A home theatre sound-bar
If you don't want the trouble of placing five speakers plus a subwoofer and running a mess of wires to an external amplifier, then this product may be another option. The PT8051 from Altec Lansing is a sound-bar with two main components — a large front speaker that covers the stereo and centre channels and a wireless rear speaker that handles surround effects.
- Easy to set up, great for dialogue
- No evident bass, not very powerful, no display panel, expensive
The PT8051 is an impressive integrated unit. It handles movie audio well, despite not having a subwoofer and relying on flat-panel speaker technology. It's also easy to set up and can decode digital signals from DVD and Blu-ray players.
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
Installation of the unit is very easy. Both units are quite sizeable — the front speaker is over a metre wide, while the rear speaker is slightly more than half that — and weighty (12.5kg combined), but they're easy to position. The rear speaker is designed for wireless operation, so only a power cable is needed; the speaker can be wall-mounted using the included bracket.
Three stereo RCA connections are included on the back of the main sound-bar, as well as one coaxial and two optical digital ports. A subwoofer pre-out RCA is also included, so you can add a powered subwoofer for a little extra low-frequency kick. A composite video out allows an on-screen display to be shown on your TV for access to the PT8051's advanced setup options.
The PT8051 is a virtual 5.1 system, with 125 Watts RMS of power. While this isn't as impressive as some of the other bundled systems we've looked at — the 800 Watt LG AR702TS comes to mind — it's still more than enough to fill a medium-sized room with sound.
When testing the sound-bar, we ran copies of The Matrix DVD and The Fifth Element Blu-ray disc through a Samsung BD-P1000. We tested their sound through both the device's optical digital input and its analog connection.
Throughout both movies, the PT8051 performed quite well. Dialogue is exceptionally clear and rich, surpassing all other aural elements. The system doesn't have quite the dynamic range necessary for music, but is a great option for the avid movie watcher. The wireless rear speaker performs well as a complement to the main unit, although it doesn't have any independent volume controls.
Treble is generally crisp, but never overpowers other frequencies. It's definitely well balanced and lends a slight sharpness to movie audio without causing fatigue to the listener. Even at higher volumes, treble remained even and clear, with no harshness evident.
Mid-range elements of audio were slightly more prevalent than we'd expected from such a relatively thin unit. Using the increasingly common NXT flat-panel speaker technology, Altec Lansing has tuned the PT8051 to emphasise vocal elements during movies, as well as compensate for the lack of a subwoofer. Middle frequencies were warm and rich, giving the system a pleasant sound.
Bass, as expected, was largely absent. It's difficult to extract anything more than treble and middle frequencies from small speakers, so Altec Lansing doesn't even try. Because of this, there's no floor-shaking bass evident — but at least there's no distortion from over-stretched speakers. Thankfully there is the aforementioned option of connecting a subwoofer for that extra punch.
Even without a subwoofer included, the PT8051 is capable of recreating most movie sound effects well and creating a sense of immersion. DTS and Dolby Digital Pro Logic II audio decoding is available on-board. This is more than enough to decode DVD and standard Blu-ray audio, but be aware that this product can't handle high-definition audio formats.
If you don't have the space or the patience to set up a full home theatre system, then the Altec Lansing PT8051 sound-bar is a good compromise. It offers great audio playback for dialogue-heavy movies and does an acceptable job of recreating most sound effects as well. It costs slightly more than competing full home theatre systems, but if you need its specific form factor then it's an acceptable price.
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