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Philips HTL5120 - Operation, Performance and Verdict

By Danny Phillips

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Philips HTL5120

Summary

Our Score:

9

Philips HTL5120 – Operation

The Philips HTL5120 is supplied with a large oval-shaped remote, which is better than the fiddly credit card style zappers you usually get with a soundbar. It sits ergonomically in the hand and features a straightforward, spacious button layout with clear labelling. There are dedicated controls for bass, treble and audio sync, and a direction pad at the top provides quick access to inputs.

Philips HTL5120

The only operational qualm is the lack of display panel. From a distance it’s difficult to tell which modes are selected as the writing is so small. Similarly setting the bass, treble and lip sync are all done by ear, and the way the sound cuts out every time you press the or – key feels a little clumsy.

With rubber pads on the bottom, the unit is ready to plonk on a tabletop without having to attach any parts. When laid on a surface, the cables all emerge from the back of the soundbar through a gap. And for wall mounting, all the brackets you need are found in the box. It looks like a simple DIY job, although we didn’t test that out for obvious reasons.

Philips HTL5120 – Performance

So far so good, but sound quality is where the Philips HTL5120 really excels. Playing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on Blu-ray, the first thing that jumps out is the warmth and refinement of its sound, which goes beyond what rival soundbars achieve at this price.

Philips HTL5120

During the opening scenes telling the story of Smaug, the score has a wonderfully velvety quality as the action plays out. When the dragon attacks, the chaos comes forth with energy and attack, yet there’s not a single trace of harshness as buildings crash and trees are ripped up. Everything is conveyed with control and poise.

Meanwhile the built-in subwoofer does a fantastic job. It bolsters the sound with tightly layered bass notes and brings palpable depth to the movie’s spectacular action scenes. Troll footsteps have a hearty thump; the Stone Giants battle is a brutal affair but never overpowering; while the dwarfs’ sombre sing-song at Bilbo’s house has a deep, chocolatey feel.

Crisp high-frequency reproduction lends an unmistakable air of finesse. The Philips HTL5120 draws out fine sonic detail like the rustle of leaves under Radagast’s feet and the nuances of dialogue, which is clear and open. Mids and highs don’t have the thin, unnatural feel that you get from some soundbars, which doesn’t change a great deal when you turn the volume up high. Great stuff.

Philips HTL5120

The only weak link is the impotent Virtual Surround Mode, which doesn’t really do what it says on the tin. It does, however, open up the stereo soundstage nicely.

The Philips HTL5120 is an impressively musical performer. There’s lots of detail in the sound, while understated bass adds warmth without swamping the other elements. It’s an admirably smooth and easy listen, but with fast paced tunes and it kicks into life with lively, precise rhythmic ability.

Verdict

The Philips HTL5120 is up against some stiff competition in the soundbar sector but stands head and shoulders above similarly-priced rivals thanks largely to its superb sound quality. It demonstrates scale, refinement and low-frequency composure beyond its price tag, making for a hugely satisfying listen. Throw in superb build quality, gorgeous looks, built-in Bluetooth and plentiful connections, and the HTL5120 cements its place as one of the best soundbars in its class.

Overall Score

9

Scores In Detail

  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Performance 9
  • Sound Quality 9
  • Value 9

john

May 15, 2013, 3:18 pm

On board decoding for Dolby Digital and DTS allows you to feed a bitstream directly into the unit via HDMI or digital input. There’s no HD audio decoding but it’s not essential

Could you please clarify why it is not needed ? is there any work aorund?

thanks

andyvan

May 15, 2013, 3:41 pm

Most Blu-ray players will decode it for you, so the soundbar doesn't need to do the heavy lifting.

Håvard Fledsberg

June 17, 2013, 12:46 pm

How would you proceed if you wanted to pair this with a couple of satellite speakers for surround? Can you turn on or off virtual surround?

ipodee

August 28, 2013, 2:32 pm

How does the virtual surround sound do? Not a trace of surrounded-ness?

Leo

September 11, 2013, 5:10 pm

During your review did you have any problems with bass or treble? Your review says the indicators update up or down as you increase or decrease bass or treble but I've just revived mine and have no such indication on mine, just a single light come on acknowledging the remote has been pressed. Any ideas? Philips support forum is down but just wanted to see if you'd experienced this?

Jake

November 23, 2013, 5:21 am

How about the clarity of voices? And how full-bodied is the sound? What size room will it fill? Thanks!

Vir Killer

December 3, 2013, 7:57 am

I'm bummed I cannot find this sound bar anywhere for sale...

Geoff Richards

December 3, 2013, 2:12 pm

It's on Amazon UK - the link is right above your comment...

Vir Killer

December 5, 2013, 10:33 pm

Oh, I'm in the USA... :(

Geoff Richards

December 6, 2013, 11:49 am

Ah. There might well be a sister model with a slightly different model number, sold by Philips USA. Here's their range: http://www.usa.philips.com/c/s...

Vir Killer

December 6, 2013, 6:46 pm

Thanks, same model # here, just unavailable. Amazon had it and says it is now out of stock temporarily but no ETA.

Functionally I'm curious, does this sound bar turn on and off with the TV using ARC and is it supposed to do this with any TV using ARC, even non Philips branded? Thanks!

Geoff Richards

December 9, 2013, 12:08 pm

Not sure. I haven't tested this soundbar myself.

mitsarasss

February 1, 2014, 10:06 am

Can Bluetooth be turned on/off, or is it on all the time?

imran

November 16, 2014, 12:10 am

need a replacement remote, no one sells them. ;(

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