Not all of us can afford buying a top-tier surround system to accompany our over priced full 1080 HDTVs. JVC offers an affordable alternative for those of us looking for a home theater in a box that surprisingly has connectivity frills that are usually only available on the higher-priced systems. However, don’t expect to fill a large room with an impressive wall of sound as the unit is designed for a small to moderate-sized room, which it performed remarkably well for a surround sound system at this price point.
JVC’s TH-L1 seems to be built for the game / tech enthusiast looking for a decent surround sound system to fill a small to moderate room. The unit itself measures at 10.5 by 4.5 by 9.5 so you wont be losing much real estate in your entertainment center. The piano black exterior will blend in nicely with most current HD television systems and nicely compliments the Playstation 3 aesthetic. In addition, the unobtrusive speakers themselves are 4″ squares that look great and will definitely appeal to the minimalist.
Don’t let its size fool you. The TH-L1 comes packed with some connectivity punch. The unit offers two HDMI inputs (unheard of in a unit at this price point) which is perfect for those gamers sporting two HDMI capable gaming consoles. The input selection on the TH-L1 includes two component video inputs, two S-video and composite inputs with corresponding outputs. two optical inputs for those not using audio via HDMI. If you’re sporting an iPod you’ll be glad to know that the TH-L1 comes packed with an iPod connector that allows you to plug the iPod directly to the unit and control its basic functions via the remote or on the console itself.
Needless to say, we were impressed by the number of inputs the unit had available for the user. It’s a great unit for budget minded gamers looking for a 5.1 experience for current gen consoles.
If you own an iPod then you’ll have no problem directly connecting the unit to the front of the console for instant playback. The included iPod interface cable attaches to the front of the TH-L1 and automatically detects the unit. The remote includes the basic functions of the iPod, but you can’t use the remote to scroll through the iPod’s various menus. However, we found it puzzling that any other music player utilizing the USB input required you to select the type of media you were using before it’ll even play. For example, we plugged in a Zune just to see if it would play as seemlessly as the iPod and unfortunately we had to thumb through the menu system to select MP3 media. It feels like all types of media players should be accessible without all the fuss.
The remote is a bit confusing at first glance, but it was nice that all the video inputs had its own button. It made it a lot easier to thumb through the two consoles and cable audio. Modifying the speaker levels is tacked on to one button, which easily gets lost in the bunch. You can also program the remote to operate your television or DVD player, but its limited functionality might leave you just using the other various remotes.
Video connections are passthrough only which means there is no upconverting analog sources with the TH-L1. The system’s audio support includes Pro Logic II, Dolby Digital, and DTS encoding. However, we were dissapointed that the sound output fell on the weak side, especially, in a large room. You literally have to crank this system to feel the bass, but if you’re filling a small or moderate sized room then you’ll probably have no problem with the output. Just don’t expect to fill a large theater. We tested the unit with the Blu-ray version of Live Free Die Hard and the mass exodus of explosions felt a bit underwhelming at first. Thankfully, this system’s individual speakers can be adjusted so we increased the subwoofer output and adjusted the center and found the experience a bit more rewarding.
Overall, it would have been nice to have a little more bass and less hassel using the USB input for media playback. The unit itself performed remarkably well for its low price point and we definitely recommend it for the budget minded consumer looking for a decent surround system to hook up their current HD systems.
- Score: 7.5
- Excellent input connectiviity including two HDMI inputs and direct iPod plug and play. Geared toward the budget consumer so don’t expect the sound to fill more than a small to moderate sized room. It would have been nice to have deeper bass and less hassle utilizing the USB input for media playback.
— J. Thomas