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Philips HTS6515/05 2.1-Channel Home Cinema System
It may seem like sacrilege to home cinema purists, but 2.1-channel systems are becoming just as popular as full 5.1 systems. After all, not everyone has the space or the appropriate room layout to house rear speakers, so three-channel systems offer an ideal compromise.
The lack of rear and centre speakers means that manufacturers have to come up with ways of replicating the 5.1 experience from just two speakers, and we've heard a range of different technologies that make this possible, from Sony's S-Force Front Surround to Onkyo's Theater Dimensional via Dolby Virtual Speaker. The results range from useless to moderately convincing, and Philips' Ambisound usually sits somewhere in the middle, so we're eager to find out how it fares on the company's latest 2.1 system, the HTS6515.
But before we get to that, let's take a moment to admire the system's design, which is quite frankly staggering. Philips has already created some of the most stylish 2.1-channel systems ever seen (just check out the exquisite HTS6600 for proof) but with this system the company has really pushed the boat out. The gloss black and silver main unit looks genuinely elegant, and offers a variety of mounting options. For the tabletop, there's a silver stand that clips onto the bottom, but the unit is so slim that it can be wall mounted using the supplied bracket. But the thing that's guaranteed to elicit the most gasps of delight is the disc loading mechanism - press Open and the large circle on top raises up and swings to the side, allowing you to pop in a DVD or CD. Pure class.
The accompanying speakers (which can also be wall-mounted) are robust and heavy, with each one containing three 2.5in full range integrated drivers that perform Ambisound's pseudo-surround wizardry. There's also a powered subwoofer, which is bigger than the other components put together, but it's certainly one of the better looking woofers we've come across and its upright design means it has a fairly small footprint.