The TV5 is an upgraded version of Cambridge Audio’s TV2 soundbase, designed to support larger TVs. With its increased size and extra subwoofer, it aims to take the TV2’s impressive performance to the next level, delivering a loud, powerful sound that puts tinny TV speakers to shame. It adds a hefty £100 premium to the TV2’s price, but if you have a large TV and a big room to fill it could be money well spent.
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With its blocky bodywork and simple black styling, the TV5 is no oil painting, but it’s designed to do a job, not stand out.
The tasteful décor includes a removable cloth grille on the front and a matte black cabinet. It’s lifted off the surface by four pyramid feet that give the down-firing subwoofers room to breathe.
There’s virtually no clutter on the front panel except a small Cambridge Audio logo and a single LED that glows different colours depending on the selected input. There are no buttons either – everything is controlled by the remote.
The TV5 measures 725mm wide, some 175mm wider than the TV2. At 100mm high it’s a chunky unit, but impressively built – the robust cabinet supports any set up to 30kg with a stand no larger than 725mm wide by 300mm deep.
On the back you’ll find optical digital, stereo RCA and 3.5mm minijack inputs. That’s a sparse offering but it keeps things nice and simple – simply hook up your TV to the optical port and the TV5 plays whatever you watch. We’d argue that the TV5 should have offered HDMI sockets at this price, but it’s not a deal breaker.
It does, however, offer Bluetooth apt-X for high-quality music streaming from portable devices. The unit helpfully remembers up to eight devices so you don’t have to pair them every time.
The TV5’s key feature is its use of two 57mm Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR) drivers, which aim to deliver a wider sound than regular speakers. Unlike conventional drivers, which move backwards and forwards to create sound, BMR drivers also move horizontally and vertically, creating a wider ‘sweet spot’.
These BMR drivers are coupled with twin 165mm active subwoofers, effectively doubling the woofer surface area of the TV2 for an even more powerful, bass-heavy sound.
In all other respects the TV5 is the same as the TV2, offering 100W of power and using digital signal processing to get the best out of music and movies. There are four EQ presets to choose from – Film, TV, Music and Voice.
The TV5 is the epitome of plug and play. The simple setup procedure involves placing your TV on top and connecting the optical cable. It takes seconds. You don’t even have to fiddle with the sound settings, apart from the EQ presets.
It’s a shame that there isn’t a text-based display, which always makes it easier to gauge volume levels, but with only three inputs to choose from the TV5’s single-light system works just fine. It glows blue for Bluetooth, green for analogue and white for optical, and blinks when you adjust the volume or change sound mode.
The remote is slim and ergonomic, with a basic layout and clearly-labelled rubber keys. The buttons are responsive too, all of which makes for a pleasant user experience. If you don’t get on with it, the TV5 can be programmed to respond to your TV’s remote.
We started out by listening to a diverse range of TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory, The Chase and Champions League football on ITV.
What strikes us first is the TV5’s remarkably lucid dialogue presentation. Loud, intelligible voices cut into the room, making it pretty much impossible to miss anything that’s said, even with the volume down low. But it’s not hard or shouty – the smooth midrange makes voices and cheering crowds easy on the ear.
When a theme tune kicks in, or when things get dramatic, the dual subwoofers spring into action. Their bass is taut and seamlessly integrated, refusing to boom and chuff like other soundbases. It doesn’t overdo it either, injecting just enough bass to suggest depth without swamping the other elements.
Switch over to a Blu-ray movie – in this case The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – and the TV5 kicks it up a notch. Its scale and power are astonishing, filling the room with huge waves of bass and pulse-racing dynamics.
Nowhere is this more apparent than Smaug’s attack on Lake Town – our new favourite test scene – which sounds absolutely incredible through the TV5. The dragon smashes through wooden buildings with a piercing crack and every blast of fire spews from his gullet with a fierce rasp.
There’s aggression behind these effects, but they don’t sound brash even at loud volumes. There’s a perfect balance across the frequency range, which makes for a consistently enjoyable listen.
The TV5 also teases out plenty of detail, like the creak of Bard’s bow as he pulls back the fateful arrow. The base’s refined, transparent presentation allows every nuance to be heard, resulting in an open and immersive soundstage.
But bass is the TV5’s piece de resistance. More full bodied than the TV2, it delivers low frequencies with the sort of power, control and scale we’ve only previously heard from the Canton DM75 and Tannoy BaseStation One.
When Smaug speaks to Bard, his voice is infused with deep, weighty bass that makes it all the more threatening, but it’s not boomy or bloated.
The TV5’s refined presentation and agile bass make it a surprisingly musical performer too. We played Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On via Bluetooth and when it segues into Mercy Mercy Me the TV5's tight and bouncy kick drums and bassline drive the groove along.
Meanwhile Gaye’s silky voice glides between the crisp hi-hats and silky strings. It’s the sort of full-bodied, hi-fi performance you simply don’t expect from a soundbase.
Don’t be put off by the dull design and chunky bodywork – the TV5’s refined yet room-filling sound makes it one of the best soundbases on the market.
Dialogue is crystal clear, there’s plenty of detail and the addition of a second subwoofer makes the sound even bigger and punchier than the TV2. The lack of HDMI inputs is disappointing at this price but if that’s not a problem then stick the TV5 on your shopping list sharpish.
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The TV5’s captivating sound quality puts it among the soundbase elite, despite the frumpy design and lack of HDMI inputs