I’ve got a decent TV, a decent DVD player, and decent cables connecting everything into it, but the slightly incongruous link is my sound system, an Interact DSS-900, which has served me well enough for a few years but just isn’t that great. It only cost me as much as three of the digital coaxial cables that I use though, so I suppose it’s been good value.
It’s been loud enough to annoy my parents on a regular basis (late night Call of Duty 2 is a particular sore point) but it only supports Dolby Digital and Dolby Pro Logic II which has left DTS on DVDs inaccessible and it doesn’t have a remote which means that even with my lovely Harmony I have to get up to turn it off with the rest of the system unless I want a low hum 24/7.
Anyway, with a student loan to blow I decided it was time for an upgrade, so I went for the Logitech Z-5400. It has a remote and supports DTS which is two of the criteria down immediately, it’s more powerful and so can keep family members awake even more effectively, and it has support for seven devices at once (up from three) while negating the need to flick an optical/coaxial switch hidden away on the back when I want to change between DVD and 360. At a shade under £150 I’d say it’s even better value than the £100 spent on the old one, and just look at the white-on-black LCD. Look at it. That’s worth the money alone.
Once I had it set up and found somewhere to stash the monster of a sub I got it programmed into the Harmony so that it’s turned on and inputs are switched with the rest of the system, and immediately went for some of the best sounding DVDs that I own. The main thing that struck me is quite how good the sub is, as all of the action scenes that I tried were room-shaking even with it set at under 25%. The stampede and last battle in The Lion King (don’t laugh – it has DTS on the region 2 version and even in Dolby was acclaimed as one of the most aggressive mixes around) literally shook the pictures on the wall.
The LOTR extended editions come with DTS-ES tracks so I grabbed the best one (Fellowship, in case you didn’t know) to try a few scenes. The Last Alliance in the prologue sounded great, especially the LFE when Sauron is killed, and I ended up watching the whole of Moria because I’d forgotten how good it was. Good channel separation as arrows fly past, incidentally. I’m going to watch the whole thing again because I haven’t seen it in ages.
Daredevil is the last test disc I picked up, since it features sound design befitting of a man who relies on superhuman hearing to fight crime. This impressed me in Dolby Digital when Matt wakes up blind for the first time and is overwhelmed by the sounds of the city, and that still sounds phenomenal. The first fight scene is another piece of reference-quality audio, as the mixture of gunshots, kicks, and rock soundtrack combine for one of the most pumping sub tests around with plenty of positional audio as well.
Overall I’m thoroughly impressed and I can’t imagine there being many better systems for the price. I’ve seen HTIB systems from the major manufacturers that can’t handle DTS, let alone DTS 24/96, and don’t come with subs capable of being used in building demolition. Bargain. I know I’m onto a winner when I get told to turn it down in the middle of the day.