There are also a series of image presets for you to choose from (though we’d recommend you stick with Standard), Gamma and Chroma Delay adjustments, and a ‘True Life’ system which, so far as we can tell, enhances the image’s sharpness.
On the audio side of things, a setup menu is provided for the system’s surround sound audio processing (dubbed Ambisound by Philips) that includes such options as room acoustics, room placement and listening position.
Firing up the HTS8140 with the surprisingly good horse drama Seabiscuit and, of course, the opening 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan, I was immediately impressed by the HTS8140’s performance talents – and my enthusiasm only grew over more extended viewing.
Starting as seems proper with the system’s audio, the sheer scale of the soundstage the bar produces is really quite remarkable. With the Ambisound processing set to Multi-channel, the audio is pushed so high and wide around your living room that you almost completely forget that all the audio information is coming from the relatively diminutive soundbar.
What’s more, the effects we’re talking about are genuinely placed with precision. The general, muddy ‘ambient noise’ effect heard with lesser soundbar systems is replaced by clearly delineated treble and bass separation, and a keen sense of film ‘geography’ - even with the sounds that find their way to the extreme edges of the soundstage range.
Crucially, though, while the sound beam-based Sonowave technology at Ambisound’s heart is clearly terrific at pushing audio effects far and wide, it also knows which effects and, especially, dialogue need to be kept locked in place in the speaker, tightly positioning them directly under the action you’re watching. There’s no sense of dialogue seeping unnaturally away from the screen into other parts of your living room.
The HTS8140 is mostly successful when it comes to bass, as well. There’s certainly plenty of it, with the subwoofer using its sheer size to full effect to produce some truly prodigious rumbles from Saving Private Ryan’s exploding shells or Seabiscuit’s racing hooves.
In an ideal world, the bass produced from the soundbar rather than the subwoofer would be a touch more clean; a touch of muddiness creeps in there from time to time. But the bass crossover point between the soundbar’s and the subwoofer is well judged, so this muddiness is generally quite nicely disguised by the emergence of the subwoofer.
As for volume levels, we cranked things up extremely high without any distortion in the speakers, and without any unwanted rattles from the soundbar or its disc tray. A little harshness creeps in at really high volumes, but we’re talking about levels of racket that will be way beyond what most normal folk will want to tolerate anyway.