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Denon DHT-FS5 X-Space Soundbar - Denon DHT-FS5
As for sound quality, a run through of Pearl Harbor piped digitally from a Pioneer DVD deck reveals that the FS5 is a powerful and assured performer, plus it confounds our expectations by delivering a very convincing approximation of 5.1-channel sound - and it's not often we say that about a soundbar.
It's also hard to believe that such a compact unit could generate so much bass, but the attack on Pearl Harbor is all the proof we need. The swooping plane effects and huge explosions are delivered with such gut-wrenching force that we had to turn it down several times to prevent the neighbours from calling the police - and that's without a subwoofer connected. What's more, activating SDB makes a big difference to the depth of the low frequency effects, making it a useful addition to the feature list.
But it's also proficient higher up the frequency range, with the FS5's forthright midrange and treble propelling this breathtaking scene along at a rate of knots. Gunshots and ricocheting bullets are conveyed with eardrum-shattering sharpness and attack; shouts, screams and intermittent dialogue cut through the cacophony with ease and the propulsive presentation of the score injects plenty of drama and energy.
But even more impressive is the expansive soundstage, with X-Space beaming surround effects deep into the room and making certain passages of Pearl Harbor completely envelop the listening position. The best illustration is the scene in which Cuba Gooding Jr. is boxing on the ship's deck - the noise of the baying crowd sounds like it's coming from all around the room - but it'll also have you ducking for cover during the Pearl Harbor attack. You do have to move about a bit to find the sweet spot, but once there the effect is rewarding.
There's also a warmth and attention to detail in its music playback that you simply wouldn't get through TV speakers, and the Music DSP mode earns its stripes by making music sound more open and colourful then straight stereo.
The Denon DHT-FS5 is the rarest of creatures - a ‘front surround' system that actually delivers something approaching true 5.1 channel sound. In fact it packs a real punch in all areas of its audio performance, making it one of the best soundbars we've encountered. It's also incredibly easy to use and although it lacks a bit of cosmetic pizzazz, the neat and unimposing design should make it a welcome addition to your living room. Our only qualm is the price, as you can pick up a full 5.1 system for less, but its high quality performance certainly won't leave you feeling short-changed.
Scores In Detail