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Philips HTS8100 Soundbar DVD System - Philips HTS8100
Connections on the rear of the main unit include an HDMI output, capable of firing 720p, 1080i and 1080p video signals to a flat-panel TV, plus component video output and an RGB-capable SCART output. Tucked down the side of the unit are a USB port, a connection for an iPod dock and a 3.5mm minijack input for other MP3 players. The subwoofer is equipped with sockets for FM and AM antennas, a coaxial digital audio input and a stereo audio input for playing back external sources through the system.
There's a decent range of features on board, including Faroudja DCDi deinterlacing, support for Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks, Dolby Pro Logic II and a wealth of equaliser settings with names like MTV, RnB and Cartoon. Their effect is minimal, but fun to play around with.
File compatibility is also wide-ranging, taking in all versions of DivX (up to and including Ultra) plus MP3, WMA and JPEG, all of which can be played back from DVD, CD or via USB. Rounding up the feature list are FM and AM radio tuners, and DoubleBASS - a Philips DSP algorithm that takes bass frequencies below 30Hz and recreates them in the subwoofer's audible range.
Installing the system couldn't be easier. The wall-mounting bracket is supplied in the box, and anyone with an ounce of DIY knowledge should have no problem slinging it on the wall. The menu system is straightforward too, allowing you to make basic tweaks to the Ambisound setup or change the HDMI output resolution with minimum hassle. We're also impressed by the remote, which is reassuringly heavy, well laid-out and styled to match the main unit, right down to the silver trim around the playback buttons.
In terms of performance, the big question is whether Ambisound technology really does create convincing 5.1-channel surround sound or not. Well, a blast of The Matrix on DVD demonstrates that the results are nowhere near as well separated or accurate as a true 5.1-channel setup, but the overall effect is light years ahead of any 2.1-channel virtual surround systems currently doing the rounds.