In action, the SoundWare XS Digital Cinema is a revelation. It delivers a terrific 2.1-channel performance with both movies and music, demonstrating the sort of poise, punch and coherence you’d expect from a more expensive three-channel system.
When we piped a Dolby Digital bitstream from a Blu-ray deck into the optical input, we were treated to an assertive, dynamic and smooth performance with adrenalin-fuelled action scenes. Quiet scenes are relayed with great subtlety too. The impact of Movie mode is too understated to greatly enhance your enjoyment but it does gently widen the soundstage.
Switching to music, it’s as comfortable blasting out the hip-hop beats of Q-Tip’s The Renaissance as it is with Gretchen Parlato’s sweet, sultry jazz.
Treble is crisp and poised but never bright, while the assured subwoofer lends the perfect level of depth to low frequencies without overpowering the satellites – hats off to Boston’s BassTrac technology. It’s taut and powerful, but because it’s so natural-sounding and seamless you don’t really notice it doing its thing (provided it’s adjusted properly). Every instrument, voice or effect is given the chance to shine.
This terrific high-frequency clarity and low-end solidity is married to assured midrange reproduction, which allows movie and TV dialogue to cut through the busiest of scenes even without a dedicated centre channel. No matter what we played the results were never anything less than sparkling.
We really can’t stress enough how impressed we are by the SoundWare XS Digital Cinema. If you’re dead against a full 5.1 system then this is the perfect alternative. Its cute, living room friendly design is easy to integrate into your living space, plus it boasts a couple of unexpected features (Bluetooth and Dolby Digital being the main two) and a simple but effective control system. But more importantly, its sound quality is fantastic – crisp and punchy but with a touch of class and composure that’s really pleasing to hear at such an affordable price point.