Face Off: HTIB 4U Page 4
Remotes were a different story. The Sony remote, which I thought looked cool, was very hard to use in the dark, unless you first held it to a light source to get it to glow. Chris thought that the buttons were a little small for his big hands and that the remote was a little too cool for him. The JBL remote was considered very "Star Trek" but had a fairly good layout and balanced well in one's hand. Even though it looks like it lights up, only the source buttons along the top are backlit. The Unity's remote wasn't backlit, didn't glow in the dark, and was very small with tiny buttons. I disliked the remote, and the rest of the crew thought it was a little hard to use. Mostly, the complaints came from the fact that the remote doesn't match the Unity's cool-looking electronics.
At the end of the test, I let our panel play around with each system. I gave them the remotes and let them play a few tracks of whatever they wanted at whatever setting and volume they chose. By playing each system at different volumes and at its maximum acceptable volume, we could get a better glimpse at what the system was capable of on its own. Also, by playing music that each reviewer was more familiar with, it gave them a chance to compare each HTIB not only with the other systems in the Face Off but with equipment that they know (like their own). When we did this, the JBL gained some points, and the Sony lost some points. The Sony was by far the quietest of the bunch: Even at full volume, it wasn't able to reach the Dolby reference level of 85 decibels. This isn't the system to buy if you throw loud parties. With its massive amplifier, the JBL HTIB could play very, very loud and could run far bigger speakers, if necessary. If you want to change out the speakers down the road, you can. The sub, this system's Achilles heel, will hopefully be better in the new model. As for the Unity HTIB, everyone wanted more time to play their favorite songs through this system, which says a lot. Even when I played an SACD through the DAV-C900, they wanted to go back to the Unity.
So, it seems that the Unity HTIB is the clear winner, although the other two systems aren't without their benefits. You can upgrade the modular ProPack600 with ease. The five-disc DVD player is separate; so, if you want to get a progressive-scan player down the road, you can just switch it out. The new model is worth a look and listen. The DAV-C900's sleek design has quite a high WAF (wife acceptance factor), as well as the added bonus of a five-disc SACD player. No matter which way you're leaning, these systems are very convenient and easy to use, and (for the most part) they sound pretty good. So, should you consider a home-theater-in-a-box? Absolutely.
• Separate receiver and DVD components
• High-power amp
• Small speakersCinema ProPack600 HTIB $1,200
JBL Consumer Products
Dealer Locator Code JBL
• Elegant, compact design
• Can play SACDs
DAV-C900 HTIB $1,200
Dealer Locator Code SNY
• Great sound
• Dolby Pro Logic II
• Quite the outstanding progeny
Unity HTIB $1,200
Kenwood / Boston Acoustics
(310) 639-9000 / (978) 538-5000
Dealer Locator Codes KWD, BST