As a pricey TV, Sony's KD-32DDC11U has a point to prove. And it gets off to a decent start by being one of the more attractive CRT TVs in town. The all-over silver colour scheme sits nicely on a tasteful combination of subtle curves and angles to create an almost imperious posture - especially if perched on its matching stand.
Connectivity is rather less inspiring, however; there are only two Scarts, and no dedicated fourpin S-Video jack. Also, there's no digital audio output for Dolby Digital soundtracks should Freeview channels start broadcasting them.
The features count is OK for £700. Happily the set supports Freeview's seven-day electronic programme guide (EPG), from which you can directly set timer reminders/automatic switchovers. Otherwise, all that's worth mentioning are a Radio Mode (which reduces the brightness and contrast while you listen to digital radio channels), noise reduction, RGB Centring and picture rotation for adjusting the tilt caused by the Earth's magnetic fields.
So let's get to the 32DC11U's picture performance. It racks up early brownie points by doing a cracking job of suppressing MPEG noise on digital broadcasts.The 32DC11U's digital pictures look exceptionally smooth, clean, sharp and detailed.
In fact,the 32DC11U's pictures are detailed and healthily textured with all sources, with no serious interference from colour moiring, or haloing around harshly contrasting edges. There's hardly any interference from dot crawl or grain either, and even the flicker from the set's 50Hz scanning isn't particularly pronounced.
A final plus point concerns the 32DC11U's black levels, which are profound yet also good at showing subtle colour shifts and details. The news isn't all good, though. First, the picture seems a little muted towards the brighter end of the spectrum, and this means it's a touch lifeless, especially as colours - though extremely natural in tone - don't leap off the screen as they should.
A more minor issue is a horizontal mispositioning of RGB feeds,so that too much of the left side of the image is pushed off the screen. This is only really noticeable, though, during logo-heavy footage such as a Sky News feed.
The 32DC11U's speakers are bigger than most, and this size helps them sound well rounded, potently loud and full of frequency response. Bass is particularly impressive, especially if you haven't got any neighbours to worry about and can turn the volume high. Voices stay clear even during rowdy action scenes, the soundstage is expansive, and treble details are portrayed aggressively, but without harshness.
If it were £100 cheaper, the 32DC11U would be an appealing TV; not perfect, but certainly fair value. it's still worth auditioning if you've got sufficient funds. But as an expensive CRT set,it doesn't quite stand out enough to earn a totally unreserved recommendation.