Yamaha DVX-S100 HTIB
Like the proverbial chain, a home-theater-in-a-box is only as strong as its weakest link. What's the point in putting outstanding speakers in your HTIB if you top them off with a weak amplifier that can't exploit the speakers' gifts? Does it matter that everything is conveniently located in one box if the consumer can't figure out how to set up the system because the manual and remote are too confusing? Keeping in mind a target audience that consists of entry-level home theater consumers, any good HTIB's goal should be to offer the most well-rounded package for the least number of dollars. In this respect, Yamaha's new DVX-S100 HTIB is a qualified success.
The first thing to catch your eye will most likely be the DVX-S100's features list. This system can accommodate all of your watching and listening needs. On the video side, you don't just get a progressive-scan DVD player—you get a progressive-scan DVD player that utilizes Faroudja's outstanding DCDi processing and plays VCDs and some DVD-Rs/-RWs/+RWs. The DVR-S100 receiver unit also features a component output (not always a given with an entry-level HTIB), as well as three S-video and composite inputs to connect peripherals.
The audio side is even more exciting. No matter where in the resolution realm your tastes lie, this system will suit them. In addition to DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1, you get DVD-Audio, MP3, and CD-R/-RW playback; Dolby Pro Logic II processing (both the music and movie modes); an AM/FM tuner; a Silent Cinema mode that allows you to listen to 5.1-channel audio through your headphones; Yamaha's Matrix 6.1 mode for playing Dolby EX or DTS ES titles; and (of course) the company's standard array of DSP modes. One coaxial and one optical digital audio output are also included.
As for the components that deliver these audio options, the DVX-S100 features four identical, midsized satellites: Each NX-S100S is a two-way bass-reflex design with a 4-inch cone woofer and a 1-inch balanced-dome tweeter. The NX-S100C center-channel speaker is also a bass-reflex design with three 2.75-inch woofers and a 0.5-inch tweeter, while the front-ported SW-S100 sub utilizes a 6.13-inch woofer. The powered sub keeps 50 watts for itself and supplies 33 watts to each of the five speakers.
Another biggie on the HTIB checklist is ease of use. In this regard, the DVX-S100 receives mixed reviews. Basic setup is a breeze. Plug the color-coded speaker-wire terminals into the sub's back panel and run the pleasantly long wires to the speakers, which use spring-clip connections. Run the proprietary umbilical cord from the sub to the DVR-S100 receiver, run your video cable of choice from the receiver unit to your display, and you're done. To turn on the DVD player's progressive mode, all you do is hit a button on the front panel. There's no need to wade through the cryptic onscreen menu system, which is a small but appreciated perk.
That said, I'd still recommend that you spend some time with the manual and remote before you dive into the HTIB's more-advanced functions. Neither is as clear as I would've liked it to be. Admittedly, Yamaha expects the tiny, nonbacklit remote to wear many hats; so, as with many HTIB remotes, there are a lot of small buttons that are placed very close together and asked to pull double-duty. Much of the text is crammed between buttons, so it's not immediately clear which functions apply to which buttons. After you spend some time with the remote, though, it gets easier to use.
Likewise, the DVX-S100's manual and onscreen display aren't as concise or as intuitively laid out as they should be for a system that a home theater novice is likely to purchase. Granted, some of this complexity is due to the fact that there are so many features and you can make numerous system adjustments, such as setting speaker delays and levels (including subwoofer level—wahoo!). But hey, all the more the reason why you should make every effort to ensure that the manual, remote, and onscreen display are as clear as possible, which isn't the case here.
OK, enough of that. Let's get to the good stuff, starting with the DVX-S100's DVD player and its Faroudja chip. I ran the player through our arsenal of progressive-scan torture tests, and it performed extremely well. Both the Snell & Wilcox Zone Test Plate from Video Essentials and chapter 10 of The Phantom Menace revealed that the player picks up a DVD's 3:2 sequence very quickly to create smooth, clean images with minimal artifacting. This player is also quick to pick up even an incorrectly flagged sequence like the one in the Apollo 13 trailer on our DTS demo disc.