Philips HTS8100 SoundBar
- Innovative ambisound technology simulates 5.1 surround sound without the need for rear speakers, DVD upscaling to 1080p, Great design
- Some distortion, Relatively weak bass, DVD playback was marred by image noise, Limited input options
The Philips HTS8100 is a great option for those without the space for a full 5.1 surround sound setup, but its relatively average performance in other areas prevents it from being an outstanding product.
Price$ 1,299.95 (AUD)
Philips' new HTS8100 home theatre is a somewhat new take on the way we currently experience surround sound with home theatre systems. Comprised of a single 'bar', encompassing a DVD player, directional speakers, and a subwoofer, the HTS8100 uses Ambisound technology to simulate a 5.1 surround sound setup. While this doesn't manage to create a perfect environment, like you'd get with separate speakers, it's nevertheless a good option for those with limited space. To its credit, Philips has also beefed up the DVD player, with upscaling to full, 1080p high definition, making the HTS8100 a solid choice for users looking to 'future proof' their purchase a little.
While the system does deliver a very balanced audio range, without a large bias towards a specific sound, there was some noticeable distortion at all but the lowest of volume levels. Lacking in fine detail, the system nevertheless performs respectably for general movie and music use, but those looking for high levels of clarity and definition may be disappointed. Additionally, despite a large and slick looking subwoofer, we found bass to be rather weak in our tests. While suitable for most tastes, it might not live up to the expectations of bass-hungry users.
One of the HTS8100's biggest attractions is its ability to simulate a 5.1 surround sound without the need for separate rear speakers. It does this by using multiple audio channels and its customisable "ambisound" technology, which can be customised according to the speaker's position in the room, distance from the listening position, and whether the room has 'hard' or 'soft' walls. While we found that the HTS8100 definitely produced a listening environment superior to that of a stereo system, it ultimately failed to compete with a well-designed, 'true' 5.1 system. Nevertheless, the ambisound technology that it employs is an innovative and impressive development.
More than just a speaker system, however, the HTS8100 also delivers DVD upscaling up to 1080p, helping to bring your old DVD collection to the world of high definition. Unfortunately, we noticed a distinct amount of background noise in our tests, detracting from image quality. Although this was lessened when the image was upscaled, it is nevertheless a noticeable problem.
Philips has designed a very attractive product in the HTS8100. The bar-shaped speaker has a vertical DVD drive in the centre, with a stylish glass front panel. The matching black subwoofer suits the bar well, although the thick bunch of cables that connects it to the main unit may put off some users. Connection options, in terms of outputs, are quite good, including HDMI, Component and composite. However, input is limited to a single, RCA analogue input and a coaxial digital on the subwoofer, meaning that AV enthusiasts won't be able to connect more than a pair of separate products to the system. This is quite a big drawback for a system like this one.
Overall, the HTS8100 is somewhat of a niche product. If you've got the space for a full 5.1 surround sound home theatre, then it's hard to justify paying for this. On the other hand, it provides an elegant solution for those with limited space, delivering impressive performance compared to other, comparably sized devices.
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