- Solid build quality
- Clean, polished sound
- Gorgeous styling, particularly the sub
- Might be too reserved for thrill seekers
- Sub can overpower without careful tweaking
- Review Price: £449.99
- Tabletop stands with cable tidy
- Black lacquer finish
- 75mm midrange driver and 19mm tweeter
- 200W subwoofer with 200W amp & 200mm driver
- Wall or floor-stand mounting
Harman Kardon boasts a number of all-in-one systems that throw a Blu-ray player, receiver and speakers into a single box, but if you’d rather go down the separates route it offers a range of standalone speaker packages too. The HKTS 20BQ/230 is the 5.1-channel version of the 2.1 HKTS 200BQ/230 package included with the BDS-270 system, which hit us for six with its deluxe build quality and refined sonic performance.
Competition in the compact speaker system market is ferocious, with Cambridge Audio, Tannoy, Canton, Teufel and Jamo all producing great-value systems with dynamite sound quality, so it’ll be interesting to see where the HKTS 20BQ fits into the equation.
This expanded package uses the same compact satellites (SAT-TS20) as the 2.1 version, only this time there’s an extra pair for the rears and a dedicated centre speaker (CEN-TS20/30). The subwoofer is also the same one that comes with the BDS-270, which is great news given its solid performance last time round.
What we love most about the satellites is their exceptional build quality. These are not the hollow, flimsy enclosures you sometimes get from budget compact systems – the rounded bodywork feels dense and heavy, with a glorious gloss-black finish ensuring maximum living room appeal. A speaker mesh covers the front, allowing you to peek at the drivers behind, but they can’t be removed.
The front and rears measure 216mm high and are perched on a built-in stand, which features a cable tidy system. The stand slides off, allowing you to neatly feed the wire through the hole in the back and slide it back on. The cables attach snugly to springclip terminals hidden behind, and thankfully they’re easy to access.
The centre speaker is horizontally positioned on a cradle for easy placement under a TV, and is styled with the same panache as the others. It’s joined by one of the best looking subwoofers on the market, dressed in a dreamy black lacquer finish that oozes luxury, while the curved corners are an elegant touch. Chunky spikes screw onto the bottom, providing a sturdy foundation.
The four identical SAT-TS20 satellites are a two-way sealed design, with a 75mm midrange driver and 19mm soft-dome tweeter, capable of delivering a frequency range of 35Hz up to 20kHz. According to Harman they comfortably handle up to 80W of amplifier power.
Poor dialogue reproduction can completely ruin your enjoyment and understanding of a movie, so the centre speaker makes sure speech gets the boost it needs. It uses two 75mm midrange drivers, plus a 19mm soft-dome tweeter in the middle, plus it’s voice-matched to the satellites to ensure the most coherent sound possible.
The gorgeous HKTS200SUB/230 subwoofer is equipped with a 200W amplifier, a 200mm woofer and an array of controls to tune the bass output. There’s a volume dial, a Bass Boost switch to give low frequencies extra kick, a phase reverse switch and another that controls the power mode – a built-in trigger kick-starts the sub into life when it detects a signal. Connections included a LFE cinch input for connection to the dedicated sub output on your receiver, plus a set of line-level inputs.
It’s possible to mount the satellites and centre on the wall using the supplied brackets, plus optional HTFS 3/E floorstands provide another stylish way to display them. You even get all the cables you need in the box, which means you’re spared the embarrassing dash back to the electrical shop.
As we discovered with the BDS 270, the satellites’ superb build quality translates into a remarkably polished sound. With Transformers: Dark of the Moon, every scene sounds crisp and open, with delicate top-end detail flittering in and out and transients approached with a vibrant, attacking tone.
Skip to the climactic robo crunch-up and you’ll find the HKTS20BQ revelling in the carnage, firing out the sound of clanging metal and buildings being ripped to shreds with controlled energy and dynamism. It creates the illusion of a large, expansive soundstage with excellent projection, placement and power.
Dialogue from the centre speaker is lucid throughout, not only giving it due prominence but also proving sensitive to the tonal variations in the various robotic and human voices.
There’s tight integration between the satellites and subwoofer too, resulting in a unified sound that allows you to forget everything and focus on the movie. The subwoofer is a fine performer overall, peppering action scenes with sudden dollops of deep, taut bass and filling out quieter scenes with a constant low-end presence. Without proper tweaking it can swallow up the satellites a little, so fine-tuning is essential.
Our only real criticism is that the system is a bit too refined for its own good. The sound is certainly lively and polished but it can’t match the visceral aggression or character of Tannoy’s TFX or Jamo’s A101 HCS3. But if that’s how you prefer your home cinema sound then this might be the system for you.
The HKTS 20BQ/230 ticks all the boxes, from its solid build quality and living room friendly looks to its polished sound quality. There’s real refinement in the way it handles detail, plus the large soundstage, seamless sub/sat integration and convincing dialogue reproduction are highly impressive – all of which makes it a steal at £450.
The only issue some listeners may have is that the sound is more restrained with bombastic action scenes than some of its similarly-priced peers. It’s lively, but doesn’t stir the senses to quite the same degree as the Tannoy TFX, for example. But if you prefer a more laid back sound then it will certainly hit the spot.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 8