Harman Kardon HS 100

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Harman Kardon HS 100
  • Harman Kardon HS 100
  • Harman Kardon HS 100
  • Harman Kardon HS 100

Pros

  • Looks great, sounds great, good feature set

Cons

  • A few more inputs/outputs would be nice

Bottom Line

An excellent home cinema system that performs well in every aspect

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It's amazing how much impact a set of decent speakers can have. It's the difference between simply watching a movie and feeling immersed in its atmosphere. There are plenty of mediocre home cinema sets around that don't really do the job, with poor surround and weak bass. Thankfully Harman Kardon's HS100 overcomes both these problems. The surround effect sweeps round the room in breathtaking fashion and the bass is so earth-shatteringly powerful that you may need to fasten down loose ornaments.

The HS100 is billed as a total home cinema kit, replete with both a 5.1 speaker setup and an AV receiver with DVD player. It represents an ideal system for those who are new to home cinema. Every aspect of the system feels fine tuned. Setting up the system is made as simple as possible through a useful set of colour coded labels. The HS100's on screen setup is also incredibly simple to follow. Audiovisual adjustments can easily be made using Harman Kardon's built in test screens and other settings can all be altered from a system of self explanatory menus. From unpacking the box to using the system took us no longer than 15 minutes.

Complementing the HS100's ease of use is its beautiful aesthetics. The petite yet powerful speakers will unobtrusively fit into any living room. All five speakers are finished in an attractive silver colour with hard wearing metallic gauze. Harman Kardon has provided enough wiring to enable the satellites to be placed pretty much anywhere and wall mounts are provided for extra flexibility. The subwoofer is a bit of a leviathan at nearly 50cm tall, but its minimalist design means it won't look too out of place in the living room. The great thing about bass frequencies is that they are non-directional; if you don't like the look of the subwoofer you can hide it behind the sofa and it will be just as effective; we can attest to that!

The second part of the system is the AV receiver. Though it has a different colour scheme it is another pinnacle of design. The front of the receiver boasts a DVD tray, a snazzy glowing volume control dial, the LCD display and nothing more. To make things prettier the buttons have all been placed on the top of the unit. This may be more aesthetically pleasing but if you like to stack your AV units you may find accessing the buttons a bit of a nuisance. With a fully featured remote control this shouldn't be too much of a gripe. The receiver has a good range of output options including Composite, S-Video, SCART and Component, but we would have liked to see a few more. Coaxial and Optical digital inputs are also provided. Another nice feature is the inclusion of an FM radio.

We found the performance of the DVD player to be about average for this kind of system, the display is good and pretty much every feature is covered. As we would expect, support for HD displays is provided through the component output and Dolby Digital and DTS are also catered for. Navigating the player's various commands using either the on screen display or the remote control is easy. One nice feature is the ability to play audio files and view photos. On inserting a disc with MP3, WMA or JPEG files the HS100 will scan the disc and start playing any audio files while simultaneously scrolling through the images. We did encounter a few problems when attempting to play WMA files, but MP3s and JPEGs worked flawlessly.

Perhaps the most important aspect of any home cinema system is its acoustic performance. The HS100 does not disappoint with a powerful yet complete sound. The subwoofer is a floor design, meaning that the 10 inch speaker is pointing directly in to the ground. This means that the bass frequencies travel even further than usual, creating an almost earthquake-like effect. During testing we had most of the office up in arms about the noise; at only 40% volume the sound could be heard four rooms away. Yet despite this immense power the sound is far from brutal, beautifully complementing the output from the satellite speakers. The bass is never overpowering and fits the overall tone perfectly. The satellites themselves are correspondingly good, with excellent frequency range and crisp, lifelike sound. Combined with the subwoofer they produce an outstanding sound-scape and the surround effect is perfect.

There is very little to dislike about the HS100. It produces incredible sound, has good DVD playback and it looks good too. Enthusiasts may complain about the lack of inputs but for anyone looking to step in the world of home cinema the HS100 is an ideal package.

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