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Samsung HT-WS1G Wall-Mountable Speaker System
If we're being blunt, most flatpanel TVs provide terrible sound quality, but not everyone has the cash or the space to upgrade to a full home cinema system, while others simply don't like the thought of cables messing up their carefully planned interior decor.
Dilemmas like these have created a strong demand for single-unit, wall-mountable speaker systems (or 'soundbars') that deliver powerful sound quality without making unreasonable demands on your living environment, or in the case of Samsung's HT-WS1G, your wallet.
This 2.1-channel system (oddly dubbed 'Crystal Surround Air Track') can be yours for under £260, but even at this tempting price Samsung hasn't compromised its usual design principles and aesthetic attention to detail - the HT-WS1G is pure eye candy and covered in clever touches.
The soundbar itself is incredibly slim and compact - much more so than most rivals - which makes it a breeze to wall-mount. Its one-metre width is exactly the same as a Samsung 40in TV, and the lustrous Platinum Black finish matches the company's sets perfectly, so when mounted below one the effect is stunning. But if you'd rather place it on a flat surface then it comes with a transparent stand that clips onto the bottom.
Samsung clearly didn't want to ruin the look by plonking a bright display panel on the front, so instead the unit features an array of subtle lights that disappear when idle. On the left side is a vertical row of blue lights that indicates the volume level, while on the right are two small LEDs that light up either red, green or blue depending on the audio format being received and the selected sound mode. Also on the right are touch-sensitive volume and power controls.
Also in the surprisingly large box, which contains more polystyrene than AV kit, is a subwoofer. Not only is this bass box powered (always preferable from a performance point of view) but it's also wireless, which minimises the amount of cables needed and lets you place it anywhere in the room regardless of where the soundbar is installed. But this is one sub you won't want to tuck away in a corner - its gloss-black top panel and curved edges make it easy on the eye, while its build quality is admirably robust.
On the back of the main unit are just two inputs, which keeps things simple but doesn't provide much flexibility if your player's outputs don't match. You get an optical digital audio input that accepts Dolby Digital, DTS and PCM streams, but you're screwed if your deck only sports a coaxial output. An analogue minijack serves your other stereo sources, for which you'll need an adapter cable. Needless to say the lack of HDMI inputs and HD audio decoding is a shame, but a bit much to ask at this price.
To spice up stereo sound, there's a selection of three sound field modes - News, Cinema and Music - which lend different characteristics to the sound depending on the content, or you can bypass them.