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Power is one thing, but the ability to harness it is quite another, and sadly these speakers don't show the level of control needed at loud volumes to really blow us away. Top-end frequencies have a hard edge, most notably the screeching cries of the Fell Beasts as they swoop overhead, and Gollum's voice is raspier than usual.
As a result, loud battle scenes make for an uncomfortable listen, a bit like someone putting a saucepan over your head and bashing it with a metal stick, and on this evidence we suggest throwing those Bio Kelp cones back in the sea. To be fair the sound does improve once you've turned V-Sound off, but in doing so you lose the more expansive soundstage it offers.
There is some good stuff to report though. The sub generates a decent amount of low-end rumble, making the thud of marching armies and the erupting Mount Doom sound suitably weighty. And away from the action-packed stuff, it's not too bad - dialogue is competently handled, and gentle background effects are conveyed with reasonable detail.
With CD playback it's not quite the disaster we were expecting either. In straight stereo, Flamenco Sketches by Miles Davis sounds surprisingly smooth, with Coltrane's sax work sounding rich and mellifluous and Davis' trumpet being delivered with a far less grating tone than some one-box systems.
The system's DVD picture quality is above average, particularly when delivered via HDMI at 1080p. Edges are well defined and mostly free from jaggies, detail retrieval is superb and our test movie's varied colour palette looks strong and natural.
It's hard not to be seduced by this system's gorgeous looks. The distinctive speakers and attention-grabbing main unit will add a splash of cutting-edge class to any living room, particularly when paired with a Samsung flatpanel TV. Equally attractive is the amount of features on board for the money, with the iPod cradle being a particularly generous addition.
But sadly the HT-X720G is like your average page 3 model - looks great but not particularly talented. Behind that glamorous exterior the HT-X720G is a flawed performer, with harsh and unrefined sound quality that makes movies much less enjoyable than they should be. Perhaps we shouldn't have expected miracles from a £300 system, but we've heard better for the money (from some of Samsung's other 2.1 systems, in fact) and the decent music playback and DVD picture quality aren't enough to redeem it.
Scores In Detail