Not just a pretty face: Looks before substance may be an unfair slogan to pin on JVC’s newest home-theater combination, but there is no denying the emphasis on looks. Pairing two speakers, the combination of the SP-FT and the AX-FT 4-channel amplifier is designed to match the latest breed of flat-screen televisions in being absurdly thin at just 31 mm in “thickness.” The amplifier emphasizes the minimalist style by confining the controls to a thin rectangle running along its top. The aim is to allow the home theater system to hang on a wall, like today’s favored slim-line TVs, but it can also nestle in the supplied stand.

Despite the lack of bulk, the speakers offer 15 watts each, which can be boosted to 30 watts. They operate in a frequency range of 110 Hz up to 23,000 Hz and have an 8-ohm impedance. Tipping the scales at 850 grams each, the pair employ magnetic shielding to avoid interfering with your TV. The amplifier can deliver 80 watts over four independent channels and can support Dolby Digital, DTA and AAC formats. It weighs a tad less at 730 grams and comes with three digital inputs and one analog. The combination goes on sale separately late this month. The speakers are expected to cost ¥20,000 for the duo with the amplifier likely to set you back around ¥24,000. Initially available in basic black, a white option will come out in November.

Whether this home theater sounds as good as it looks is likely to be a matter of personal taste. In general, speakers need bulk to create top sound quality, so it is unfair to expect top-drawer tunes from JVC’s slim pair. But compared to the acoustic abilities of even the best of flat-screen TVs they don’t have a lot of competition.

The best advice is if you need to augment your TV, and want something that matches its good looks, then test out JVC’s offering in the showroom. www.victor.co.jp/press/2009/sp-ft1.html

Ready for my closeup: Responding to a desire for an affordable option for the DX digital crowd, Nikon has come up with the AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 85 mm F3.5G ED VR II.

The new optic is a dedicated macro lens for closeup photography that can do double duty for portraiture. The use of nine rounded diaphragm blades is likely to boost the “bokeh appeal” (the preferred smooth look of out-of-focus parts of a picture) of the lens. It is constructed with 14 elements in 10 groups, including one ED glass element. The latest iteration of the 85-mm lineup focuses as close as around 27 cm, with reproduction ratios of up to 1:1 at a focal length equal to 127.5 mm in 35-mm terms.

The lens includes Nikon’s antishake Vibration Reduction II technology, which Nikon claims allows users to shoot up to four shutter speeds slower than usual. Traditional macro shooters are inclined to disdain such artificial aids, but the arrival in recent years of newer macro lenses with them are showing the virtue of the idea. Nikon includes its popular Silent Wave Motor (SWM) system to provide faster and quieter auto-focusing. A final feature that many photographers favor is internal focusing (IF), which prevents the front lens from rotating during focusing. At 355 grams the lens is much lighter than its famous stablemate and takes 52-mm filters.

With lenses, a good rule-of-thumb is that quality goes with size/cost of lenses. The new Nikkor will cost as little as ¥52,026, with stores putting it at ¥59,800, when it hits the market at yearend. www.nikon.co.jp/main/jpn/whatsnew/

Go anywhere bass: The laws of physics don’t allow for as much bass in headphones as normal speakers do. Audio Technica’s newest headphones are challenging the laws and targeting better bass.

The ATH-WS70 Solid Bass unit packs in a bigger than usual drive unit of 40 mm. It has a sound pressure of 100 dB/mW, in a frequency of 10 Hz to 25,000 Hz, and a 100-mW (max) impedance with 47 ohms. It also weighs in at 230 grams and comes with a 1.2-meter cord.

Looking more functional than attractive, the aluminum-made headphones promise good comfort with decent-size ear pads and cushioning in the band to stop the top of your head from feeling the effects of hours of booming beats. Priced at ¥12,600 when they go on sale Dec. 11, these headphones also remind us that comfort doesn’t come cheap. www.audio-technica.co.jp/products/hp/ath-ws70.html


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