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Turning to the system’s convenience features, meanwhile, it’s good – if not surprising these days – to find that the HT953TV is compatible with HDMI’s CEC communications system, ensuring that you can control it using the TV’s remote.
Even more nifty is the system’s USB Direct Recording feature. This allows you to dump in MP3 form any CDs you’re playing in the system’s disc tray direct to a connected, compatible MP3 player or USB memory stick. The USB port that makes this function possible can also be used to play MP3, WMA, JPEG and DivX files through the system.
If you’re one of the legions of iPod users, don’t worry; you haven’t been forgotten. For the HT953TV supports iPod docking, complete with iPod control via the system’s remote control.
There’s more feature friendliness, too, in the shape of 1080p upscaling from the system’s DVD deck; an HD AV Sync feature to help you avoid the lip-synch problems sometimes associated with HD TVs and broadcasts; touch-sensitive controls on the main control unit; and a colossal (and quite probably very optimistic) claimed total power output of 1,000W.
Before immersing ourselves in the HT953TV’s hopefully groundbreaking surround sound performance, it’s worth dwelling for a moment on other aspects of the system’s connectivity beyond the USB and iPod ports we’ve already covered. For these include an optical audio input so that external devices like a PS3 or Sky HD box can make use of the system’s audio talents, and the HDMI output necessary to ship the deck’s 1080p images to a suitably talented TV.
And so to the moment of truth: does the HT953TV sound as good as it looks? And does its much-vaunted 10.1 system actually deliver the goods?
Starting out in straight 5.1 mode, it’s quickly apparent that the HT953TV uses its unusually large size to deliver one of the most potent and dynamic soundstages we’ve heard from an all-in-one system. Those floorstanding speakers really do manage to produce veritable walls of immersive sound in front of and behind you, yet they do so without compromising the geographical accuracy of spot effects that’s so important in creating a convincing film or game soundtrack.
In other words, if a Splicer in Xbox 360 smash Bioshock (which I’ve strangely found myself playing again lately) is sneaking up from somewhere over your right shoulder, that’s exactly where you’ll hear them coming from – against a wider spread of rear-channel audio ambience that really locates you in the game’s terrifying world with remarkable conviction.
It’s worth stating, too, that despite the truly impressive power of the HT953TV’s floorstanding speakers, they’re carefully calibrated so that they never overwhelm the dialogue emerging – with clarity and richness – from the system’s centre speaker.
The size and power of the four main speakers also helps the HT953TV circumvent another common all-in-one system failing: detached bass. The likeably low but well-controlled rumblings of the subwoofer blend nearly seamlessly with the bottom end of the main speakers’ range, leaving no obvious bass ‘gap’.