One of the biggest benefits of flat-panel TVs is that they can be mounted on the wall, but unfortunately the rest of your home cinema system can't. Until now, that is. A new type of home cinema system has emerged that can be fixed to the wall directly below your set - and the use of clever sonic technology means they can generate 5.1-channel surround sound without the need for satellite speakers and mounds of cables.
These so-called ‘soundbars' are a tidy, convenient and stylish solution, which makes them perfect partners for plasma and LCD TVs. This version from Philips is one of only a handful on the market, and at just under £500 it's not bad value for such a desirable and well-featured piece of kit.
The system comprises just two boxes - a wall-mountable main unit that plays DVDs and CDs, and an active subwoofer. Built into the main unit is an advanced digital sound processing technology called Ambisound, which features six independent speaker drivers positioned at precise angles that steer sound beams into the room to create genuine 5.1 surround sound. But the effect isn't dependent on reflections off walls; instead, Philips says the beams envelop the listener in sound, which means there's no sweet spot - the effect is the same wherever you're sitting in the room.
As the HTS8100 is designed to be mounted underneath a flat-panel TV, it comes as no surprise that it's drop dead gorgeous. All of the amplification is housed inside the subwoofer, which means the main unit is just 13cm thick, and it's finished in alluring gloss black and brushed aluminium.
But the biggest wow factor comes from the disc loading mechanism, a glass door which slides across at the touch of a button and allows you to click the disc into place. The subwoofer is similarly styled in gloss black but compared to the svelte main unit it's quite a beast, which might make it difficult to hide. The two components are connected to the main unit with a cable that will need to be concealed or camouflaged if you're mounting the system on the wall.