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We loaded up Jurassic Park on DVD and the HT32S communicates the movie's rollercoaster action with plenty of energy and detail. Crisp effects are propelled into the soundstage, John Williams' score sounds majestic and the roar of dinosaurs excites but never grates. What's more, the lashing rain during the T-Rex's iconic introduction sounds expansive with the Virtual surround mode activated, and although you never get the feeling that surround effects are behind you, the soundstage is certainly much wider than the 'Normal' setting. The overall sound is surprisingly powerful, too, allowing the system to make quite an impact even at half volume.
But as we said, it's not the best we've ever heard. Although high frequencies don't make you wince like some systems, the sound still lacks sophistication, with a tinge of brightness creeping in here and there. We're also unconvinced by the subwoofer, which fails to kick out enough bass to make action scenes shake the foundations. You can crank up its volume in the setup menu, but when you do it gets boomy and loses cohesion.
We also tried out a range of CDs and the system delivers a performance that belies its price tag. OK there's a bit too much 'colour' to give staunch audiophiles anything to get excited about, but it displays a surprising deftness of touch with gentle material, and a decent sense of timing with up-tempo rock and pop - all of which makes for an enjoyable listen. And surprisingly this pleasing performance is achieved with the Virtual surround mode turned on, which under normal circumstances would be to a music lover what garlic is to a vampire, but it provides a sense of openness that makes the other presets sound flat by comparison.
Picture quality is terrific - put the 1080p upscaling to work and you'll be treated to clean, smooth edges, sharply focused detail and radiant colours. It's not completely free from noise but for this sort of money we can't complain.
The HT32S offers much better performance than you have any right to expect for a system costing just over £200 online. There are some tell-tale signs of its budget origins but on the whole it sidesteps many of the classic one-box weaknesses to deliver clean, enjoyable sound with movies and music. Throw decent pictures and nifty features into the mix and you've got yourself a real bargain, although if you want to hook up HDMI sources or upgrade to 5.1 in the future you'd better look elsewhere.
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