However, it’s worth pointing out that the HTS6100 never comes close to replicating the 360 degree effect of a real 5.1-channel system. At no point did we feel that the effects were coming from behind the listening position, which makes Philips’ claims of ‘truly embracing multi-channel surround sound’ and ‘an immersive 5.1 sound experience’ seem a little wide of the mark. Not that we’re surprised of course, as we’re yet to hear a 2.1 system that sounds as good as a proper 5.1 setup, and as virtual surround goes Philips provides one of the better examples.
But once you accept the system’s limitations, you’re free to enjoy its other attributes, such as the subwoofer’s rich, visceral bass output that lends heft to Dennis Hopper’s beloved bombs, and the terrific bass/treble balance that never leaves the sound feeling too muddy or too bright. CD playback is hugely enjoyable in stereo mode, bringing a crispness and warmth to a range of musical styles, while MP3 and WMA files played from a USB stick sound clean and detailed – hats off to FullSound.
We’re also pleased to say that despite the lack of Faroudja DCDi processing, the HTS6100 does a stand-up job of upscaling SD DVD material to 1080p, reproducing our test movie’s visuals with decent depth, richness and clarity. There’s a pinch of grubby noise visible in the deep blue LA skies and you can discern a few jagged edges here and there, but on the whole the images are very rewarding.
A word of advice – don’t approach the HTS6100, or any of its soundbar stablemates, thinking you’re going to get the same 5.1-channel performance as a proper six-speaker setup, because you’re not. The HTS6100 is a different animal altogether, but if you adjust your expectations accordingly you’re likely to be very impressed by what the HTS6100 has to offer – we certainly were.
Ambisound produces a remarkable wide soundstage, resulting in one of the best virtual surround performances we’ve heard, while the ultra-stylish design, easy installation and cracking picture quality provide further reasons to whip out your wallet. So if you’ve decided that a front surround system is the way to go, then Philips is the best ‘bar’ none. Sorry.
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