March 11, 2008 by Gordon Jones
It’s been interesting to watch the new soundbars popping up in the various home theater mags and review sites. Obviously, they’re a reaction to the less-is-more crowd as well as those of you/us that have encountered pushback on installing surrounds in, say, the bedroom. While I have yet to test any of the current offerings, it appears that they may be the only acceptable solution if I’m ever to enjoy U-571 while in my jammies.
The Philips HTS8100 is one of the more attractive models in this new class, both in looks and features. The 5-inch deep bar has a modern styling and can be easily wall-mounted or set on a shelf. The tweeters are soft dome and designed for full midrange performance, though reviewers felt they worked better on movies than straight music. There’s also a 3-band equalizer and a “Smart Surround” technology that automatically adapts the surround settings based on content. A separate subwoofer handles the lows and can be placed several feet from the bar.
What sets the Philips apart from the other soundbars is it’s integrated DVD/CD/SACD player concealed by the motorized faceplate. Yes, I’ve been burned before by all-in-ones, but I can see where Philips is going - one less component and even fewer wires. That might be worth the risk. Also included is an FM tuner, iPod port, USB, component and HDMI (w/ video upscaling) and several audio-in jacks.
The science of getting pseudo-5.1 sound from a single source is a fascinating subject involving a lot of array processing, several well-placed drivers, and a degree or two in psycho-acoustics. Obviously, no one, including Philips, is claiming these bars produce the same spatial qualities that separate speakers can, but if you’re limited to a front-only scenario, or just really hate running wires, this new class of speaker provides the best/latest solution.
Sale price: $549.99 + $49.80 s/h
Deal ends: n/a
Buy now: www.jr.com
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