So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
A simple and stylish sound-bar system
- Stylish, simple to set up, Ambisound surround effect is great
- Not as streamlined as a regular sound-bar, surround sound still doesn't stand up to real 5.1
Philips’ newest sound-bar works well as an unobtrusive addition to your home theatre, fitting in well with the most recent LCD and plasma panels. The addition of a subwoofer means it isn't as streamlined as other sound-bars, but it does provide a welcome boost to bass response.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
The Philips HTS6100 is a sound-bar system with the added attraction of decent low frequency response from a dedicated subwoofer. It performs well in terms of sound quality and its virtual surround settings are surprisingly convincing.
The HTS6100 has subtle good looks — unobtrusive black speaker grills with a glossy black panel in the centre of the unit. This panel acts as both a cover for the system’s DVD player and as a display, providing all the necessary information and statistics. The sound-bar can either be set up directly under an LCD or plasma screen on a table, or wall-mounted with the included kit. It shares its looks and features with its older, more expensive brother the HTS8100 — including an iPod dock — but has the advantage of a more appealing pricetag.
An important part of this system is the subwoofer. It’s designed to complement the sound-bar by filling lower frequencies, without disrupting the virtual surround effects. The HTS6100’s subwoofer is designed to be unobtrusive, but it is slightly tall for our liking — perhaps if Philips had made it slightly larger, it could have been disguised as a footstool! Despite its relatively large size, it only employs a six-inch driver, so it won’t be kicking out any floor-shaking frequencies.
Like most other sound-bar units, the HTS6100 has Dolby Digital and DTS decoding built-in, with its own matrix system for creating a surround effect from the single unit. The unit lacks the A/V switching functions of the HTS8100, with its inputs instead restricted to a 3.5mm jack for an MP3 player and a USB port for playing JPEG, DiVX, MP3, WMA and WAV files.
In terms of output the HTS6100 doesn’t suffer. It’s got the usual repertoire of composite, component and HDMI, with up-scaling possible to 1080p. However, this up-scaling is only available over HDMI — so if you’re one of the few consumers with a high-definition TV with no HDMI inputs you’ll be out of luck.
When it comes down to sound quality, the HTS6100 is impressive for an integrated unit. We found that the Ambisound surround sound mode improved audio so we left it on constantly. It’s never going to recreate the experience of having discrete speakers placed in the correct locations, but the HTS6100’s virtual surround sound approximation did an admirable job.
Treble was great — crisp and clear without sounding harsh at moderate volumes. It was slightly cold, however, making it a little lacklustre for music. Mid-range was surprisingly balanced. It’s a little recessed compared to other frequency ranges, thanks to the relatively small speaker drivers within the sound-bar, but it’s still well handled.
Bass is an area where sound-bars fall short due to their compact dimensions. The obvious solution to this is to include a dedicated subwoofer; Philips has done exactly this with good results. Bass isn’t deep or boomy — thanks to the relatively small driver size of the subwoofer — but it does add a lower frequency dimension to sound that is appreciated.
We found that there were a few times during our test DVD of The Matrix that audio appeared to be produced from the sides of the room. With the knowledge that there were no speakers there it was a little disquieting, but for a more casual listener this should be a pleasant experience. If you don’t want the hassle of correctly running wires to and placing six different speakers, this sound-bar is a decent compromise.
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