In terms of sound quality, we always approach one-box systems with a certain degree of trepidation, but any such scepticism was shrugged off after a few minutes in this system’s company.
We checked out the barnstorming sequence in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, in which our titular hero squares up to the Forest God, and it’s an incredibly thrilling listen. The sound is crisp and sparky, with lots of bite in the high frequencies – as evidenced by the smashing of glass and crashing cars – plus dialogue is prominent and bottom end sounds are punchy and muscular. Some of the louder low frequency effects cause a touch of boominess from the sub but on the whole it melds surprisingly well with the other speakers and provides a solid foundation.
What’s most impressive is that the speakers avoid the harshness that plagues many one box systems, showing the sort of control and power-handling poise normally reserved for more expensive separate systems. It’s also a dazzling conductor of surround effects, zapping them around the room with pace and precision and plunging you into an immersive, absorbing soundstage.
Many of these qualities seep into the system’s music playback – it brings a wealth of detail to subtle, intricate jazz recordings but give it a driving rock song and it has the power and timing to have you moshing round the room like Iggy Pop on speed.
Blu-ray picture quality is also impressive, but given the BD570’s solid performance that’s no great surprise. The opening exchange between Helena Bonham Carter and Sam Worthington in Terminator Salvation is a showcase of beautifully rendered close-up detail – Worthington’s 5 o’clock shadow is clear as day – while the contrast between light and shade within the dingy cell is superbly reproduced. As with the BD570, ugly artefacts make upscaled DVDs look less impressive but still watchable.
With its cavalcade of features, eye-catching looks and excellent sound quality, the HB965TZ represents superb value for money. The operating system is a little sluggish, and its lack of 3D support and limited Internet content might push some buyers towards the Sony BDV-E370, but in every other respect the HB965TZ is one of the best one-box systems on the market – particularly when it comes to the all-important AV performance.