|Sherwood VR-670 Hollywood-at-Home Virtual Theater System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Tuesday, 01 August 2006|
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During my time as a reviewer for Audio Video Revolution, I’ve been fortunate enough to write about and enjoy many of today’s top home theater products from some of the most reputable manufacturers around. It’s a lot like being a kid in a candy store, really. So, when the call came in for my latest assignment, the VR-670 from Sherwood, I was more than happy to oblige. I’ve known about Sherwood for some time and, while I’ve never personally demoed any of their products, their reputation is such that I couldn’t wait for whatever was coming my way. You see, along with designing and manufacturing cutting-edge electronics under their own brand, Sherwood also manufactures several top of the line receivers for other companies as a part of their OEM (original equipment manufacturing) program. Naturally, my imagination began to run wild as I speculated about what balls-out receiver Sherwood had cooked up for little ol’ me to play with. However, when the box arrived at my office, it was neither what I had imagined nor what I would have expected from Sherwood. It was, for lack of a better description, a home theater in a box, except this home theater seemed to be missing a few speakers: three, to be exact. I immediately jumped onto Sherwood’s website and found that not only was the VR-670 not a fluke, but it was one of the many all-in-one solutions that Sherwood offers. Well alrighty then, clearly any manufacturer claiming to produce a true home theater experience complete with surround sound from only three speakers for a modest $399.95 had to be one of two things – crazy or brilliant. Seeing as how Sherwood has built a reputation around the latter, I put my skepticism on hold and pushed onward.
Out of the box, I was immediately taken by the VR-670’s striking good looks. The VR-670’s main unit, an all-in-one receiver/DVD player, had the kind of finish usually reserved for more boutique-style electronics. While its cloudy gray exterior may have been wall to wall plastic, its elegant sloping shape and illuminated controls helped sell the illusion of something much more exotic. Shaping up at four inches tall by 14 inches wide and 11 inches deep, the VR-670 was as easy to place in my system as it was on the eyes. Tipping the scales at just a hair under 12 pounds, the VR-670’s receiver is easy on the back, too. The main unit’s facade is pretty sparse compared to most of today’s electronics. It has a rather large display screen that glows a pale blue during normal operation. I quickly realized that half of the display’s virtual size was because of the DVD tray itself, which stealthily becomes one with the bottom of the display’s receded panel during playback of music or movies. A very cool feature. Resting just below the LCD display are the usual suspects of manual controls, ranging from power on/off to chapter skip. Turning my attention to the rear of the receiver/DVD player, I found few input options. Keep in mind, the VR-670 is an all-inclusive design; if you’re looking for versatility, I recommend examining some of the other product offerings from Sherwood. Starting off, the VR-670’s receiver/DVD player has a single component video out, as well as matching composite and S-Video outs. It features a single optical audio output, as well as two analog audio outs and two analog audio inputs. A subwoofer output rests next to the receiver/DVD player’s old-school dual pushpin speaker jacks. There are connections for both AM and FM antennas, as well as a hardwired power cord to round out the VR-670’s list of options.
The matching satellite speakers are straight out an episode of “Star Trek,” with their curved faces and sloping backs, while the subwoofer is a bit of the futuristic with a flair for the traditional, wrapped in an ebony wood veneer finish. The satellite speakers are smaller than most, at just under nine inches tall by a little over four inches wide and four-and-one-quarter inches deep. Behind the fixed plastic grilles, you can make out the two-and-a-half-inch midrange driver, as well as the single one-inch soft dome tweeter. The speakers themselves can be easily mounted to a wall via a pair of pre-drilled holes on the rear. If wall-mounting isn’t your cup of tea, the VR-670’s speakers are magnetically shielded, so placing them close to your television set is no problem. As for connections, a single pair of pushpin inputs is about par for the course for speakers in the VR-670’s category.
Turning my attention back to the sub, it is pretty elegant and surprisingly compact at 11 inches tall by eight inches wide and a foot deep, which should come in handy when placing it into small spaces such as a bedroom or office. It features a single downward-firing six-and-a-half-inch bass reflex driver, powered by an internal 100-watt amplifier. In terms of control, the sub has a rear-mounted crossover dial, as well as a phase adjustment switch and an auto sensing circuit. As for subwoofer volume, you’ll find the control on the sub’s face, which makes it very easy to make adjustments on the fly.
It’s easy to get caught up in appearances, but there’s more to the VR-670 than just a pretty face. Inside the VR-670’s receiver rests a rather modest (by today’s standards) 25-watt stereo amplifier. Now, I know that 25 watts doesn’t sound like a lot, but in my past life I was a fan of single-ended triode amplifiers which can make sweet, sweet music with as little as a single watt, so 25 seems like more than enough for a system like the VR-670. The VR-670 can play a variety of discs, such as standard CD, DVD, DVD-R/RW, CD-R/RW, MP3, VCD, SVCD, JPEG and finally Kodak Picture CD. The VR-670 can decode both Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks, despite only having two speakers. Beyond Dolby Digital and DTS, the VR-670 also features Dolby Virtual Speaker settings, as well as Dolby Headphone decoding software that can be used in conjunction with the VR-670’s headphone jack located on the front of the receiver/DVD player. The VR-670 also features progressive scanning through its component output. If you’re having trouble waking up in the morning, the VR-670 comes equipped with a digital clock, as well as a timer for system on/off that can wake you with the sound of your favorite music, movie or radio station.
Which brings me to the remote. The VR-670 breaks company with its otherwise good looks and goes with a more traditional receiver-like remote control. By “traditional,” I mean out of date and impossible to navigate. Forget backlighting, this baby’s controls are barely readable in broad daylight. Sure, once I learned where everything was, I could manage my way through it with a reasonable success rate. However, if you’re watching a movie at say 2 AM while your girlfriend is asleep, you don’t want to be guessing which button controls the volume when the car onscreen decides to suddenly explode. Damn you, “Transporter 2.”
Once I had the VR-670 out of the box, I knew exactly where it was going: my bedroom. I chose my bedroom for two reasons. First, I had my main room all dialed in for another review and second, I’ve never had any sort of system in my bedroom before. So into the bedroom it went. Sherwood’s website claims that even inexperienced users can have the VR-670 up and running in their homes in less than 10 minutes. Wanting to see if there was any truth to Sherwood’s claim, I timed myself. How’d I do? Approximately six minutes, and that included the time it took me to talk my girlfriend into letting me put speakers in the bedroom. Not bad. I connected the VR-670’s receiver/DVD player to my smallish Samsung CRT TV’s component inputs and used a pair of standard RCA cables to route the TV’s audio to the VR-670 and, boom, the hard part was over. I placed the VR-670’s speakers on either side of the television and the sub went off to the side of the low console table that housed all my electronics for the time being. I cycled through the VR-670’s various set-up menus and found everything to be in order right out of the box. It simply doesn’t get any easier than this. Now the question I was eager to answer was whether the VR-670 could do surround sound.