It’s a soundbar unlike any other. On the face of it, the HTL9100 is a regular single-box soundbar, designed to sit discreetly in the living room and blast out powerful home cinema sound.
But this soundbar hides a secret, namely a pair of detachable wireless speakers that deliver immersive 5.1 sound quality no matter where they’re placed in the room. Philips calls this Surround on Demand.
That way you get the best of both worlds – the clutter-free convenience of a soundbar and the true surround sound experience of a 5.1 system. Sounds great on paper – let’s see how it works in practice…
Like its little brother, the HTL5120 – an affordable but highly impressive soundbar for the money – the HTL9100 looks like a million dollars. It’s mostly covered in black cloth, with a gorgeous brushed metal panel dividing the two sides and gloss black panels at either end of the bar. Set into the brushed panel is a row of lights, which indicate selected inputs, sound modes and volume levels – there’s no display panel.
Viewed from the side, the HTL9100 has an ‘airfoil’ shape, which means it gently slopes upwards when placed on a TV stand. But it’s not just for show – Philips says this shape also prevents the build-up of standing waves that can cause sonic colouration.
Alternatively you can mount it vertically on the wall using the supplied kit (it’s designed to match TVs 46in and above), but the clever part is that the HTL9100 detects which way it’s installed thanks to a built-in orientation sensor, which uses Smart Equalization to optimise the sound accordingly.
What really sets the HTL9100 apart from its rivals are its detachable speakers. Other soundbars like Panasonic’s SC-HTB770 can be split apart to create two free-standing speakers, but all of the components stay firmly at the front of the room.
However, the HTL9100’s speakers can be placed at the back of the room, giving you a more convincing sense of surround immersion. Their compact and attractive design means they won’t look out-of-place when placed shelves or other furniture.
Even better news is that they’re wireless, which gives you even more freedom. They’re equipped with rechargeable batteries that provide up to 10 hours of continuous playback, with an auto shut-down feature that saves power when idle. They use a proprietary SMSC 5.8GHz wireless communication system, eliminating interference with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth frequencies.
They look great too, obviously styled to match the main unit so that when they’re attached it looks like one continuous soundbar.
As if that wasn’t enough, the system even comes with a wireless subwoofer, providing deep bass without a cable in sight – again making it easy to accommodate. It's unusually tall and slender enclosure is coated in a classy matt black finish, allowing it to slink discreetly into your living room layout.