Yamaha DVX-S120 Home Cinema Speaker System Reviewed

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Any true electronic entertainment enthusiast shudder -- HTIB -- for home theater in a box... those letters usually mean "pre-packaged meritocracy with severe performance shortcomings." No respectable audiophile would dare think of buying a complete system off the shelf for the sake of simplicity. Piecing together a successful blend of processor, amplifier, DVD player, loudspeakers, and subwoofer are a rewarding challenge.

Despite these preconceived notions, all-in-one systems are becoming very popular among the novice set. They are all-inclusive, cost efficient entertainment systems that are built for small to medium rooms. Their simple designs translate into easy setup, perfect for beginners who don't want the time consuming task of auditioning different components to combine into a complete theater. Such is the case with Yamaha's DVX-S120 Home Cinema System.

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Unique Features - Diminutive in size, the DVX-S120 Home Cinema System is in a category often referred to as "lifestyle products." The low-profile design and compact size fill a room with sound without overcrowding it with electronics. The receiver is an all-in-one unit that incorporates a DVD/CD player, AM/FM tuner, amplifier, and digital processor that can be placed on a shelf or table while the small satellite speakers disappear into the surroundings. The result is convenient surround sound for movie and music playback that can match any decor.

The silver case that Yamaha chose for the system is contemporary and good-looking. The receiver has a baby blue band wrapped around the center to offset the controls that are placed on the decorative top cover of the component. Top mounted controls make placement in a rack shelf difficult, unless the consumer plans to use the remote control exclusively. The subwoofer has a matching silver decorative face that matches the receiver well and blends everything together nicely.

Style and flair withstanding, the DVX-S120 is a very capable system. The five full range satellite and center channel speakers have dual two-inch drivers and are matched to a powered subwoofer with a six-inch woofer. The satellites are powered by a 55 watt per channel digital amp, and the sub has a dedicated 100-watt amplifier for the low end.

The progressive scan DVD player has a 3/2 pull-down progressive circuit for a high-resolution image on a progressive monitor and a Faroudja DCDi circuit for clear and natural images. These enhanced circuits virtually eliminate jagged edges and interlaced artifacts inherent in motion picture photography to DVD transfers. Furthermore, Yamaha has used the same audio and video D/A converters found in their top-of-the-line DVD players. This level of perfoimance is unheard of in the "lifestyle" set of budget theater systems.

To envelop the listener in surround sound, the DVX-S120 has Yamaha's Quad-Field Cinema DSP technology. This software works in conjunction with the digital processing to help increase the acoustic size of a listening environment and mimic the audio qualities of a movie theater. Dialogue, sound effects and music become more genuine. In conjunction with the Quad-Field technology are 19 surround programs with 41 variations to reproduce acoustic characteristics for various types of movies. For example, if you are going to watch an action-packed thriller, the DSP effect can be changed to Action to enhance the stereoscopic presence. For a romantic or comic drama, the Drama DSP setting will play surround sounds softly for clear dialogue. The DSP variations include settings for most movie genres, live television, music, and video games.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use - Many introductory home theater products that are intended for novices fall short on simple installation and ease of use. However, Yamaha has done a splendid job and hit a homerun. The DVX-S120 manual is one of the most comprehensive instruction booklets I have ever seen. The 100 plus pages take the reader through complete connectivity coaching, product description and feature explanations. There are detailed illustrations and product diagrams that assist the learning curve of even the most basic beginner. The all-in-one receiver package means wiring up the DVX-S120 is a snap. Each of the satellite and center channel speakers have color-coded speaker cables that correspond to the position in the room they are intended for. Each of these cables has a plug attached to the end that snaps into a jack on the back panel of the clearly marked receiver. The powered subwoofer uses a system connector wire and RCA cable to communicate with the receiver. The video signal can be sent to the television via component, S-Video or composite outputs. Audio input and output digital audio connections are offered as well.

HTR Product Rating for Yamaha DVX-S120 Home Cinema Speaker System

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Once connected, the speakers were set up in my den and I began to position them to my liking. The DVX-S120 will play a test tone to better calibrate speaker position and volume levels. Speaker size and DSP settings were next to program, all through the use of the remote control. The remote is the MTV of controllers. It is proportionally sized, with vibrant colors and easy-to-read icons. It is set up to control the various functions of the Yamaha DVX-S120 and can be programmed to operate other equipment as well. With so much versatility, it took some time to get used to, but it is a very powerful input device that allows for full control of the receiver.

Another nicety I found was the on-screen menu system. Accessing this function opens up a separate colorful world of control through the remote. Navigating the menu system is effortless -- another plus for the novice theater buff. All the commands available on-screen are also listed in the excellent manual, and learning the sub menus and functions of the Yamaha is explained in depth.

Final Take
Taken as a whole, the Yamaha DVX-S120 is a powerful, compact home theater system that has some great technology built in. I found the picture quality to be quite good throughout my entire evaluation. Progressive scan output is clean without any discernable video noise in high detailed areas. The 5.1 surround mode with all its DSP programs gives a thrilling recreation of the cinema experience. In two-channel mode with compact discs and even radio broadcasts, the system performed quite well. However, if I had to pick apart one flaw in the system, it would be the speakers. They are the weakest link. They perform adequately in a home theater setting, but acoustically fall flat with music. They don't offer a very smooth frequency response and are missing an extended top-end range. There also seemed to be a poor transition between the satellites and the sub that left the midrange orphaned. This isn't to say they weren't good, especially for this price range. Nevertheless, improvements could be made to better handle the power the DVX-S120 provides.

For small or medium listening environments, this Home Cinema System is terrific. Moreover, the target audience of new home theater consumers will especially like the simplistic design, ergonomics, easy installation, and thorough manual Yamaha has developed. My perception of this HTIB is that it does well to promote good thoughts of all-inclusive systems.

Dolby Digital, DTS and Dolby Pro Logic II
Progressive Scan DVD Player
(2) Video Inputs and (1) Output
S-Video Output
(1) Component Video Output
(2 )Audio Inputs and (1) Output
Digital Inputs: (1) Optical; (1) Digital Output
275 watts (55 watts x 5)

(2) 2-inch full range drivers
55 watts power
61/2"H x 2 1/2'W x 41/2"D
Weight: 2 lbs. each

Center Channel
(2) 2-inch full range drivers
55 watts power
2 1/2"H x 61/2"W x 4 1/2"D
Weight: 2.4 lbs.

6-inch low frequency driver
30 Hz to 200 Hz frequency response
Active Servo Technology
100-watt amplifier
14 3/8"H x 7 7/8"W x15 1/2"D
Weight: 18.5 lbs.

1 year warranty
MSRP: $499

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