps joining in as often as we might like, but certainly adding a solid chunk of well-integrated bass when it does.
By comparison the rears are rather feeble.They simply don't have enough power to harmonise with the other speakers, sounding oversharp and occasionally tinny.
While miles from being a perfect TV, we're more prepared than usual to philosophically accept most of its limitations simply on the grounds of its price. Any 32in TV that can give you even an average performance for just £400 is alright by us.