Onkyo Envision LS-V500C HTIB Page 2
The satellite speakers, 9-inch-high silver bullets, feature a 1-inch balanced dome tweeter and a 4-inch silk-fiber OMF driver in a medium-density-fiberboard cabinet. The center-channel speaker uses two of the same 4-inch drivers in an enclosure that's almost 13 inches wide. The permanently affixed grilles extend beyond the speakers like little pup tents. The speaker terminals are spring clips. The sub, which rises almost 21 inches off the floor, hides its down-firing, 8-inch silk OMF driver, but the bass-reflex port announces itself as a gaping blowhole on the top half of the front side. You can only connect the silver hub one way, via a line-level cable. It only has a single control, for volume, and no adjustable crossover.
Through a lot of inexpensive systems, the arena showdown in Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones plays out like crunchy little insects attacking Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Padmé Amidala. (Someone pass the Raid!) This scene sounds appropriately menacing through the LS-V500C. The Superbit version of Anaconda, the jungle thriller with Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, and a cast of monster snakes, couldn't hide the graininess of the original's dark scenes, but images generally looked great. With the DTS soundtrack, the LS-V500C hit some clean, if not overpowering, low notes and had exceptional surround-channel support in the exploding-tower, trapped-snake scene.
The DR-C500's carousel proved to be finicky, though, with all kinds of discs. I received an alarming number of disc-error messages, which required me to eject and then reload the disc. It took two tries to load both Clones and Anaconda. Careful placement in the disc tray helps. Like most carousels, it also generated some noise. I'd prefer quieter operation; but, once I hit the play button, it never intruded, not even during a talkie like Y Tu Mamá También.
To its credit, the LS-V500C wouldn't quit. It even survived a session with Speed Tribe, a DVD from www.dance.com that pairs the electronica of Front 242's Daniel Bressanutti and Patrick Codenys with video footage of the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race shot by digital filmmakers Rod Chong and Sharon Matarazzo. Although I could only take this two-disc DVD set with a companion CD soundtrack in small doses, the effects were mesmerizing. When the 24-minute "Speed Tribe" mix began, every speaker switched immediately into high gear, the surround speakers clattering and the subwoofer blowing cool air across the room. I put the remote's pedal to the metal, pushing 90 dB, then 92, then 95 on a sound-level meter. The LS-V500C can definitely play loud. To get there, the highest frequencies take a hike—there's just not much up there. The midrange, however, is dead-on. You can hear the smack of Shirley Horn's lips during her guest spot on the title track of pianist Bill Charlap's excellent Stardust. There is nice detail in those mids, but drummer Kenny Washington's brushes sounded slightly synthetic, too hazy to be real.
Dolby Pro Logic II also fills in a lot of blanks. In the LS-V500C's two-channel-stereo mode, Taj Mahal (dobro) and James Cotton (harmonica) ran through "Honky Tonk Woman" on Paint It Blue: Songs of the Rolling Stones with barely a sweat. In the single-setting Pro Logic II mode, which doesn't offer dimension settings or center-width fine-tuning, the added spaciousness and depth injected some soul into this Stones classic.
There's absolutely nothing to fear about the LS-V500C. It's the home theater equivalent of comfort food: an easy-to-swallow, compact system that's easy to set up, easy to control, and easy on the ears. If it were my choice, I'd investigate Onkyo's HT-S755DVC before you zero in on the LS-V500C. Of course, if your idea of Fear Factor is figuring out a complex home theater, you've found a friend in the LS-V500C.
• Optional speakers are keepers
• No fear factor: easy setup